Communication is an essential element of any relationship, especially marriage. When people marry, two value sets, two communication styles, two personalities merge. For some, communication is second nature For others, it presents a constant challenge. In the midst of our busy lives and the multiple commitments we have to work, family, children, friends, and activities, it’s very easy for communication to take a back seat or go awry. And when that happens, you have a recipe for misunderstanding, hurt, disappointment, anger, and resentment – things that keep a marriage from flourishing.
My husband and I recently had a misunderstanding that we were able to quickly address and resolve by applying some basic principles. While we’ve tweaked them as necessary throughout the course of our 17-year relationship, these principles have enabled us to effectively communicate with each other. My hope is by sharing them with you, you will be able to communicate more effectively with your partner and thus have a deeper, more loving, and more fulfilling relationship.
Honesty is a must. To engage in any meaningful discussion with your partner, especially when attempting to resolve conflict or misunderstanding, you must be truthful. This seems like a no brainer, but it can be very difficult to be completely honest. Honesty requires vulnerability. It requires fully opening up so that you can share your feelings and opinions, including hurts and disappointments. When we are honest with our partner, it allows for transparency and ensures that the relationship has a solid foundation. My husband and I have had to tackle a number of difficult issues during the course of our relationship and we’ve had to be 100% honest with each other to resolve them and move our relationship forward. I may not always like what he has to say, but I can count on him being honest.
Timeliness is key. Old folks used to say never go to bed angry. Scripture tells us in Ephesians 4:26, “be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath…” Sometimes when we are angry with our partner or are experiencing the normal ebbs and flows or ups and downs of the marriage, we may be reluctant to share our feelings. We may be reluctant to tell our partner that the way he/she spoke to us hurt. We may be reluctant to tell our partner that we need more from them physically or emotionally. We may find it difficult to even look at our partner after a heated argument or debate. However, minor problems and disagreements can develop into even greater issues if we do not address them in a timely manner. There is nothing wrong with taking time to cool off after an argument or disagreement. But be certain to address the problem at hand as soon as possible. When you both make it a priority to talk and actively listen to one another to resolve an issue, it goes a long way in smoothing things over and helping you avoid the issue in the future. That’s been our approach, and it’s been successful.
Respect your spouse. Aretha said it best. R-E-S-P-E-C-T! When we communicate with our partners, respect is essential. Respect entails taking time to think before we speak. It means reflecting on the words we choose as well as trying to be cognizant of how our words and tone may be received. Respect is not yelling, screaming, or using foul language. Respect is not interrupting, thinking of a rebuttal, or planning your next move when your partner is speaking. Every person deserves respect, and in order to maintain communication and keep the foundation of a marriage stable, we must be respectful of our partners.
Figure out what works. Effective communication is paramount. Every marriage will face difficult issues. During these times, you must be able to discuss the matter without engaging in passive aggressive behavior such as giving the silent treatment or storming out of the room because your spouse says something you disagree with. Not only is such behavior child-like, it creates an environment rich with resentment, anger, and disappointment. I know firsthand that communication with a spouse can be HARD, especially when you fundamentally disagree. But there is always an effective way to communicate. So what is that? Well, it differs for every couple. Make the time to figure out your spouse’s communication style. Figure out what his /her hot buttons are so that you know not to push them during an argument. Personally, I pay attention to details. I know when my husband is in a receptive mood and when he’s not. I know when my husband has heard enough or when he’s not tuned into the conversation. Armed with this information, I can better facilitate our discussions, making them more productive. If you put in the time and effort to ascertain what works for you, and implement those communication strategies, you’ll be equipped to get through an impasse.
Any other communication principles out there? Share in the comments. Let’s help each other.