Sharmen Kimbrough from the Marriage Recovery Center shares tips on how to avoid some common pitfalls in how you communicate with your spouse. You’ll learn how to express your feelings in a way that keeps the conversation open, helping you to move out of patterns of fighting and improve communication in marriage.
How to Improve Communication in Marriage
Do you find that every time you attempt to communicate with your spouse, it ends up in yet another heated argument or emotional showdown? Many couples struggle with effective communication, and it’s not unusual for miscommunication and conflicts to be at the heart of marital issues. In this article, we will discuss the importance of improving communication in marriage and provide you with valuable insights and tips to help you build a more harmonious and fulfilling relationship.
The Significance of Effective Communication
Communication is the lifeblood of any successful marriage. It’s the bridge that connects two individuals, allowing them to understand each other’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. However, if communication breaks down or is laced with blame and accusations, it can drive a wedge between spouses and create emotional distance.
Sharmen aptly points out that while communication problems might not be the root cause of marital issues, they are a significant obstacle to resolving those issues. In many cases, couples struggle to have a calm, open conversation without it escalating into a full-blown argument. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn how to communicate effectively to address the deeper issues and create a more stable and loving relationship.
The First Rule of Thumb: Speak for Yourself
One of the fundamental principles of healthy communication is to speak for yourself. This means taking ownership of your thoughts, feelings, and needs rather than projecting assumptions onto your spouse. When you start telling your spouse what they are thinking or feeling or ascribing motives to them, it often leads to conflict and defensiveness.
For instance, saying “You never listen to me” immediately puts your spouse on the defensive. Instead, try framing your thoughts using “I” statements. For example, say, “I feel unheard when we’re talking, and it’s important to me that we both listen to each other.” This approach keeps the conversation centered on your feelings and needs, reducing the likelihood of a fight.
Never Assume: Make the Unspoken Spoken
Assumptions can be detrimental to effective communication. Often, couples assume they know what their partner is thinking or feeling, based on past experiences or their own perspective. However, these assumptions can be far from the truth. To improve communication, it’s essential to avoid making assumptions and, instead, ask questions.
Instead of filling in the blanks with your own interpretations and suspicions, ask your spouse for clarification. For example, if your partner said something that confused you or seemed off, ask, “What did you mean by that?” or “Can you explain your perspective on this issue?” By seeking clarity, you promote open and curious conversations, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings and conflicts.
Express Your Feelings and Needs
To maintain open and healthy communication, express your feelings and needs clearly and directly. When sharing your emotions, avoid using phrases like “I feel like you” or “I feel that you,” as these often lead to accusations and arguments. Instead, use genuine feeling words to describe your emotions.
For example, say, “I feel hurt when we argue,” or “I feel happy when we spend quality time together.” After expressing your feelings, make specific, positive requests. For instance, “I would appreciate it if we could set aside some time to talk without distractions” or “I would feel loved if we could plan a date night once a week.”
Stay Grounded and Congruent
During a conversation, it’s essential to stay grounded and congruent with the person you want to be in the relationship. Maintain a calm, thoughtful, and caring demeanor, and try to be loving and understanding. Staying grounded allows you to think clearly and respond in a way that fosters open communication.
Avoid letting your emotions get the best of you, which can lead to arguments and defensive responses. Remember that your goal is not to win an argument but to find a resolution and maintain a healthy connection with your spouse.
Eliminate the Self-Protective Shield
Often, we use words as a self-protective shield, saying things meant to defend ourselves rather than to connect with our partners. However, this protective stance can hinder true connection. When your communication is focused on self-preservation, it becomes challenging to build emotional intimacy.
To overcome this barrier, work on talking in a way that keeps the conversation open and inviting. Instead of focusing on defending yourself, aim to understand and connect with your spouse. This shift can help break down the barriers that inhibit true connection in a marriage.
Effective communication is the cornerstone of a healthy and successful marriage. By following the principles outlined in this article, such as speaking for yourself, avoiding assumptions, expressing your feelings and needs, staying grounded, and eliminating self-protective behaviors, you can create a more open, loving, and fulfilling relationship with your spouse.
Remember that the ultimate goal of communication in marriage is to build a strong emotional connection, resolve conflicts, and enhance the bond between you and your partner. So, practice these communication tips and work together with your spouse to strengthen your relationship and pave the way for a happier, more harmonious future together.
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.