When it comes to marriage and keeping love alive, communication is key. Most couples would agree that for communication to be effective with your partner, it is best to come from a place of love. However, that may sound easier said than done, especially if you and your partner argue constantly! So, what is fair play in arguments? It's unrealistic to think that we will never have disagreements in marriage. But is there a line you should not cross?
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5 Ways to Communicate Effectively with Your Spouse
Loving and healthy relationships boil down to simple mindsets and behaviors. Simple, yes. But I didn’t say easy! Let’s look at how to practice effective communication with your spouse—even when things get hot!
Here are five ways to help you communicate more clearly and avoid disagreements as a couple. Remember, communication is the lifeline of every relationship!
When communicating with your partner, self-soothe BEFORE opening your mouth. If we're angry, overly emotional, or react too quickly, this spells disaster!
Typically, nothing good comes from interacting when one or both of you are angry. Why? Because when we are fuming, the survival brain is the one talking, and it’s common for couples to say things that hurt or they regret. One word to avoid is the D word: divorce. Using this as a threat creates a tremendous lack of safety for your partner. And when upset, you may feel like escaping, but that’s likely all it is: an escape from feeling deeply hurt. Cool down. Get back to your heart.
Related reading: “The Stop, Drop, and Roll of Successful Communication in Relationships.”
A frequent question I get when working with couples is: “How do I communicate my needs to my partner?” And equally importantly, how do you support one another for BOTH to get needs met?
Arguments and fights often stem from competing needs. Years ago, I met with a couple who were stuck in an argument habit. No matter what the other one said, it invoked an argument. However, when we unpacked what was at the heart of the couple fighting, it was because neither one felt their needs mattered to their partner. The wife, a stay-at-home mom, needed a break from the kids; the man wanted to be appreciated for working hard. Yet, instead of asking for what they needed, they provoked each other with unkind words. Their needs were competing!
When you’re upset, calm down. After calming down, ask yourself, “What do I need?” and “What does my partner need?” It may seem too simple, but the answers solve—even prevent—so many problems! When we honor our own needs and champion our partner’s needs, love blossoms naturally.
Couples usually want their partner to get their needs met unless they’re not getting their own met. Loving requires caring about your partner’s needs while meeting our own! However, we are also autonomous creatures, and the self can move to defend its right to survive when stressed, overwhelmed, or undervalued.
As Maya Angelou so brilliantly said, “Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.” A thriving relationship is one where both partners get their needs met while the relationship’s love and connection are also a priority. And each takes full responsibility for communicating with their partner about their needs. Remember, your partner is not a mind reader.
And when we can meet both of our needs, such as exercise, by spending time together, all the better!
How to Communicate with Your Partner About Your Needs
Many clients continually ask me how to say things and how to put into words what they feel without hurting their partner or sounding like they’re complaining. So using the situation above, here are some examples:
Wife/mother to her husband: “I appreciate how hard you work every day. You are so dedicated, and it’s such a gift to be home with our children. I love being a mom and feel like I need a break to be my best. I miss spending time with my friends. Would it work for me to go skiing this weekend?”
Sound too elaborate? Here’s an approach and right to the point!
Short version: “I’d like to go skiing with friends this weekend. Which day would be better: Saturday or Sunday?
Man/husband to his wife: “This may seem silly, but I’m feeling underappreciated. Occasionally, it would mean a lot to me if you could appreciate how hard I work. After all, you and the kids are what make it all worthwhile!”
Short version: “I love you so much! And I need to know you’re appreciative of how hard I work.”
Of course, we love it when our partner can anticipate our needs and tune into what we're feeling, but a part of taking responsibility for a healthy and happy relationship is communicating clearly, especially about needs.
Related reading: “If You Want a Successful Marriage, Increase Self-Mastery!”
Take some time to think before you speak so that you can choose words carefully rather than blurting things in anger or frustration.
Avoid using absolutes like “always” or “never” because B&W statements often create defensiveness. No one always does something. And rarely does a partner never do what is asked. When we use this kind of verbiage, it typically causes a person to dig in their heels and blow off the entirety of your request or message. They get stuck on the inaccuracy (no matter how true it may seem), so they defend their position, which stifles a productive conversation.
Try replacing absolutes such as “always” with “often” or “frequently.” Or substitute “everyone” with “many” or change “every time” with specific examples of what you’re referring to. For instance, instead of “You never say goodbye before leaving for work,” say, “Last week, you left without saying goodbye several times. Please make a point of kissing me goodbye; it means a lot to me.”
Or instead of “You always tune me out.” Or “You never listen to me!” say, “It seems like a long time since we’ve talked. I miss our conversations.” or “I do not feel heard by you, especially since you’ve started working longer hours. When can we sit down and have a meaningful conversation?”
Another way to encourage more engagement and receptivity is to ask a question: “Are you aware that it’s been a whole month since we’ve had quality time together without the children?" And when our partner may be sensitive about a topic, use empathy. For example, “I know you’ve been working long hours, and though I understand why you wouldn’t feel like helping at home, I miss your support and feel overwhelmed myself.”
Effective communication takes time and effort, so it's essential to be patient with one another. Don't rush the process; give your partner the time they need to express themselves without interruption. We often judge what or how our partner is talking or what they “should” or “should not” have done. Release judgment. Listen not only to their words but underneath their words.
Seek to understand, and you will feel more patient and create more closeness and connection with one another!
Life can get busy, even hectic, so sometimes couples don’t make enough time for each other or nurture their relationship. Our primary mode becomes logistical or practical, such as, “I need to work late, can you pick up the kids at soccer practice.”
However, to foster loving communication in your relationship, make sure you both take time out of each day to sit down and talk about what’s going on in life. This regular commitment will help ensure that you’re both on the same page.
Dedicated time allows you to share concerns or frustrations without interruptions or distractions. And, in addition, go out on a date night or plan a fun weekend getaway together. Quality time together is one of the best ways to nurture a relationship and regain that “honeymoon feeling.”
Whether we want to admit it or not: love is a choice. Consciously and mindfully work at making your relationship the best it can be. And one way we can do this is by nurturing our marriages through effective communication practices, such as making time for each other, listening without judgment, choosing our words carefully, and calming ourselves when arguments arise.
When we practice these tips intentionally, we create an environment where love can grow and flourish! So next time you struggle to communicate effectively with your partner, remember—love triumphs all! There are ways to nurture your relationship through loving communication.
For support in your relationship or skills for a healthy and happy marriage, contact email@example.com. And for more tips, sign up for our HeartMail newsletter.