What Effective Communication In Marriage Looks Like, And Why It's Important
By: Lindsay Hamilton
Updated March 03, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC
Communication is vital for a strong marriage. Without proper communication, intimacy and worth start to drop, leaving the two people in the relationship flailing and feeling like they are on their own. When a marriage begins, most couples have to learn to communicate properly. It looks different in a marriage than in another relationship because of how much is at stake, and how intertwined you are in each other's lives. For a marriage to last, couples need to learn how to talk about their feelings and fight fair, without hurting each other in the process.
Because couples have to learn how to communicate properly once they get into a marriage, they may not know what proper communication looks like. Pre-marital counseling is available for anyone interested before marriage, but for those who don't take it, where will they get the tools to communicate better? Marriage counseling is an option or one-on-one therapy. There are also effective communication tools that you'll read about below.
Pay Attention To Each Other
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with your spouse only to feel ignored for their phone, TV, or own thoughts? This starts a whole different argument. To communicate effectively, you have to pay attention to your spouse. This means eye contact, body language that shows you're paying attention, phones away, TV off, whatever it is you have to do to give your spouse your undivided attention. It's not as easy as it sounds, especially if you're about to have a conversation you don't want to have. But you show your spouse great respect when you give them your attention. They will feel heard, and you will hear what they are saying.
Paying attention is important to understand your partner's wants, needs, and feelings. How can you be there for them if you don't know what they are saying? Once you've heard what they have to say, you can respond appropriately. If you aren't listening closely, you may not understand what they want, which will lead to an even bigger discussion that could be avoided if you just paid attention.
A common issue among newly married couples is setting expectations. Spouses aren't minded readers. When you want them to do something, you can't expect they will do it if you don't ask. Furthermore, if you have specific needs, you can't expect them to get it 100% right unless you specify. Many an argument can be circumvented by conversations that are specific and detailed. Miscommunication often occurs because one person asked for something, but wasn't specific enough or expected their partner to know something that they didn't automatically. Unfortunately, their expectations are not met, and that's when the real fighting begins. It's better to be as detailed as possible than to assume that your partner knows something when they don't.
Reaffirm The Relationship During Conflict
Marriage is hard enough without having to worry if it's going to last. When a fight starts to get heated, remember who it is you're fighting with. Reminding each other that you still love each other, even when you're upset, can help de-escalate the situation. It can mean the difference between screaming and crying and talking rationally. For new marriages, it's helpful to remember the commitment you made. One fight isn't going to cause a breakup.
Diplomacy in your household helps keep the lines of communication open. You may have grown up in a household very different from your spouse, so even if you are comfortable saying what's on your mind, your spouse may not be. Make sure that both partners know that they have equal say in the marriage. No one person has a monopoly on speaking or making decisions. Affirming the status of both partners will help make it easier to communicate when you need to communicate. It's best to set yourselves up for success by affirming that you each have an equal say when things are good. Talk about how you would like to communicate when you start to fight. Set boundaries and make plans for how things should play out when you disagree. This way, you both have the same expectations and know where not to cross the line.
Ask For What You Need
Going along with setting expectations, you need to learn to ask for what you want. It is completely okay to tell your partner what you need emotionally and physically. If you are a person that likes physical touch but feels like their spouse doesn't touch them enough, let them know! Ask for more hand holding, or cuddles, or kisses, instead of feeling sad and letting days go by without affection. They may not know they are doing anything wrong. Maybe they aren't as affectionate, so they think that everything is fine. But if you ask for what you want, they'll be happy to do more. If you are ever in doubt about asking for what you need, pretend your spouse is asking it of you. Would you do what they ask for, even if it's not as convenient? Of course! So why wouldn't your spouse do the same for you?
Be Comfortable When You Talk
When you have an argument or serious discussion, find a place to talk that feels comfortable. Preferably, this is a neutral place. They say, for instance, not to talk about money problems in bed. Comfortable doesn't mean a spot where you can lay down and ignore your spouse, either. Comfortable means a place where you both can talk opening and listen effectively. Perhaps it's your kitchen table, the couch in your living room, or on your back porch. Wherever it is, this is the place you go when you need to discuss any kind. It will help you to focus and be in the right mindset as well as give you the space to say what you mean.
Fight For The Marriage, Not Against Each Other
When you get married, you bond together as one, a new entity together instead of two individuals. This doesn't stop you from having your mind, though. And two different people with two different opinions will disagree with each other. But through the marriage bond, you can find a way to work together towards a common goal instead of trying to get your way. This isn't easy and does take quite a bit of work. But first, you need to recognize, together, that you and your spouse are a team. Whatever argument you're having, that's the enemy. Your spouse should never be your enemy. When an argument begins, try to remind yourself of the actual goal: for some compromise or agreement. For that to happen, you and your spouse have to work together against the problem. You are the team that wins. By fighting for this, you'll come to resolutions that are stronger and more stable than if you or your spouse had "won."
Get Outside Help
Finally, communication sometimes needs outside help. Whether this is through a pastor, counselor, therapist, or family member. When two people try to get along but are having a hard time of it, there is no shame in asking for assistance. Many people who need help with communication don't ask for help because of pride, financial struggles, or even transportation issues. This is where chat therapy can help. Counselors are there to listen and offer advice when couples struggle.
At ReGain, these counselors can do all of this online. By answering some questions about yourself and your spouse, you will be matched with a counselor that best fits your needs. From there, you will be given a secure chatroom where you and your spouse can chat with the therapist through messaging. The messaging isn't in real time, so you will be able to say what you need, and your counselor will check the messages as frequently as you need them to. By request, real time video or phone sessions can also be scheduled if that is something you are interested in. ReGain is a platform for these chat therapists and costs only a fraction of the cost of an in-person therapy session. For more information and to get started, go to www.regain.us/start.
Effective communication in a marriage is kind. Partners work together towards a common goal of unity no matter what they might be talking about. Communication is more than just a conversation. It involves your attitude, your body language, and how you interact inside your home. Hopefully, communication will get easier the longer you are married. As you get to know each other, you will be able to be what the other needs most. For those struggling, online therapy may be able to help. You don't have to struggle alone. You and your spouse have come together for a lifetime of happiness. Don't let miscommunication get in the way of that.