Vida Brown

Vida Brown

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You Said I Said What?

 

We’ve all been there.  You’re having a conversation with your spouse and he or she says you said X, Y, and Z.  You’re dumbfounded because you didn’t say that, wouldn’t say that, and can’t believe your spouse just said you said that.

Effective communication in marriage is like blood to the body.  Essential.  If you’re struggling with communication issues, don’t fret.  You are in good company.  Poor communication skills is one of the top reasons why couples seek marital coaching or counseling.  The good news is there are proven strategies that can enhance and facilitate effective communication in your marriage.  While every relationship is unique, implementing the following seven tips should put you on a path to effective communication in your marriage.

  • Listen to your spouse.  Listening is the ability to restate the content and feeling of the communication accurately.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, not really.  To listen effectively, you have to give your spouse your undivided attention and remove all those pesky barriers that prevent you from doing so.  How many times have you formulated a response while your spouse is speaking?  Or maybe you continue to multitask during the conversation?  We’ve all done it and end up missing part of the message.  Stop!  To improve communication with your spouse, your only objective when your spouse is speaking is to accurately hear and understand your spouse’s message.  

 

  • Listen to yourself.  It’s important to understand how you communicate.  Sometimes we think we say things in a certain way, when in fact we don’t.  Communication is not just words alone.  Your tone of voice can significantly impact the way your message is received by your spouse.  So take the time to discover how you communicate.  Tape and video yourself so that you can hear firsthand what your spouse hears.

 

  • Figure out your barriers to listening.  What prevents you from listening?  We all have them and we all have to work on overcoming them.  Common barriers include: bad timing, personal biases, defensiveness, physical exhaustion, selective attention, internal struggles, different listening styles, and a habit of interrupting.  If you’re struggling to identify your barriers, ask your spouse and work together to identify them.

 

  • Understand that you and your spouse are different.  It is highly unlikely that you and your spouse have identical communication and learning styles.  It’s perfectly okay to be different in this area.  You for example may be a rambler, whereas your spouse may be a “get to the point” communicator.  Recognize your differences and accept the differences.  Don’t try to force your spouse to communicate and learn the same way as you.  You can find common ground.

 

  • Learn to speak your spouse’s language.  Once you’ve identified your spouse’s communication and learning style, learn it.  While I’m not suggesting that you change who you are, communicating in a manner that is receptive to your spouse will help.  So for example, if your spouse is a visual learner, try incorporating visual communication into your messaging.  If your spouse can only handle one or two concepts at a time, don’t share your laundry list of items at one time.  Break them up over a period of time.  Understand that it’s human nature to build a connection with people who speak the same language.  If you learn your spouse’s language and combine it with your own, you should see significant improvement in your communication.

 

  • Work on intimacy.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  The more you both share intimate things with each other, the better you’ll be at communicating with each other.  Why?  Because, when we share intimate things with our spouse, there’s greater vulnerability, which leads to a greater connection.  Our natural instinct is to preserve our most intimate connections, which means we’ll be more willing to put in the effort to understand our spouse and work through issues.  

 

  • Practice. Practice. Practice. Effective communication takes practice.  Set aside time every day to talk about non-work and non-family issues.  Yes, those things are important, but if communication is your issue, you want to enhance and hone your skills talking about things that won’t potentially affect your marriage.  Converse about current events, sports, or a new hobby you want to pursue.  Endeavor to have a back-and-forth dialog so you and you spouse can really practice listening and understanding each other. 

Any other effective communication tips out there?  We'd love to hear from you.  Let's help each other have marriages that thrive!

"Best Friends" With My Spouse? Hmmmm.

 

I love my spouse more than anything.  In fact, I can’t imagine a life without him.  But are we “best friends, you ask?  Hmmmm.

A few weeks ago, I asked our Facebook followers to do two things.  First, share three things you love about your spouse.  Second, share three things you love about being married.  As I began reviewing all the comments, I noticed a common theme. Almost every commenter said he or she married his/her best friend.  WOW, was all I could think.  Friendship or better yet being “best friends” with your spouse may be a no-brainer for many of you, but you’d be surprised at the number of couples that do not marry their friend, let alone best friend.  I was one of them.  When I married Derrick, I was in love and I admired so many things about him.  We were connected in so many ways.  We were friends, yes, but best friends?  Not even close.  That title was reserved for my ride-or-die friends that had been in my life for 20+ years and knew ALL the good, bad and ugly of my life.  If I were being completely honest, I must admit that I’ve always wanted to marry my best friend.  So, when I said yes on my wedding day, I vowed that Derrick and I would become just that.

