Learning to communicate effectively with your spouse may be the key to long-lasting bliss in your relationship. Many couples who come in for marriage counseling have the same goals but are not able to communicate those goals to one another in a way that makes sense.
Take, for instance, the couple who loves each other, but each partner feels slighted by the other. The husband spends every Saturday morning working on the yard, making sure it looks immaculate so that his wife can be proud of their home. He does not necessarily enjoy yard work, but he wants his wife to be happy, so he works hard to achieve yard-of-the-month status. Meanwhile, every Saturday morning, the wife makes a big, delicious breakfast. She spends a great deal of time and energy cutting fruit, baking goodies from scratch, and carefully displaying the meal for maximum impact. She does this because she wants to show her husband just how much she loves him. But the husband “receives” the message that his wife must not care much about him because she spends all morning in the kitchen instead of outside supporting him; the wife “receives” the message that her husband must not care much about her because although she is hard at work in the kitchen, her husband “isolates” himself from her by spending time “piddling” in the yard instead of coming inside to be with her.
In each case, the spouses are going out of their way to show the other that they are loved, but in each case, the message is being misinterpreted by the “receiving” spouse. What is a couple to do?
Clarify what your partner needs to feel loved.
Never assume that your behavior is clearly expressing the message you intend. Just because you might feel “loved” by having a meal prepared for you does not mean your partner would appreciate you going through the trouble. Perhaps simply sitting next to your partner would send the message more clearly.
Recognize that communication typically becomes LESS clear the longer a couple is together.
The longer a couple lives together, the more likely they are to assume they know what the other person is saying without really listening. When your partner brings up a topic that seems sensitive, be sure to engage in active listening to make sure you understand what your partner is saying, and to reassure your partner that you understand.
Listen carefully to your partner before explaining your point of view.
Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, admonishes readers to “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.” When we take the time to listen and understand our spouse’s point of view, we are in a better position to formulate an effective response.
Marriage counseling can identify pitfalls in your communication skills and help you build effective skills that reduce resentment, arguments, and misunderstandings between spouses. When these skills are implemented in a relationship, couples are more likely to have many wonderful years together. To learn how to improve communication in your relationship, please contact us.