Helpful Tips To Improve Communication in Your Marriage
Have you ever found yourself at the end of a conversation with your spouse wondering how the discussion could have possibly gone wrong so quickly? It can be confusing and frustrating, to say the least.
Think back to when the two of you were just friends, before you started dating. Or, reminisce on your early dating years when communicating probably felt effortless. You might have assumed that when you came together in marriage you were both coming to the table with great communication skills—after all, you talked about everything, right?!
Nevertheless, our guess is it didn’t take long to discover some unexpected gaps between the messages being sent and the messages being received. Now that you’re married, it might feel, at times, like you’re speaking two different languages. The truth is, we all want to be great communicators, especially when it comes to talking with our better half. But if you’ve ever struggled communicating (now is when all hands should be in the air), it sometimes takes just one or two small tweaks to move your communication skills from good to great.
In short, you can communicate better with your spouse by…
- Communicating often.
- Paying attention to your tone and body language.
- Seeking to understand your spouse, not just be understood.
- Giving your spouse your undivided attention.
- Prioritizing a specific and planned time to communicate—a daily delay.
- Asking your spouse, “Do you want me to fix it or feel it?”
- Asking your spouse different questions.
Keep reading to break these down a bit further.
1. Communicate often.
Unfortunately, the daily grind that many couples endure can open them up to gradual disconnection. One way to prevent moving from feeling connected to disconnected with your spouse is to be intentional about making space to communicate often throughout the day—especially if you’re in separate places doing separate things. Communicate purposefully even if it’s in seemingly “small” ways—sending a text to check in, writing a thank you note, or leaving a sweet voice mail. When you share positive interactions during the day, even if you’re physically apart, you decrease the potential for feeling disconnected.
2. Pay attention to your tone and body language.
You’ve heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,”—turns out, the expression on your face is, too! Would you believe 93% of communication is accomplished through tone and body language?! Albert Mehrabian, a prominent researcher of the role of nonverbal communication, found that only 7% of communication is through words—the rest of communication is through tone of voice, 38%, and body language and facial expressions, 55%. You can say a lot without saying anything at all. Your spouse is going to have a difficult time understanding what you’re trying to verbalize if your tone and body language are giving negative energy.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” —Proverbs 15:1
Your spouse is a gift from the Lord, and He has entrusted them to you. Make a habit of treating him/her like the gift they are in the way you communicate, especially nonverbally.
3. Seek to understand your spouse, not just to be understood.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” —James 1:19
You cannot actively listen if you’re planning your response to your spouse in your head or interjecting when they’re talking. Listening to understand what they’re saying is a big key to communicating better with your spouse.
Next time you’re having a conversation, use the Speaker-Listener Technique. Taking turns, the speaker shares an uninterrupted thought while the listener actively listens. Then, the listener summarizes what they believe they heard the speaker say to ensure clarity and understanding. Once the speaker believes they’ve been heard, switch roles. You’ll be surprised how much healthier your communication gets when both parties feel heard and understood. Give it a try with “easier” topics, and then, use it when discussing more sensitive issues.
4. Give your spouse your undivided attention.
Get comfortable, and clear out the distractions. Put away your devices, turn off the radio or TV, and give your kids something to do, so you can have a few uninterrupted moments. Whatever you need to do to show your spouse that your mind and body (see number two for the importance of body language) are fully engaged in the conversation, do it. Show your spouse they’re valuable enough for you to be present and engaged. This will also help decrease the potential for miscommunication.
5. Prioritize a specific and planned time to communicate—a daily delay.
No doubt, you’ll communicate with your spouse multiple times throughout the day. “Remember your taking Sarah to soccer tonight, and I’ll pick her up.” “Would you mind grabbing milk on your way home?” If your daily communication is reduced to just these simple exchanges, there’s certainly room for improvement. Create opportunities for open-ended communication by setting aside time for a daily delay—simply 10-20 minutes daily to connect. Whether this is over a cup of coffee before you depart for your daily responsibilities, a short walk after dinner, or “pillow talk” after the kids are in bed, prioritizing time for focused connection can make all the difference. After you’ve got your daily delay rhythm nailed down, work in a weekly withdrawal, aka a date night, and an annual abandon.
6. Ask your spouse, “Do you want me to fix it or feel it?”
Ted Lowe, author of “Us In Mind” says it this way:
“I’m not sure where we got this one, but it has saved us from a thousand fights. Prior to this question, many of our fights went like this: Nancie would share with me an issue or problem she was having. I would tell her all the ways she could fix it. She would get frustrated and tell me all the reasons my solutions wouldn’t work. Somewhere along the way, we learned that most women don’t want their spouse to fix their problems, they want them to feel their problems. Now, this makes zero sense to me, but to Nancie, it makes perfect sense. So, now when she shares a problem, I simply ask her, “Do you want me to fix it or feel it?” 95 percent of the time she says, “Feel it.” Then I simply listen attentively. Works like a charm, every time!”
7. Ask different questions.
When you and your spouse are reconnecting, especially if it’s near the end of the day, it’s easy to fall into asking and answering mindless questions that go nowhere fast. The human brain craves novelty, so try thinking of new and engaging questions to ask that focus on specific encounters your spouse may have experienced during their day.
- “What is one thing you learned today?”
- “What was the best part about your day since I saw you last?”
- “If you could redo any part of today, what would it be?”
Additionally, try using our long list of creative conversation starters during your next dinner date or car ride—when you have an extended period together to talk.
Good communication is the gateway to great relational intimacy. When you make the effort to connect daily by communicating consistently, clearly, and compassionately, you have the potential to take your marriage to a whole new level!