Why Friendship Matters.  Over the years, I’ve spent lots of time with elderly married couples and almost all of them have said that their friendship helped them during the valleys in their marriage and when they weren’t so “in love” with each other.  I didn’t quite get that at the time.  How can you be in a “valley”, especially a prolonged valley, and still be friends? I guess I’ve been blessed with friendships that haven’t had too many downs and certainly no prolonged periods of conflict. Now that I’m married, this totally makes sense.  While Derrick and I have only been married a few years, we’ve had issues in our marriage and frankly I wasn’t really feeling him during those times.  But I still liked him because he was my friend.  I still wanted to and was able to communicate with him because we’re friends.  I still knew he wanted the best for me, even though we were in the midst of conflict, because he’s my friend. Without the friendship, I know with absolute certainty that during significant conflict, I’d go right back into my shell, erecting walls around my heart.  And who the heck wants that. Not me. Never underestimate the significance of friendship in your marriage. It can make all the difference in your relationship.

It’s Never too late to establish/re-establish friendship in your marriage.  If you and your spouse aren’t friends, rest assured you can be.  Friendship, like marriage, is a choice.  If you both want the friendship, you can have it.  When I made the decision to elevate my friendship with Derrick to “best friend” status, I made some key decisions and choices.

  • Barriers to friendship: I first examined whether there were any barriers that were preventing us from moving our friendship to the next level.  I discovered that I needed to make a mindset shift.  If I wanted Derrick to be my best friend, then I had to think of him in that manner.  I had to “demote” others that had that title. So I did.
  • Making the Effort:  Friendship, like any other relationship, takes effort. I had to invest in the friendship for it to thrive and improve.  So, I carved out time daily to spend time with him. I began to share everything with him.  Previously, I pretty much only talked to him about things that were important to our relationship/marriage, or that I knew he’d be interested in.  But that’s not what I do with my other friends.  I share EVERYTHING with them.  Now that Derrick has that title, I share EVERYTHING with him.  Over time, it became natural.  Instead of reaching for the phone to call my girlfriend or mom to share something funny I saw on television, I share it with my husband.  And isn’t that what best friends do?
  • Putting our Friendship first:  I put our friendship above every other relationship in my life.  This meant that I could not be there for my friends and family to the same degree.  This was tough, but necessary.  There are only so many hours in a day. And with my career, kids, and household responsibilities, there’s not much left for anyone else.  That time became my husband’s.  As for everyone else, I fit them in if feasible.

Are you best friends with your husband?  Tell me about it.

In Marriage, It's the Little Things....

 

“Mommy, it's morning time,” says my 4-year-old daughter, Simone, in her bright and cheery voice.  

I turn my head to the right, searching for my husband.  He's at work I quickly remember.  Shoot.  As I raise my head from the pillow, my head throbbing, my throat scratchy, I'm able to mutter, “Just five more minutes, okay baby?  Mommy's sick.”

 “Okay, mommy,” she says, “but I’m really hungry mommy. Okay?”

“Okay, baby.  Just five more minutes.”

Simone runs back to her room to comfort my 18-month son, Grant, who I hear in the background.  I can tell he's about one minute away from screaming his head off.

Sound familiar?  If you're married with kids, this day or some version of it has happened and boy is it a bear.  You'd give anything to have someone swoop in to save the day.  But it's only you.  No hubby.  No nanny.  No older kid that can help.  Just you.  So like any good parent, you crawl out of bed and begin your day.  It’s 7:45.  Hubby doesn't get off until 2.  It's going to be a long day.

“Pancakes, mommy?” Simone asks.

Oh no!  It's Sunday.  Pancake day.  “Uh, not today,” I utter, bracing myself for the ensuing tantrum.  They're lucky I have the strength to get the cereal bowls together. 

After a short tirade, I get baby girl settled at the table with cereal and Grant in his high chair with his sippy cup.  I reach for my phone.  I need to hear Hubby's voice. He's the vitamin I need to get through the next six hours.

“Hi my beautiful wife,” he says, “how are you feeling?

“Hey babe, not good.  I didn't get much sleep.  I have chills.  My throat is sore.” I respond.

“Need some medicine?” He asks.

“Yes babe, please.  And bring some OJ too.”

“I need you to do me a favor?”

“Does it require me getting up?”

“Yes, for 10 minutes tops.”

“Ok,” I say, bracing myself.  I’m not sure I have the energy to do anything else.

