Editor's note: This article was originally published on the Jacob's website, Nurturing Marriage. It has been republished here with permission.
Communication always seems to be the answer people give when they are asked how to achieve a great marriage. Do you ever get tired of hearing people say, "Communication is the key," or,"You just have to talk about it?" Do you ever find yourself thinking, "That sounds nice and all, but what does that really mean?"
Healthy communication skills don't come naturally to most of us. Thankfully, these skills can be learned, practiced and developed. Try these 10 tips to help you develop healthier communication in your marriage.
1. Think about what you want to say before you say it (and think about how it will come across).
THIS: "I feel frustrated when you buy things online without talking to me first." NOT THIS: "You are addicted to shopping. I hate that you are always buying stuff and spending all of our money! You seriously need to stop."
2. Don't give "the silent treatment" (sure, go cool off, but don't ignore each other).
THIS: "Honey, I just need some time to think about this. I don't want to get mad or feel upset with you. Is it OK if I go on a walk to clear my mind before we talk about this?" NOT THIS: Leaving the room, slamming a door, driving off and not responding to your spouse at all.
3. Try and see things from your spouse's perspective, and acknowledge his/her feelings. Seek to understand. Help your spouse feel validated.
THIS: "It makes sense to me why you are upset that I was late to your event. You probably feel like I don't care or like I didn't realize how important this was to you." NOT THIS: "Back off. Seriously, I have a busy life too. You can't expect perfection from me! Why don't you think about someone other than yourself for once!"
4. Sit next to your spouse while you talk. Hold hands, or touch in some way. Don't talk at each other from across the room. Remember, body language can speak louder than words (your spouse will notice your eye-rolling).
THIS: "Come here (put your arm around your spouse). Let's talk about this and figure out something that both of us will feel good about." NOT THIS: (Loud voice, arms folded, a room apart) "You are a jerk! You never listen to me. You always make me feel bad about myself. I don't even want to talk to you anymore!"
5. Don't hold back. Be honest. Share openly and freely (but politely). Be positive.
THIS: "Hey, hunk. I love you and I love being with you. I really don't want to hurt your feelings, but it makes me feel uncomfortable when you chomp your food like that. Would you mind trying to chew more quietly?" NOT THIS: "Stop chomping! You sound like a pig! Seriously, who taught you manners? That is my biggest pet peeve and you do it all the time."
6. Be engaged in the conversation and set aside other distractions (AKA your phone). Look at your spouse when he/she is talking to you.
THIS: (TV turned off, looking at spouse) "Wow. It sounds like she has a crazy life. How is she handling it?" NOT THIS: (Eyes on the TV) "Who? That stinks. Wait, what did you say? I'm listening. Hmm....Uh huh....Oh...."
7. Listen. Listen. Listen.
THIS: "That is so cute...Yes, I know just what you are talking about...What happened next?" NOT THIS: "Sounds interesting... Did you pick up my stuff from the store today? Oh, and did I tell you about Steve's mom?"
8. No name calling.
THIS: "I would have appreciated it if you would have told me first." NOT THIS: "I seriously hate that about you. Should I just start calling you Mr. Forgetful? I honestly can't believe I married such a space-case!"
9. Decide on times when you and your spouse can counsel about important issues (don't just spring a tough conversation on your unsuspecting spouse).
THIS: (Grabbing your spouse by the elbow and leaning in a bit) "Hey you, I've had something on my mind that I want to talk about. Can we talk tonight for a few minutes after the kids are in bed?" NOT THIS: (While cleaning up dinner and trying to get the kids to bed) "I feel like we should have another baby. NOW."
10. Don't raise your voice. Use a quiet, controlled, respectful voice and tone.
THIS: (With a soft voice) "Do you need any help?" NOT THIS: (Raising voice a bit) "You have no clue how to be a good parent! You are spoiling the kids!"
Hopefully you saw yourself in some of those positive examples. You and your spouse are probably better communicators than you think, so keep it up! Pick one of these suggestions to try this week, and see how it begins to nurture healthy communication in your marriage.
Aaron & April are the founders of Nurturing Marriage, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages. They enjoy playing football with their two little boys, watching sports, eating cereal late at night, and going out for frozen yogurt.