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Are you struggling to communicate with your spouse? Are they struggling to communicate with you?
Communication is the heartbeat of a relationship, the silent language that speaks volumes about the connection between two people.
It's more than mere words; it's about understanding, empathy, trust, and love. The dance of communication can be complex, filled with nuances and subtleties, but mastering this dance can lead to a deeper, more fulfilling partnership.
Whether you are just beginning your journey or seeking to improve your long-standing bond, the path to better communication is a voyage worth taking. Let's dive in!
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Communication Issues in Marriage
Communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, and in marriage, it becomes even more critical. When issues arise, they can manifest in various ways, creating both short-term problems and long-term damage. Here's an exploration of common communication issues in marriage.
Misunderstanding and Assumptions
Couples often misinterpret words or gestures, leading to unnecessary confusion or arguments. Assumptions can cause misinformation, making it essential to clarify and verify statements.
Failure to Express Feelings and Needs
Suppressing emotions or hiding needs from a partner can lead to frustration and resentment. Openly sharing feelings and desires is vital for mutual understanding.
Active listening involves more than hearing words; it requires empathy and full engagement. Failure to truly listen can leave a partner feeling unheard and undervalued.
Non-Verbal Communication Problems
Body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions play a significant role in communication. Misreading these cues can create disconnect and conflict.
Especially as an autistic person, it's important that I put effort into understanding non-verbal communication cues from everyone around me. This can be difficult!
Avoiding Difficult Topics
Skirting around sensitive or contentious issues can lead to unresolved problems simmering below the surface, affecting the overall health of the relationship.
Over-Reliance on Digital Communication
Relying solely on text messages or emails can lead to misinterpretations, as these mediums lack the nuance and warmth of face-to-face communication.
Cultural and Background Differences
Diverse cultural backgrounds may lead to differing communication styles and expectations. Acknowledging and respecting these differences is essential.
21 Ways to be a Better Communicator in Your Relationship
Now that we've talked about issues in communication with marriage, let's talk about how you can become a better communicator. Even implementing just a few of these tips can improve your overall relationship – whether it's with friends or your spouse.
1. Use open and receptive body language.
Using open and receptive body language is a foundational aspect of healthy non-verbal communication.
There are different types of communication. Being a good listener means maintaining eye contact, facing your partner directly, keeping arms and legs uncrossed, and leaning slightly forward*.
These non-verbal cues send a powerful message that you are fully engaged, interested, and open to what your partner is saying. It helps to create a safe space for honest and open dialogue, fostering a sense of connection and understanding.
By being mindful of your body language, you show respect for your partner's thoughts and feelings and encourage a more meaningful conversation.
*I've mentioned this a few times before, but I'm autistic and eye contact is difficult for me! In fact, if I'm listening intently, I need to close my eyes to really hear and understand what someone is saying. So while these are “guidelines,” there are exceptions, and you just need to communicate this with your partner so they understand.
2. Listen to your partner's point of view.
Listening to your partner's point of view goes beyond simply hearing their words; it's about truly understanding and valuing their perspective.
Engaging in active listening means setting aside personal biases and distractions to focus entirely on what your partner is expressing. By giving them your undivided attention, reflecting on their words, and asking clarifying questions, you validate their feelings and thoughts.
Active listening fosters empathy, trust, and deeper connection, making it one of the most essential and transformative communication skills you can cultivate in your marriage. It sends the message – loud and clear – that you respect your partner's individuality and are genuinely interested in their experiences and opinions.
This is one of the cornerstones of a happy marriage.
3. Offer and accept different perspectives.
Offering and accepting different perspectives is a testament to the strength and maturity of a relationship. It recognizes that two individuals, no matter how close, will have distinct views, opinions, and ways of thinking.
By openly sharing your perspective and being willing to accept your partner's, you create an environment of mutual respect and understanding.
Now hear me out: this doesn't mean you have to agree on every single point! In fact, that would be boring AF. But it does mean acknowledging that differing opinions can coexist without causing conflict.
As a “black and white” thinker, this can be difficult for me at times. I make a conscious effort to respect my partner's differing opinions.
This approach promotes growth, enriches conversation, and allows both partners to feel valued for their unique insights.
It's a step towards a more empathetic and tolerant relationship, where diversity of thought is celebrated rather than suppressed. It encourages your partner to come to you for conversations, rather than seeking that connection outside of your relationship.
4. Give your partner your undivided attention.
Your partner deserves your full attention when they are speaking. Put your phone down, turn the TV off, and turn towards them to let them know you are listening.
