Practical Communication Tips For A Happy Marriage
Let’s get down to business!!!
It isn’t enough any longer to listen to “empty” advice from loved ones, open self-help books or watch impressive TED Talks on how to communicate, without getting REAL LIFE examples on how to execute such amazing advice. As much as I coach couples on how to effectively communicate, I like to give practical tips on how they could infuse the elements of healthy communication into their relationships.
It’ll work for any relationship!
So whether you are married, engaged, single (as long as you are breathing and relate with folks daily), the communication tips that’ll come your way over the next few weeks will be sure to totally transform the way you interact with people in your life. The scenarios I walk you through will be couple-centered, but most of the techniques can be applied to other close relationships in your life.
Class is in session!
I’m sure by now we all agree that communication is the lifeline of any relationship and that talking, listening and ‘mirroring back’ to your spouse are effective ways to keep healthy communication flowing between you both. However, there’s more to this than meets the eye. The way you present your message to your spouse is just as important as what you have to say to them.
- Your message can’t be steeped in criticism, sarcasm, abuse or contempt.
- Your tone of voice shouldn’t be at a decibel that could ignite a showdown.
- Your “non-verbal display” aka body language can’t be indicative of one who is asking their spouse to go take a hike! (Dismissive posture, unfriendly facial expressions, whistling, chewing gum, fiddling with phone – hands – fingers – hair – pet, reading a book – paper – magazine, and of course “working”).
None of these actions, research has shown, will cause the message sent to be well received. These three components have to work together in order for a clear message to be communicated.
So here we go…
I’ll be sharing a scenario below of how “not to’ and how ‘to’ talk to your spouse without setting off a war. First, you have to be clear what message you are trying to communicate (knowing this helps you gather your thoughts), and then ask (not demand) for your spouse’s attention. Remember – you can’t be cynical, sarcastic or flippant in your delivery.
You and your spouse have a joint account. One fateful morning on the way to the office, you decide to make a quick stop at the bank to withdraw some cash to settle a few bills and much to your amazement, shock and sheer befuddlement, you find out that three days ago your wife withdrew a significant amount of cash and never told you about it. You later find out that she went on a mini-shopping spree and acquired a few “unnecessary” shiny possessions and are stupefied at her motivation for doing such a thing… especially as this time when finances are quite strained. You need to talk to her about this, so how do you approach this situation?
What you DO NOT say:
“Debbie, you are the most inconsiderate woman I know. Even with the knowledge of our current financial standing, you still chose to buy expensive jewelry just because you want to keep up with all these social climbers. Don’t you have any sense? Do you not know what effect this action will have on our lives? This is NOT the time to buy anything, especially without checking in with me first – as we agreed we both would. You better start explaining yourself because this is by far the most ridiculous thing you have ever done in our ten years of marriage.”
Slow your roll…Take a deep breath…
As much as you rather blow a gasket in response to your wife’s actions, you need to focus on your objective for having this conversation. You need to let her know that you are feeling hurt by an action she carried out and would like the situation to be different in the future. Now as much as you are hurt by her actions (which is justified), speaking to your wife this way has literally given her ammunition to get on the defensive. This hinders the possibility of resolving the issue as the both of you end up chasing shadows with all the name-calling, abuse, defensiveness and silent treatment that will ensue. Talking to your spouse in this manner tells her everything that is “wrong” with her and then forces her to think of those times she actually wasn’t so bad and “inconsiderate”. This approach will stoke the fire even more – leading the conversation nowhere. No good progress can EVER come from it.
Try THIS instead! (For couples reading this who say, “I don’t know how to talk like this! God made me this way!” do me a favor and LEARN a better way if you want to live in a happy and non-toxic marriage.)
Talk about YOUR feelings in a specific situation, when your spouse carried out a certain action!
“Debbie, taking this step to buy jewelry in difficult financial times such as this and without seeking my input, makes me feel hurt and unappreciated. I’d actually prefer that we discuss major purchases like this in order to avoid similar issues from creeping up in the future.” (Then go on to discuss a solution with her – one that comes close enough to solving the problem.)
Notice how with this approach you haven’t attacked her character, instead, you have complained to (not criticized) her about a situation that you both need to address.
So when you talk…
Do not accuse, abuse or attack your spouse. Talk openly about your feelings and then focus on listening to them without distractions. Practical tips on listening…coming up next week J
I’d love to hear from you, ask your questions, share your views, comment, like and share this article with a loved one who might need it. You can also read my post “The One Key Ingredient Discovered In Awesome Marriages” to give you further insight on how healthy communication makes a marriage thrive.
ZeeZee is a certified Relationship and Marriage Coach who believes her purpose in life is to equip couples with the right tools for a successful relationship. Through her website and YouTube channel she shares practical tips and principles that help couples understand the inner workings of a healthy marriage.
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