Just because you get married doesn't mean you automatically have effective marriage communication skills. Like most things in life, you have to practice and learn what works and what doesn't. Thankfully, learning skills like compromise, active listening and timing are available daily in a marriage. To go from effective to highly effective marriage communication skills, it's also important to stay respectful and remember men and women communicate differently.
Marriage Communication Skills are Different
One problem many people have is that they bring communication skills from other situations into their marriage, assuming they will be effective. For example, at work you may need to be aggressive and pushy to get your opinion across, to make the sale or to be noticed by your boss. This usually isn't appreciated when you go home to your husband or wife. So, the first step to effective marriage communication is to realize that your marriage requires a different way of communicating.
Good Communication Skills
In many areas of life, there are distinct winners and losers. We are trained to try to win, sometimes at all costs. In your marriage, you and your spouse are not competing. You are on the same team. It may seem like you can win an argument with your spouse but having a win or lose mentality will result in both of you losing.
The best technique to shift away from the win-lose mentality is to practice mutual compromise. Instead of trying to get your way in a situation, look for ways in which both of you can agree. By working together to find a mutually satisfying compromise, you both end up winning. This is the sign of a healthy relationship.
If you need to bring up a sensitive subject with your spouse, start by mentioning the positive. For example, let's say your husband or wife often leaves the dishes in the sink without washing them. Instead of criticizing, first mention that you appreciate the ways in which your spouse contributes to cleaning the house. After the positive is established, then discuss how you would like more of an effort made toward cleaning the dishes.
Use the example of the dirty dishes in the following scenario: Your spouse not cleaning the dishes has bothered you for a long time and one day you yell at your spouse for not cleaning them. Is that fair? While he or she should have made an effort to clean up, your spouse doesn't know how important the dishes are to you unless you say something. Don't wait until you are mad to share your feelings, let it be known early so an agreement can be made before the issue becomes emotional.
The ability to simply listen is as important as the ability to express yourself. When your spouse is talking, be an active listener. Make eye contact and either repeat back some of what you hear or ask engaging questions. Listening is as much a communication skill as talking.
Timing Is Important
Even the best marriage communication skills can be sabotaged by poor timing. If you are upset about something that your spouse has done, wait for a good time to talk about it. Issues are often brought up right after work when one or both spouses are tired. Waiting until after dinner when both of you are more relaxed will diffuse the situation and make your spouse more receptive to your needs and wants.
Turn off TV
Sitting on the couch together in silence while you watch TV does not constitute communication. Turn off the TV, eliminate other distractions and spend time talking. This doesn't mean you should sell your TV, but some quality time together talking will definitely improve your marriage.
Men and Women are Different
A lot of stress in marriage comes from not recognizing the differences between men and women. For example, after working all day, many women like to talk about the details of their day. Men, on the other hand, often prefer to leave work at work and not talk about their day. Does this mean a couple should abandon their natural tendencies? Definitely not. What they should do is find a compromise.
Women Vent, Men Fix
In addition to the volume of communication, men and women often differ in what they seek from a conversation. Women usually like to talk about the frustrations of their day. This helps them to feel better. What they want when venting is to be genuinely heard and to feel their spouse has sympathy for them. The mistake men make is trying to fix the problem rather than listening and sympathizing. Once again, compromise can overcome these different styles. A husband should learn to listen before offering solutions and a wife should appreciate her husband's solutions as his way of expressing love and care.
Getting Men to Talk
Many women feel as though their husbands don't talk enough about their emotions. For some men, talking about emotions is difficult. If for no other reason, it makes them feel less masculine. Instead of nagging men to talk more, stroke their ego a bit and reward them when they do express emotion. If a wife tells her husband how brave he is for being emotionally vulnerable, it will make him feel more masculine and encourage him to open up more often.
One of the worst mistakes you can make when communicating with your spouse is to resort to name calling or other forms of emotional abuse. Conflicts will come and go within your marriage, but hurtful words will remain long after a disagreement is resolved.