Giving your partner your undivided attention is a clear and powerful demonstration of love and respect. Respect goes a long way in a marriage.
In a world filled with constant distractions, taking the time to truly focus on your partner without interruptions from phones, television, or whatever else is trying to pull your attention away shows that you value their presence and what they have to say.
Making a commitment to being fully present fosters a deeper connection, enabling more meaningful conversations. It sends a message that your partner's thoughts and feelings are important to you, helping to build trust and intimacy.
Making a conscious effort to put aside distractions and truly engage with your partner can transform ordinary conversations into extraordinary moments of connection and understanding. These are the moments that will keep your relationship together even when life gets tough.
5. Spend time actively listening to what they have to say.
Rather than focusing on what you're going to say in response, use your active listening skills to ensure you truly hear what they're saying.
Active listening is more than just hearing; it involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what your partner is saying. It's about showing empathy, mirroring their emotions, and acknowledging their feelings without judgment or immediate advice.
By dedicating yourself to truly understanding your partner's words and the emotions behind them, you're not only showing that you care but also creating a supportive environment where they feel safe and valued.
6. Understand their love language, and yours.
While we don't ascribe to any religion, we have a secular view of Love Languages and we talk about them often.
Understanding your partner's Love Language, as well as your own, is a critical piece of the communication puzzle in marriage.
These Love Languages refer to the ways in which different people express and receive love, be it through words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, or physical touch. Or, if you're anything like me and my husband, all 5! 😉
Recognizing and embracing these preferences helps tailor communication and actions to meet each other's emotional needs effectively.
By actively practicing your partner's Love Language and encouraging them to understand and honor yours, you're building a deeper connection that transcends mere words.
7. Make an effort to participate in meaningful conversation.
Making an effort to participate in meaningful conversation can add depth and vibrancy to a relationship. While light-hearted chit-chat and playful banter have their place, and can be enjoyable in the moment, they may sometimes leave us or our partner feeling unfulfilled.
My husband and I talk about business – a lot! While we both absolutely love the topics of business and money, but that can't be our entire relationship's focus.
Delving into topics beyond daily routines and surface-level discussions can lead to richer, more engaging conversations. Whether exploring shared interests, discussing dreams and aspirations, or even debating ideas, meaningful conversations foster intellectual connection and emotional intimacy.
We both love to dream – his dreams are much bigger than mine – and it connects us on an intimate level. Planning the rest of our lives together helps solidify our marriage and reminds us once again that it's us against the world.
By intentionally seeking out and embracing deeper dialogue, couples can discover new facets of each other, keep the relationship fresh and stimulating, and build a stronger bond that transcends the mundane and ordinary. It's about investing time and thought into conversations that truly matter, enriching both the relationship and personal growth.
8. Understand your communication style, and theirs.
You're probably noticing a pattern here: it's not all about you. Sometimes I'll get caught up on how I'm feeling rather than thinking about how my husband is feeling.
While your feelings are always important, if you are only focusing on you, you can't be a good communicator for your spouse.
Communication and respect are both a two-way street. If you are feeling disrespected in your relationship, it's up to you to communicate and let your partner know this.
Recognizing that you both may have different ways of expressing thoughts and emotions, and adapting to those differences, fosters empathy and effective dialogue. Your feelings are undoubtedly important, but so are your partner's, and balancing the two is key to being a good communicator.
Put work into open and honest expression, a willingness to adapt, and the courage to communicate even uncomfortable feelings like when you feel disrespected.
Remember, your spouse most likely isn't a mind reader!
Clarity in communication can lead to a more fulfilling and respectful connection. The process of understanding each other's communication styles becomes a journey of growth, empathy, and deepened intimacy.
9. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements.
I'm guilty of using “you” statements when I'm feeling upset – and that's not fair! Nobody can make us feel anything; we are responsible for our own emotions.
Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements is a simple but profound shift in communication that can make a world of difference in your relationship.
When we use “you” statements, it can often come across as accusatory or blaming, creating defensiveness in the other person.
In contrast, “I” statements focus on expressing how a particular behavior or situation makes you feel, without attacking or criticizing your partner.
For example, saying “I feel hurt when plans are canceled” instead of “you always cancel plans” opens the door to understanding and empathy rather than conflict. It personalizes your emotions and invites your partner into a conversation rather than an argument.
By consciously choosing to use “I” statements, you're fostering a more respectful and collaborative communication environment. This can not only end arguments, it can often times even prevent them.
10. Learn new communication strategies.
A marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. Learning new communication strategies (by reading blogs like ours!) will ensure you're leveling up and becoming a better partner every day.
