What does it mean to communicate well? I used to think in a romantic relationship it meant expressing your feelings effectively to your significant other. But when I look back on our marriage, I realize it’s about a lot more than feelings.
From the logistics of the day to understanding expectations, communication is the life and death of a relationship. If my husband and I aren’t having our best week and talk less, we can spiral into even less communication and more frustration. If we are communicating well, it leads to fewer frustrating moments and a stronger sense of being in this together.
Here are some communication tips my husband and I have learned that have helped strengthen our marriage.
- Make Time for Quality Time We plan out time to talk to each other, especially when life gets more stressful. We watch less TV in the evening together and more time checking in to see how the other is doing. We’ll share necessary updates on the kids and the logistics of the next day. We operate as a team. If we know how the other person is handling the stress, we can support each other.
- Check in with Each Other’s Plans Extended family get-togethers really bring out communication issues. There have been many times I’ve witnessed spousal “communication breakdowns” because the men and women spend a lot of the day separated from each other. All too often, the people in each of the groups fail to share all the details of their conversations with their spouse or the rest of the family. We end up with conflicting plans and everyone’s frustrated. I learned to avoid this problem by checking in with my husband throughout the day and taking it upon myself to communicate any plans we’ve brainstormed without him. That seems to work much better than assuming someone else is going to do it!
- Don’t Panic if Things Get Lost in Translation Poor communication can be embarrassing, but it’s important not to throw each other under the bus when there’s an issue. I recently planned a block party with some of our neighbors. Everything was going smoothly and I had emailed everyone to let them know exactly where to set up the supplies they were bringing. My husband ended up in charge of setup after I woke up sick, but I had forgotten to tell him where everything was supposed to go. His plans actually ended up being even better than my own, but it was embarrassing to go out and explain to the confused fellow party-planners why nothing was set up as we had discussed. “As you can see, we had a communication breakdown at our house,” I chuckled as I told them.
- Change How You Talk About Your Feelings Communicating emotions is an important piece of the relationship puzzle. The line, “It makes me feel _____ when you _____” has helped my husband and I in our marriage. When I express myself that way, I share my feelings without him feeling attacked. I’m simply expressing how it makes me feel. He gets a little insight into how I see things, as well as a chance to explain himself and reassure me of his good intentions.
- Protect Quality Time For example, during agreed upon family time the expectation is that we are not on our phones. It’s not strictly enforced, but if someone is getting carried away we can remind each other, “It’s family time. Could you please put your phone down?” It’s difficult to get upset with a rule you think is a good idea.
The more we communicate, the better we understand each other and the less likely we are to have issues come up. If a problem does arise, we’re better equipped to deal with it if we’ve been in a pattern of healthy communication. We can spiral up or down off this single aspect of our relationship, so we guard it carefully!