Communication is the number one factor in a successful or unsuccessful relationship. It has the ability to create strong bonds, but it also has the ability to break them. I am going to shed some light on how crucial it is to a happy marriage, and how to go about ensuring that any person can become a great communicator in marriage.
The one factor concerning communication in marriage is that the way two people interact with each other is completely unique to them as a couple. No one else can touch the depths of their heart and soul like the person they love. It is because of this that anytime a man or woman feels emotional hurt or happiness, the feeling is magnified due to their closeness to their partner.
Every person in this world has some form of emotional barrier. Some may be stronger and taller than others, but they still exist none-the-less. By taking the wonderful step into marriage, barriers crumble, or at least diminish into a much smaller form. By letting our guards down as the barriers topple over, we invite our wife or husband to touch the depths of who we are, risking all hurt and pain to feel unconditional love.
When we become vulnerable, emotions tend to run higher and faster, and force us into a self preservation, or defense mode. This defense mechanism is what elevates discussion into an argument. At the point a conversation turns into an argument is when we risk dealing unrepairable damage, or at least long lasting emotional hurt.
My wife and I are constantly trying to better our communication skills, and it is always a work in progress. Both of us are very stubborn, defensive people, and we both tend to lash out when we feel like we are backed into a corner.
For me, when it comes to other people in my life, I am the most patient and understanding person in the world. You might call me a people pleaser. I avoid confrontation at all costs, in an attempt not to cross anyone. My wife is very similar, and is very much a people pleaser as well.
But when we are in an argument with each other, all gloves come off and you might not even recognize us. I love my wife very much, and can rest in comfort with the knowledge that no disagreement will keep us divided for long. Although we may be have the occasional fight, we are both also very quick to apologize, compromise, forgive, and forget.
Our focus now is communication, and it has strengthened our marriage more than anything else. There is a greater depth of understanding each other, as well as the creation of strong bonds that have brought us even closer together.
By possessing the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, arguments can be reduced to a minimum. Discussions can remain discussions, and resolutions and compromises can be reached without any possibility of hostility.
Recognize Your Boiling Point
With this I mean be able to recognize when your patience is gone, and you are on the verge of losing your cool. This is the tipping point that turns normal interaction and passive disagreements into an argument.
By identifying the moment in time that you are about to go off, you possess the ability to control the situation, and not let it escalate into something further. Keep in mind that although you may be on the verge of becoming very bothered, your spouse might still be thinking everything is normal. Any visible or sensed change might trigger a defensive reaction from them, which doubles the problem now that both of you are on the verge of on argument. So to avoid this, take a step back, and nicely explain how the situation is affecting you.
In my experience, I recognize my own boiling point actions as the following: raising my voice, trying to defend my actions as opposed to reasonably explaining them, churning what my wife is actually saying into 'blah, blah, blah' in my head, and clenching my teeth.
By recognizing these actions, I have the power to stop myself, and begin a new process to help me steer away from a possible confrontation.
Talk or Walk
After realizing I am at my boiling point, I have two options, talk it out or walk it off. My preference is to talk first, then walk later if need be.
Talking it out basically means summoning the patience to carefully explain that the current discussion is on the verge of making you angry. Convey your feelings on the issue in a manner that is not confrontational to your spouse. This may or may not be an easy thing to accomplish, as there is the possibility of inadvertently being abrasive. Be prepared to apologize if this happens, and offer a truthful explanation that what you said did not come out how you meant it, and try again using different words. Head on over to my Learning to Apologize post for giving a genuine, heartfelt apology.
Understand that by talking it out, you may have to discuss your feelings on the issue, so try not to hold anything back. I am not saying be aggressive, I am simply saying tell what you are feeling. For many men, communicating feelings and emotions is not something they are known for. But for the betterment of marriage through communication, it is something that needs to be learned.
Often I find that when I explain myself and how I feel in a calm, passive manner, my wife is about 800% more inclined to listen to what I have to say, and it is far easier for her to acknowledge how I feel. If for any reason there is wrongdoing on her part, or fault found with something she has done, she is much more receptive to constructive criticism than if I was throwing it in her face, upset, and with a raised voice. The same holds true for me. I am exactly the same way when she is able to communicate clearly with me as well, and it is much easier for me to acknowledge my own faults.
