Do you want a marriage that’s filled with happiness, passion, excitement and mutual respect? I think most couples do. Well, the key to experiencing the type of marriage or relationship you’ve always dreamed about lies in effective communication. Effective communication is at the heart of any happy couple’s success as both a contributing factor to AND outflow of a much deeper reality – a strong connection or bond. Here are three simple steps to develop effective communication in your love life.
Let’s start with a logical question – what is effective communication?
Before we can develop or achieve something, we need to know what it is, don’t we?
So here’s a simple definition:
Effective Communication is a communication between two or more persons wherein the intended message is successfully delivered, received and understood.
In other words, the message we’re trying to convey to someone else actually reaches them in the way we thought we sent it.
Now, I know this sounds almost confusing as some of you might be wondering – what do you mean exactly?
To keep things simple, let me explain.
Communication between people is essentially a process of encoding (formulating and sending information) and decoding (receiving and interpreting information).
The problem is that there is a lot of room for “miscommunication” between sender (encoder) and receiver (receiver).
For example, look at this simple illustration below to see what I mean …
One partner is saying to the other that they have to start doing more “fun stuff” together.
Reasonable request I might add.
But the partner making the suggestion has a completely different idea in mind compared to the partner hearing the request.
“Fun stuff” to the one means “camping” but to the other, it means a “vacation to the Pacific Islands.”
Familiar words that trigger different meanings and expectations altogether.
The point here is that what we sometimes THINK we’re communicating is not what’s RECEIVED by those we’re communicating with.
Something gets lost between the encoding and decoding part.
And we end up communicating things we did not mean at all.
Often with serious consequences.
So, back to marriage … at the foundation of every intimate relationship is effective communication.
It’s the ability to communicate and receive the same information.
In other words, To truly hear and understand each other.
And the greater the depth of effective communication, the stronger the bond will be between you and your spouse.
We know that marriages survive and thrive when each partner feel safe enough to share their thoughts and feelings on a regular basis WITHOUT fear of criticism or some kind of backlash.
When that’s not the case, couples end up struggling.
Someone will either ALWAYS get their way while another will remain quiet (walk on eggshells) while resentment festers underneath.
In any healthy marriage, you develop trust, however, by being able to share your heart and allowing each other to become vulnerable.
And you will cause that trust to grow when you choose to become a person that makes your spouse feel safe enough to open up and be vulnerable.
I understand that any marriage relationship can often cause complicated emotions within both partners.
That’s part of the package.
Don’t like it, then stay single!
But if you commit to seeing the other person’s point of view (i.e. empathy) and creating an atmosphere of safety and open communication, you give yourself the best chance to experience a much closer marriage relationship even when life presents its biggest challenges.
And aiming to develop effective communication is your best tool to achieve this.
So, let’s look at some ways to do that.
These following tips can help you develop more effective communication in your marriage:
1. Above all, love each other
Personally, I believe that the foundation of any effective communication in a marriage starts with a genuine desire and committed decision that being loving is more important than being right.
You have to VALUE your PARTNER far more than winning the argument.
Because there are two realities here that I think are important – 1) if you’re willing to concede in a disagreement, you can diffuse many angry situations without them escalating into a major confrontation and 2) most issues we argue about just simply are NOT that important in the scope of bigger things.
So, notice WHAT you’re choosing to blow up into an issue as well as any warning signs of an escalating discussion because of it.
Once you start raising your voice or say hurtful things to your partner, it’s time to take a break.
Take a walk and cool off.
Because you will most likely end up saying things you’ll regret later on.
Also, instead of thinking about all the reasons the other person is wrong, examine the part YOU might have played in things getting to this level.
The reality is that what we often think we’re communicating is actually not what we’re communicating.
Psychologist break communication up in 55% body language, 35% tonality (how you say sound), and only 7% verbal (the actual word you’re using).
With this in mind, there’s a very high likelihood that while you’re overly focused on using the “right” words to express yourself, 93% of you are communicating something ELSE altogether.
Food for thought.
The moment you do return, make an effort to apologise for YOUR PART in the disagreement.
Because no matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides to a story.
Usually, both parties shoulder some part of the blame in an argument.
That’s just a fact.
Once you’ve done that, calmly express your feelings.
In other words, be careful to speak in terms of how things have affected you, instead of pointing fingers at the other person.
Keep in mind the fact that you’re talking to someone you love and not your enemy.
2. Learn to compromise
Effective communication also assumes (and even demands) the willingness to compromise from time to time.
However, many people think that compromise is an ugly word.
However, learning to compromise is a valuable key to peace in your home and in your marriage relationship.
When you or your partner constantly feels that the other one is “winning” or getting their way all the time, resentment will start creeping in.
Instead, decide that you’ll seek a win-win solution in every situation.
So, when you face a disagreement, think about how both of you can get what you want and need.
This will take some discipline but it’s necessary for the long run.
If you both learn to make it a habit of giving in a little each time you have different wants or needs, you end up showing each other that you’re committed to the relationship and each other above all else.
You also show your love for your partner in a tangible way when you sacrifice a little of what you want for the good of both of you.
3. Listen Effectively
Many disagreements are caused by a failure to listen attentively and empathetically to your partner.
I cannot tell you how many coaching sessions I’ve sat in, watching couples talk about stuff but NOT LISTENING to each other at all.
Yes, they hear their partner talking but that doesn’t mean anything.
Just because you can repeat everything back what your partner said a few moments ago means that you actually UNDERSTOOD what they’re feeling or trying to express.
I’ve seen one partner ask the other one to please “tell” them what they want but not hearing their partner when they do open up to share what they want.
Why? Because they were too busy defending, justifying, or explaining their own position in all of it instead of trying to understand what it is their partner is really saying.
At the end of the day when you learn to listen effectively, your arguments will become much shorter (if you have any at all) and your marriage will become a sweet fellowship of two people who love each other and face the world TOGETHER.
So, a couple of tips to help you with listening more effectively…
When the other person is speaking, resist the temptation to interrupt.
I know this will be hard for some but you have to learn to do this.
It’s a bad and ANNOYING HABIT.
Instead of thinking about what you’re going to say to counter your partner’s statements, rather pay close attention and try to understand.
When your spouse is finished, repeat in your own words what was said.
“What I hear you saying is … Is that what you’re saying?”
When you do this, it gives your spouse a chance to correct your understanding if you’ve misunderstood what was said.
But it also shows your partner that you care enough about solving the problem instead of simply winning the argument or be right.
And while you’re at it, stay CALM.
Especially when you hear things that are potentially upsetting.
You don’t have to turn everything into a reason for war.
When you start doing these few simple things as a rule (rather than the exception) you’ll begin to experience greater emotional intimacy and reach quicker resolutions that both of you can be happy with.
Take away …
Strive to embrace difficult conversations as an opportunity to deepen your relationship and show your spouse how much you care.
Put yourself in your partner’s shoes, seek a solution that makes both of you happy, and let go of the need to be right.
Constantly remind yourself that LOVING your partner is far more important than WINNING arguments and always getting your way at their expense or happiness.
They need to know and FEEL that you’re still a TEAM rather than opponents playing for different ones.
If you do this well, you’ll start to experience a more vibrant, exciting marriage relationship that survives the tough times and lasts a lifetime.
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