“I took the rest of the day off.  I’ll be home in an hour.  If you can get the kids dressed, I'll take them to my sister's house so you can take your medicine and get some rest.”

 

This was my day yesterday.  I love and appreciate my husband so much!  When it’s all said and done, it’s the little things that mean the most.

The Trust Is Gone. Is My Marriage Over?

When your spouse violates your trust, it hurts, bad.  It feels like a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of you and possibly your marriage.  For many, a breach in trust can be a foundational collapse in the marriage.  Marriage is built on trust, right?  So once it’s gone, how can the marriage continue?

The simple fact is, during the course of your marriage, it is extremely likely that your spouse will breach your trust.  Like marriage, trust has its ups and downs, twists and turns.  I’ve yet to meet a seasoned married couple that hasn’t dealt with the issue of trust at some point in their marriage.  So, you don’t trust your spouse?  You think you’re marriage is over?  Well, here’s some tough love.  What are YOU going to do to move your marriage forward?  Rebuilding trust in your marriage always starts with you.

While every situation is different, there are some sure fire ways to begin the process of rebuilding trust in your marriage.

Have Courage:  Maya Angelou said it best. “Have enough courage to trust [] one more time and always one more time.”  When your spouse violates your trust, the natural reaction is to withdraw.  If you’re anything like me, you erect walls around your heart and keep your spouse at bay.  Self-preservation is the name of the game and becomes the priority.  But when it’s all said and done, it all boils down to this.  Do you want your marriage?  And if so, do you want a thriving marriage?  If your answer is yes, then you must make the mental choice to trust again.  This courageous first step will put you on the path to rebuilding trust in your marriage.

Forgive:  I know it sounds cliché, but if you want to rebuild trust in your marriage, you have to forgive your spouse and let it go.  The deed is done.  No matter what your spouse says or does, the deed can’t be undone.  So what do you do?  Forgive and move forward.  Otherwise, you’ll be in a vicious cycle, reliving the issue over and over again, with your marriage stalling or worse, dissolving.  Forgiveness is not a gift you give your spouse, it’s a gift you give yourself.  Forgiving your spouse will enable you to put the issue behind you and begin to exercise trust.  Need some motivation here?  Think about the fact that God forgives you every day and allows you the opportunity to do better, be better.  Now I get how difficult this may be.  My spouse cheated on me years ago and it was a HERCULEAN effort to move past it.  But once I made the decision that I wanted my marriage, together we embarked on a process to bring that desire to fruition.  Part of that process required me to make the decision to forgive.  Like courage, at the end of the day forgiveness is a choice.  Choose it and in time you will be able to trust again.  

Be Transparent:  You and your spouse must commit to being upfront and honest with each other.  Discuss the transgression and what you two can do together to rebuild the trust.  It will take both of you and it will not happen over night.  But in time, with effort and consistent communication, you can rebuild the trust.

Transparency will be key.  Set expectations, but make sure that the expectations are realistic and will foster trust.  One of my clients, for example, was dealing with the infidelity of her husband.  She told him that, going forward, she expected him to share every move he made.  She needed to know where he was 24/7 in order to trust him again.  This was an unrealistic request, not sustainable, and ultimately not a solution.  And even more importantly, it would not foster trust.  Trusting your spouse is a proactive measure that YOU must take.  Make no mistake, your spouse MUST show true remorse and MUST demonstrate on a consistent basis that he or she is trustworthy, but your spouse can’t rebuild your trust.  Only you can do that.  Working with your spouse to develop and implement a plan that will allow you the opportunity to exercise trust is vital.

Make it a Daily Commitment:  Every day is a new opportunity to move your marriage forward and, relevant here, rebuild your trust.  Take advantage of opportunities to trust your spouse.  For example, if you are dealing with infidelity issues and your spouse advises that he or she will be home a little late that night due to a last minute work event, trust that he or she is telling the truth.  Don’t drive by the office or call every 15 minutes to see where he or she is or if they’ll pick up your call.  Make an affirmative decision to believe your spouse and in time you will.  

I know firsthand that the foregoing is much easier said than done. But if you and your spouse are willing to roll up your sleeves and work together, you can not only rebuild but fully restore the trust in your marriage, regardless of the breach. My husband and I are living proof of that. Make the decision to start. Implement these principles and you will be on your way.

 

If you are grappling with a major trust issue, such as infidelity, and ready to get started in moving past it and reclaiming your marriage, we can help. Our self-help workbook, The Trust Is Gone. Help!, will give you the tools you need and specific exercises to perform individually and as a couple over time to help you rebuild the trust. Visit our Marriage Rocks Store for details.