Communicating with a spouse can be tricky and when you throw in the stresses of everyday life, it can feel downright impossible. Here are a few tips to help navigate the process:
- Ask. It seems simple enough, but often times couples fall into the trap of believing their partner should just "know" what the other is thinking. You both may enjoy many activities together, but psychicness may not be one of them! If your spouse seems agitated or upset, ask if anything is troubling them. Sometimes they themselves may not know yet, so ask them to think on it and get back to you (in a reasonable amount of time, of course).
- Listen. Having good listening skills is one of the best ways to become a great communicator. By listening to your partner you show them you truly care about what they have to say. After you ask a question, really listen to your partner's answer. If you find that difficult (don't we all?), then rephrase it back to them. For example, "So are you are saying that you believe time travel is possible because of the magnetic field?" You will be shocked by how quick and effective this technique is.
- Participate in activities that aid communication. Let's be honest: Communicating can be very difficult. While one spouse is feeling pressured to be charmingly witty at every turn, the other may be rushing to fill any silence with loads of useless tidbits. Blame does not have to be assigned here, as it is no one's fault. Actively try not to let communication become a power struggle; for example don't say things such as, "You don't talk to me because you don't love me." Instead, take the pressure off by doing an activity that facilitates communication. Watch a movie together that gets you both talking, such as the latest Harry Potter installment. The movie you choose is not important, but asking questions such as, "What do you really think about the plot?" or "Do you really think demolishing that building is possible?"
And it doesn't just have to be with movies. If something catches your eye when reading a newspaper or magazine, share it with your spouse. Read a bit of the article back to them and ask what they think. This may help you realize that discussions can be fun. Or if you've just finished reading an interesting book, ask your partner to read it, and afterward, both of you can discuss the merits of the book and the author.
- Participate in activities that don't require communication. Even though this sounds counterintuitive, it works in tandem with the guidelines above. By doing this, you actually build on the bond you have as a couple and foster a sense of closeness. This in turn may help both of you open up and tell one another what is on your mind. For example, offer to scrub your partner's back the next time they take a bath or lace those sneakers up and take to the tennis court.
- Do some research. In the telecommunication age, information is literally at your fingertips. Remember how your partner Googled that small red bump on his back? Well, apply that same line of thinking to your marriage. There are copious amounts of research written on communicating in marriage. Try Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray or Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix.
- Workshops and retreats. Participating in a workshop or going away on a retreat can be an eye opener for both of you. It will afford you the opportunity to discuss and be counseled by professionals who have dedicated their careers to this very topic. Moreover, speaking with these professionals may go a long way in uncovering any underlying issues that may be a problem. This is a great step to creating and maintaining a healthy marriage.
- Share a good laugh. Laughing goes a long way in smoothing out occasional bumps, but with the stresses of everyday life, forgetting how to laugh with your partner becomes very common. Put the breaks on the hassles and go to a comedy club and whoop it up or find another way to have fun. Tease one another in a good-natured way. You'll find yourself remembering why you love your partner, and see how truly special they are.
Learning how to communicate, when viewed through the proper perspective, is just a speed bump, one both you, and your partner can effectively handle. Good luck improving your communication skills!