Effective communication in marriage reduces stress for two reasons. First, it allows you to resolve the tension between yourself and your spouse. Secondly, it allows you to “vent’ some of your anxieties from other areas of your life.
This means there are five times as many positive interactions between happy couples (i.e. listening, validating the other person, using soft words, expressing appreciation, affirmation, physical affection, compliments, etc.) as there are negative (i.e. raising one’s voice, stating a complaint, or expressing one’s anger).
Enhancing Positive Communication in Your Marriage
Here’s how you can improve the quality of communication in your union:
1. Be intentional about spending time together talking.
The average couple spends only 20 minutes a week talking with each other. Turn off the technology and make it a point to spend 20-30 minutes a day catching up with each other.
2. Use more “I” statements and fewer “You” statements.
This decreases the chances of your spouse feeling like they need to defend themselves. For example, “I wish you would acknowledge more often how much work I do at home to take care of you and the children.”
3. Be specific.
When issues arise, be specific. Broad generalizations like, “You do it all the time!” are not helpful.
4. Avoid mind-reading.
It is very frustrating when someone else acts like they know better than you what you were really thinking.
5. Express negative feelings constructively.
There will be times when you feel bitterness, resentment, disappointment or disapproval. These feelings need to be communicated in order for change to occur.
BUT – How you express these thoughts is critical. “I am really disappointed that you are working late again tonight,” is very different from, “You clearly do not care one whit about me or the kids. If you did, you would not work late every night.”
6. Listen without being defensive.
For a relationship to succeed, both spouses must be able to hear each other’s complaints without getting defensive. This is much harder than learning how to express negative feelings effectively.
7. Freely express positive feelings.
Positive feelings such as appreciation, affection, respect, admiration, approval, and warmth expressed to your spouse are like making deposits into your love account.
You should have five positive deposits for every one negative. If your compliments exceed your complaints, your spouse will pay attention to your grievances. If your complaints exceed your compliments, your criticism will fall on deaf ears.