You’ve heard it before: good communication is key for a successful marriage. I agree one hundred percent, but what does it actually mean? What does good communication between spouses look like? I’m no expert, just a firm believer in keeping that open connection through all the ebbs and flows of a relationship.
What does good communication look like in my marriage?
When a mutual problem arises, it’s easy to talk about the issue at hand. We weigh the pros and cons and discuss the possible outcomes. We work to find a resolution that works for both of us. When it’s a solo issue, it might be harder to start the conversation, but it’s important to let your partner know if you’re going through a tough time. It’s important to be open about your feelings or struggles and feel heard.
Validating our feelings while maintaining respect
This one takes practice and it forces you to really look into the root of the problem. It might even force you to swallow a little bit of your pride. Basically, you want to let the other person know when something has hurt you, when you’re feeling down, or when you need support without insulting, blaming or labeling the other as the problem.
Try: “Last night when (insert situation) happened I felt alone/weak/bad/uncomfortable. I would feel better if next time it happens, we handle it this way or talk about it in private.” Avoid the “you” blame and provide possible resolutions.
Being clear on each other’s thoughts
Newsflash: we can’t read each other’s minds. I can’t assume that Ryan will take out the trash just because I’m busy doing something else and I expect he will. While I assume he’ll see I’m busy cooking, his thoughts might be on work worries or playtime with our daughter. Don’t assume; it will only set you up for unfulfilled expectations. This goes for tasks around the house, needs, wants, plans, etc.
Try: “(Insert partner’s name), sometime before Olivia’s bath could you take out the trash, please?” Simple, no commands and straight to the point.
Starting on the same page
We’ve been doing this exercise on some Fridays or Saturdays almost every week. During breakfast or dinner, we go around the table and talk about what we would like to do on the weekend so we can plan ahead. For example, I won’t be able to clean the basement while he plans to work outside. One of us has to take care of our little one. We include her too! We make sure to incorporate her paint or LEGO time (or whatever other activity she dreams up) into our day.
We go through slumps once or twice a year. Work stress adds up, responsibilities shift, routine sets in and we end up in our own little worlds. We often find that we’re in the middle of these slumps when we are rarely, if ever, intimate. It’s a sign, but never the cause. When this happens, we’re pretty quick to notice and willing to sit down and talk. We’re open about how we’re feeling, stresses we’re going through, how we can help each other, what we need to do ourselves and what we need/expect from each other. These conversations can last minutes, hours or even a prolonged amount of time as you both work out the kinks.
Try: “I feel a bit detached due to stress at work. I’m going to try to be more proactive in being present again. I need to feel wanted every once in a while and would like reciprocation. How do you feel we stand on our relationship needs right now? What can we both work on to be here for each other?”
Not harboring bad sentiments
“Don’t go to bed angry,” they say. I get the idea, but literally, it makes no sense. Sometimes you need to step away from the situation and release some emotion before saying hurtful things. But even if it’s a few days past, we make sure to let the other one know. Just the fact that he knows how I feel/felt, is enough to calm my thoughts. Remember, they can’t read our minds and are not part of the little battles/conversations we have with them in our heads.
The main thing that has worked for us is being truly honest about how we feel, where we need help and finding out the root of the problems without placing any blame on the other person. We truly want the best for each other and our relationship, so we are willing to put in the work and step into difficult territory to get there.
If you do encounter problems in your relationship that are beyond “talking and working on it”, I 100% recommend seeking professional counsel and help.
We change, relationships change, needs change, but with open and honest communication nobody gets left behind.
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