Now to shift to my second option, walking it off. Sometimes the best option for people is to take a quick break from the discussion so they can cool off. I have done this several times when I did not feel talking about it would help. I recognized my frustration was higher than normal, so I needed to blow some steam before I came back to my wife to have our conversation.
With a clear head, it is easier to convey what you are feeling, as opposed to letting emotions control your actions. Personally, I do not use this as my primary method because I prefer to resolve things quickly, and talking tends to resolve how I am feeling a little faster.
You cannot have good communication without learning how to listen. Keep in mind hearing is not listening. Hearing is recognizing someone is talking, but what they are actually saying is not absorbed, and basically goes in one ear and out the other. Listening is not only hearing what your spouse is saying, but taking in their words and applying them to the current discussion.
Part of good communication is showing to your spouse that what they say matters, and that you are listening to their thoughts or concerns. Knowing that you are interested, and care about how they feel immediately impacts how they will continue with the conversation. It also allows for you to formulate a meaningful and intelligent response.
Part of what I have learned from marriage, and even relationships in the past, is that listening will further enhance your understanding of your husband or wife. By applying what I know from discussions in the past, I can predict how future conversations will go, and anticipate what kind of response I need to give. That understanding of my wife strengthens our connection, and makes our marriage that much healthier.
Having two different opinions does not make either one right...or wrong
One of the toughest things I have had to learn is that when communicating, neither person is either right or wrong...at least to start with. Everyone has opinions on certain topics or discussions, and who is to say that one person is correct while the other person is unjustified?
For my wife and I, we both have opinions in just about anything we talk about. Many times we agree, and many times we disagree. Through her eyes, she sees things in a very particular way, just as I do. Who can tell either one of us that what we see is incorrect? No one can. I cannot tell my wife that what she thinks is wrong. If you feel a certain way about something, do not let anyone tell you that is wrong.
So, if both people are right, what now? Well, this is where communication, yet again, plays its very important role. The trick is to recognize both sides, and either acknowledge each opinion, or find a way to compromise and incorporate both views into a more complete resolution that leaves both partners happy.
I know that when I sense a disagreement coming on, I make sure my wife sees that I am trying to come to a conclusion that includes both our opinions. It is then that when we reach a final resolution, we both realize we may be a little wrong, or at fault. It gives us both something to work on in a constructive manner without the hostility of an argument.
Man, I wish this went without saying, but even I am horrible at this at times. In good communication, it is absolutely crucial to appear alert and interested. This means maintaining good eye contact and good posture. Any sign of boredom or disinterest and you already could be on your way to trouble.
Just for a moment, pretend you are talking with your spouse, and their head is resting on their hand as they are looking everywhere around the room except at you. Maybe they are tracking a fly? Or maybe they are bored, or just simply do not give a rat's @$$ about what you are saying. Poor communication!
Eye contact engages a person and invites them to open up to you. Try to avoid slouching and seeming uninterested or bored. I admit, some issues can get redundant, and just the thought of having another conversation about the same old stuff is mind numbing. But if it is important enough for your partner to want to talk about it, then it should be important enough for you to listen.
- Good communication means clearly expressing your feelings without becoming aggressive or confrontational.
- Good communication means listening to your spouse.
- Remember your boiling point, and take the appropriate action to return to a calm state of mind.
- Talk or walk...find out what method works best for you to regain composure. Be sure to explain in an understanding, calm manner that informs your partner of how you are feeling and what you are doing to retain a solid communication.
- Remember that everyone has an opinion. Just like feel you are right, so does your spouse. Try to address both views and reach a compromise.
- Maintain good body language, including eye contact and posture.
I am a strong advocate of communication being the number one factor that makes a marriage work. Without it, we take a great risk of growing apart from the most special person in our lives. With it, we allow ourselves to dive deep into the heart and mind of our spouse, and create a trust and comfort for them for the rest of our lives.