Learning new communication strategies means you're constantly adding tools to your relationship toolbox. The more varied and effective your tools, the stronger and more resilient your relationship will be.
Whether it's engaging in active listening, asking open-ended questions, practicing empathy, or learning to manage conflict with grace and respect, these skills can enhance your connection with your partner.
Embracing new strategies isn't a sign of failure, but a sign of growth and commitment to nurturing the relationship. It's about being proactive, open to change, and recognizing that even the most loving relationships can benefit from fresh insights and approaches.
11. Choose your words wisely.
Choosing your words wisely is a fundamental aspect of effective communication in your marriage. It's not just about the words themselves, but also how you use them.
Sarcasm, for instance, might be a coping mechanism or a habitual response, but it can create distance or hurt feelings, even if unintentionally. It's one of the worst things (communication “no nos”) you can do – be sarcastic when you should be serious.
Learning to stop being so sarcastic is difficult, but it's a sign of emotional intelligence when you're able to have a conversation without defaulting to it.
Recognizing this and making conscious efforts to communicate in a more positive way, especially during emotionally charged moments (or personal struggles like BPD spirals), can make a significant positive difference in your healthy relationship.
12. Change your thinking.
Instead of always being defensive, give your partner the benefit of the doubt more often than not.
Especially if you're carrying around baggage from past relationships, your negative thinking and assumptions can get you into a lot of hot water in your marriage. Always being on the defense hinders your opportunity for open and honest dialogue in your relationship. Do you want your spouse to be afraid to talk to you? Of course not!
Giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, and actively working to approach conversations with an open mind, can create a more trusting and positive communication environment.
Recognize when you're falling into defensive patterns and consciously choosing to think and react differently. By focusing on empathy, trust, and positive intentions, you reduce misunderstandings and conflicts.
Especially in a marriage, where stakes and emotions are high, this shift in thinking can lead to less stressful, argumentative interactions.
13. Spend quality time together, face to face if possible.
In our marriage, we've always prioritized date nights. In fact, we started this blog to make it easy for others to do the same!
- The Ultimate Stay at Home Dates Guide
- DIY Date Night Jar
- Backyard Camping Date
- Painting at Home Date
14. Support each other; it's you against the world.
One thing I noticed in past relationships was that I would get frustrated with my partner and would complain to my friends or seek outside validation that I was right and they were wrong. Sometimes people even go to marriage counseling just to be told they were right!
When I married Kevin, we both agreed that it was us against the world. Supporting each other and embracing the idea that it's “us against the world” can be a powerful foundation in your marriage.
This concept goes beyond mere solidarity; it's a commitment to prioritizing each other's feelings and the relationship above external opinions or influences. Kevin and I both put each other first in life. Yes, we have kids, but we prioritize each other and then together, we prioritize our kids. This helps us be better parents.
You may cringe at the thought, especially if you have young children, but our kids won't be kids for much longer, and our relationship has to last after they've all moved out of the house. Prioritizing each other solidifies the longevity of our marriage.
When you consciously choose to stand united together no matter what, it fosters a sense of partnership and shared purpose. It means handling disagreements and frustrations within the relationship, focusing on understanding and growth rather than validation of being right or wrong.
This alignment creates a stronger bond, reinforcing the idea that no matter what challenges you face, you face them together. It's a shared commitment to love, trust, and support that builds resilience and deepens connection, making the relationship a safe haven in a complex world.
15. Choose the right time to have Difficult conversations.
Choosing the right time to have difficult conversations is an often overlooked but crucial aspect of effective communication. No matter how you're feeling in the moment, think about it: is now the right time to bring it up?
Timing can significantly influence the tone, receptivity, and outcome of any conversation. If you approach a sensitive topic when emotions are high, or even when there are distractions, the conversation can quickly escalate into an argument or your partner may shut down entirely.
Selecting a moment when both of you are calm, focused, and open to dialogue can lead to a more productive and empathetic conversation. Now I realize that isn't always possible, and sometimes you do just have to get it all out, but it's a balancing act.
It’s about recognizing when the environment and emotional state are conducive to meaningful communication. Planning a time to discuss serious matters also shows respect for the importance of the issue and the value you place on resolving it together.
One thing that I do when I need to say something but my emotions are high, is I will send a text message to my husband letting him know about it. This keeps the conversation calm and respectful, no matter how upset I may be.
My marriage is different than any relationship I've ever been in or even witnessed, though. I'm easily frustrated while my husband is the opposite. He doesn't fight or argue with me, no matter how upset I am. That diffuses almost any situation before it gets to the next level. Having one partner that can remain level-headed and calm all the time is priceless.
