Poor communication with your spouse may create distance and uncertainty, which does not support a happy, healthy relationship.
Here’s how to improve communication with your spouse.
How to Improve Communication with Your Spouse
Marriage is a work in progress.
Improving your relationship with your spouse takes time and it is not always easy to tell if you are making progress. If you are like many married couples, you may find the structure marriage therapy provides helpful on your journey to improve your relationship.
Every relationship has its fair share of problems or challenges and many stem from poor communication. Understanding how to improve communication with your spouse is important, as it may help you work through the challenge at hand, close any growing gap between you, and nurture a healthier relationship.
Before we reveal how to improve communication with your spouse, I would like to remind you that marriage counseling is not reserved for couples experiencing major problems in their relationship. As a licensed marriage & family therapist, I help couples work through a wide range of challenges, including those relating to communication.
Marriage counseling has helped couples work through challenges of all sizes and develop a happier, healthier relationship together.
If you are not quite ready to explore marriage counseling, there are a few things you can do to start improving how you and your spouse communicate.
Here how to improve communication with your spouse …
Focus on Your Feelings
Poor communication often happens because we try to identify how our spouse is feeling. We make statements like, “You are mad.” Or, we say, “quit being so unhappy.”
The truth is, we do not know for sure how another person is feeling. We only truly know how we feel. Therefore, communication should be focused towards our own feelings. Statements such as, “I feel hurt when you ignore me” allows your partner to know how their behavior is affecting you.
This can promote positive change in your relationship. Many times, it is not your intention, or that of your partner, to hurt the other. You love each other. When you focus on expressing your own feelings properly, it becomes easier to communicate.
Using “I” statements decreases defensive attitudes because your spouse no longer feels as if the problem is being thrown on their shoulders. They do not feel the need to protect themselves. Instead, they become more open to hearing your needs and how they can be met.
Listen with An Open Mind
Listening is an important part of communication.
A recent study revealed adults spend an average of 70 percent of their time communicating during the study. The research concluded most adults spent around 30 percent of that time speaking, compared to 45 percent of that time listening.
Listening is powerful.
As your discussions become more positive, your listening skills should change also. Listening skills are key to effective communication and not the same as hearing. It is not about just what you say to your partner, but also what you and your partner hear.
You need to be able to hear, and truly understand, what your spouse is saying. Too often, we get defensive in a conversation before we even know what the other person is going to say. Even if you know your partner has negative feedback to offer, you need to be able to hear what they are saying so you can make changes.
If you are listening properly, you will be able to repeat what your spouse has said. You will also be able to reflect on what they have said with an open mind, with the intent of improving your relationship.
Listening skills also involve proper body language that is inviting. Also, allow your spouse to finish before replying. Give them your undivided attention encouraging them to provide you with the same courtesy.
Be Constructive, Not Critical
Starting and ending your feedback with something positive can lessen the negative feedback in between. Your spouse does not want to be told what to do, when to do it or how to do it. They do not see you as the expert on relationships.
Instead, when you tell your partner about a negative issue, offer to work with them to improve the issue. After all, you are a team.
Focus on what needs to be fixed, not who needs to be fixed. It is much easier to communicate about the issue rather than blaming yourself or your spouse for creating the issue.
Finally, just be nice. There is no need to communicate feedback in a nasty, mean way. Be gentle in your communications with your spouse and they will feel less defensive and more open to working towards fixing your problems.
Avoid Abusive Expressions
Your words, body language, and even your gestures communicate how you are feeling. Lashing out verbally will hinder communications with your spouse. You too will immediately feel defensive and angry if your spouse starts yelling or saying negative things to you or about you.
Furthermore, if you are throwing your hands around, balling up your fists, punching items or slamming doors, communication will not be effective. In fact, it could do more damage.
Never become involved in a physical altercation when trying to communicate. Physical violence will only lead to consequences that are unhealthy for both you and your spouse. If your argument seems as if it is escalating, walk away.
You can return to the conversation when both of you are calm and can talk about your issues without getting too heated emotionally.
If you are like most married couples, you may find the structure, expertise, and outside perspective from a licensed marriage therapist helpful.
Marriage counselors are trained professionals with experience in helping couples communicate effectively. They are equipped with many tools to help you and your spouse learn the necessary skills of communication.
They are also able to mediate your conversations so that you are both heard so that you both bring the same amount of equity to the relationship. Counselors can provide you with a comfortable, neutral environment.
They can also help ensure your body language and verbal language are appropriate. Counselors keep the conversation moving if you and your spouse feel stuck or do not know how to move forward in your communication.
Marriage counselors can engage you and your partner in exercises to improve your relationship through better communication. Exercises such as I Feel and Active Listening are a couple of examples.
You will be able to learn how to start and end communications with your spouse. You will learn how humor can benefit communications and break up the tenser moments. You will be taught how to limit communications to avoid lengthy, ineffective meetings. One way to do this is to use a timer.
Finally, a counselor can teach you and your spouse to implement positive physical touch during communications. Showing love, even when you may not feel loving, can ease tensions and encourage positivity.
You and your spouse love one another. You are worth the effort it takes to learn how to communicate properly so that your relationship can not only thrive but so that it will endure.