It always seems to be the answer people give when they are asked about how to have a great marriage. Why is that?
Lionel Kendrick once said, "Our communications reflect in our countenance. Therefore, we must be careful not only what we communicate, but also how we do so. Souls can be strengthened or shattered by the message and the manner in which we communicate."
Healthy communication skills don't come naturally to most of us. However, they are so vital to building a strong and happy marriage. Thankfully, these skills can be learned, practiced and developed. Try one of these six tips to improve communication in your marriage this week:
A talk ritual is a specific time that is set aside from everything else in the day for the two of you to talk face-to-face. About life. To laugh together. To console each other. To counsel about important issues together. To complain about that guy at work with each other. To just catch up and take each other's emotional temperatures. You two need this time together. Your marriage needs it. (Plus, your kids need the benefit of parents with a healthy and happy marriage.)
2. Control your temper
If you want to improve communication in your marriage, then please remember that there is simply no room for name calling, yelling, verbal abuse or criticism. There just isn't. Those things don't work. So what works? Controlling your temper works.
"You have to give and take in marriage. Another thing is a soft answer, keeping your voice down. Don't lose your temper. Speak quietly. There will be differences, but don't get stirred up over them. Just be quiet and calm and speak softly one to another." -Gordon B. Hinckley
3. Try and see things from the other person's perspective and acknowledge his or her feelings
Seek to understand your spouse's thoughts and feelings, and to then help him or her feel validated. Refrain from giving advice unless your spouse asks for it.
If you really want to figure out this one, just watch The Nail.Do it.
Yes, your spouse will notice your eye-rolling. Instead of talking at each other across the room, sit next to each other, put your arm around your wife or touch his knee. Don't fold your arms and look away from your spouse. Maintain eye contact and look at your spouse when they are talking to you. Be engaged in the conversation and set aside other distractions like your phone, planner or TV.
5. Share openly and freely (but, politely)
Don't hold back, simply say what you mean. Don't beat around the bush. If you want ice cream, say you want ice cream. If something bothered you about the way your spouse handled a situation, let them know why it bothered you. However, this doesn't mean you should ever attack or criticize your spouse. Be honest, optimistic and respectful about your feelings, about what you want, about challenges you may be facing, etc. Be open with your spouse, even - no, especially - when that requires you to be vulnerable.
A story is told of a man who learned about listening from his wife.
"His good-humored love for Ida was manifested in many ways. He delighted in telling of her hearing loss. 'I once went to see a doctor about her hearing,' he would say. 'He asked me how bad it was, and I said I didn't know. He told me to go home and find out. The doctor instructed me to go into a far room and speak to her. Then I should move nearer and nearer until she does hear. Following the doctor's instructions, I spoke to her from the bedroom while she was in the kitchen-no answer. I moved nearer and spoke again-no answer. So I went right up to the door of the kitchen and said, "Ida, can you hear me?" She responded, "What is it, Marion-I've answered you three times."'" (Story found here.)
Additionally, here is a whole article you may want to read for more ideas on becoming a better listener.
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 truly 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.