16. Know when to table the conversation or walk away.
Knowing when to table the conversation or walk away is a skill that is learned, and many times it will take tremendous effort and restraint.
Not every conversation will flow smoothly, and there may be moments when emotions run too high, or the discussion reaches a standstill. If that happens, recognizing that continuing may only escalate tension or cause further misunderstanding is important.
By agreeing to pause the conversation or walk away temporarily, you allow time and space for emotions to settle and for both partners to reflect.
Don't get it twisted… it's not about avoiding the issue! It's about understanding that a brief respite can lead to a more constructive and calm conversation later on. This approach respects the complexity of emotions and the importance of the relationship over winning an argument. If you always have to be “right,” your marriage may not survive. What's more important to you?
17. Ditch expectations.
Ditching expectations in a relationship can be sooooo liberating!
Often, we enter conversations or situations with a set of preconceived expectations about how our partner should act, respond, or feel. These expectations, though sometimes unconscious, can create pressure, disappointment, and misunderstanding if they are not met.
By letting go of rigid expectations and approaching interactions with an open mind and heart, you allow for authenticity, flexibility, and a more profound connection.
This doesn't mean abandoning all standards – not by any stretch of the imagination! – but rather embracing the reality of your partner's individuality and the dynamic nature of your relationship.
Understanding that people and relationships evolve and that surprise and adaptability can be strengths rather than weaknesses leads to a more empathetic and enriching marriage.
18. Be specific when communicating.
Being specific when communicating can prevent sooo many issues. Vague statements can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, and unnecessary conflict.
Saying what you mean and meaning what you say requires both honesty and precision in expressing your thoughts and feelings. If there's confusion, asking for clarification without an accusing tone or providing clarification without defensiveness builds a bridge to mutual understanding.
Remembering to give your partner the benefit of the doubt underscores a commitment to goodwill and assumes positive intent.
19. Write Love Notes.
Writing love notes is a timeless and intimate way to communicate affection, appreciation, and connection in a relationship. I wrote “I love you” on a tiny post-it note when Kevin and I were dating.
He has carried it in his wallet for nearly 5 years! He sees it every single time he opens it, which reminds him of the lightheartedness of the early days as well as the love we still have for each other now.
In a world dominated by digital communication, a handwritten love note stands out as a personal and heartfelt gesture. It doesn't have to be a grand or eloquent declaration; even a simple message left on a pillow or tucked into a lunch bag can have a profound impact.
Love notes serve as tangible reminders of affection, capturing feelings and thoughts that can be revisited and cherished.
Whether expressing gratitude, admiration, encouragement, or romance, love notes are a versatile and meaningful communication tool. Write your heart out!
20. Make an effort to be more positive.
Making an effort to be more positive is more than just a shift in attitude; it's a conscious decision to nurture and uplift your marriage.
Positivity isn't about ignoring problems or glossing over challenges; it's moreso about approaching them with optimism, hope, and constructive energy. Assuming the best instead of the worst, ya know?
A positive outlook can transform how you communicate, problem-solve, and connect with your spouse. It’s about recognizing and celebrating what's working well in the relationship and actively cultivating gratitude and joy.
By focusing on strengths, expressing appreciation, and approaching difficulties with a can-do attitude, you foster a more fulfilling connection.
21. Don't rant just to rant.
Confession: I'm a ranter.
Fact: Ranting doesn't help anyone but you – and even then, it's debatable.
Avoid rants just for the sake of ranting! Expressing frustration or negative feelings is natural and important, but doing so with a purpose and a goal in mind leads to constructive dialogue rather than destructive conflict.
Asking yourself, “what's the goal here?” before addressing an issue can help clarify your intentions and guide your words.
This allows you to approach the conversation with focus, empathy, and a desire for resolution rather than simply venting anger or annoyance. This reflective approach encourages both you and your spouse to engage in meaningful conversation that seeks understanding, growth, and change, rather than merely airing grievances.
It promotes a culture of respect, where emotions are acknowledged and addressed with thoughtfulness and intention, fostering a relationship that thrives on communication that builds rather than breaks.
Communicating With Your Spouse
Every step, gesture, and word plays a role in shaping the connection between you and your husband or wife.
From understanding each other's Love Languages to choosing words with care, from embracing positivity to knowing when to pause a difficult conversation, these 21 strategies offer a roadmap to a more empathetic, intentional, and fulfilling partnership.
It's a journey that requires ongoing effort from both of you, as well as awareness and adaptation. By committing to these principles, you can build a marriage that not only withstands the challenges of life but thrives in the beautiful complexity of two people growing together.