Just how do you go about communicating with your spouse? It doesn’t take rocket science to answer that. You know that advice they give to aspiring writers? Write as though you’re talking to a friend over coffee.
Communicating with your spouse is no different. The dialog need not be top- heavy, regardless of the topic - sex, money, the kids, vacation, office intrigue – tell it like it is. Most of all, be open and honest.
The subject of openness and honesty in communicating with your spouse is a subject that has stirred the hearts and minds of experts, therapists, lawyers, pastors and ordinary folk. Take a peek at the library shelves and see how many books have been written on this topic. You get a hodge-podge of wisdom; yet despite the proliferation of literature, seminars and love-ins, spouses are still asking themselves if they communicate enough, over-communicate, or whether they’re doing it right.
There’s actually no right or wrong way to communicate with your spouse. But we’ll repeat what we said earlier: honesty reigns!
Communication: Tell-Tale Signs Pre-Marriage
During the dating stage, people are able to decipher each other’s body language and silence. This ability to “guess” what the other person is thinking comes from a heightened sense of sensitivity and intimacy. The dating phase of your relationship will alert you to tell-tale signs of future communication problems and you need to resolve any conflicts before you make that commitment. The inability to express one’s feelings to a loved one should raise antennas because without communication, how can love flourish?
Talking to one another is the essence of any man-woman relationship. Sure, sexual attraction counts too, but over the long term, your comfort level in communicating with your spouse is vital. It is the compass by which you steer your marriage to happiness or on the rocks.
We’re going to mention some tell-tale signs that should alert you to potential problems:
How’s the family?
How often does your date mention his parents and siblings? When he speaks of his family, does he do so with enthusiasm and affection? When he tells you stories of his childhood, does he remember conversations with his mom and dad and does he share them with you?
There is something fundamentally wrong when a person does not talk about his family or avoids the subject altogether. If your future spouse withdraws from the conversation when the subject of family is raised, then think twice about marrying this person.
Have you got anything pleasant to say?
When your future spouse tends to be negative and has the annoying habit of criticizing others often, be wary. Be careful if he or she tends to put you down or belittles you. If a person is stingy with compliments, that’s a sign of insecurity. An opinionated person does not make for pleasant company. Racist comments or jokes that are expressed way too often should be a warning sign as well.
Why so emotional?
Have you ever been in a conversation where you say something innocent or harmless and your date snaps at you for no reason? Or have you been in a situation where the conversation begins calmly but somehow ends up in a shouting match? When emotions get in the way, nothing is accomplished. You may wish to postpone your discussion until both of you are calm and collected. There is no room for tears, sullenness, and emotional blackmail in spousal communication.
A frequent “no comment” reaction is a sign of uncommunicativeness. Either your future spouse is intellectually lazy or is simply not interested in exchanging ideas with you. If this is the case, imagine how barren the marital landscape would be. When animated conversations are absent in a marriage, it leads to boredom. Boredom in turn can kill a marriage. A “no comment” reaction does not necessarily equate with tact and diplomacy!
Suffering from verbal diarrhea?
Being at the other end of the spectrum is not too appetizing either. Listening to someone who talks too much is tiring. There should be balance between being a talker and a listener. People who dominate the conversation tend to be insensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Give your spouse the chance to say what’s on his mind.
Communicating with your Spouse: Timing
Sales people love to say that “timing is everything.” In a marriage, when one spouse needs something from the other, there’s the “how to say it” and there’s also the “when to say it.”
When your husband comes home from the office and has had a harrowing day of meetings and arguing with the boss, don’t welcome him home with a string of complaints about the garbage collector, the plumber or the dry cleaner. When your spouse troubleshoots all day in the office and puts out fires, don’t overwhelm him with your own litany of troubles.
“Can’t you see I’m exhausted?” is the wrong reaction as well. When your spouse comes to you and starts spilling the beans, just say, “honey, I had a bad day in the office today. I know this is important to you, but do you think we can discuss this on Sunday when you and I are more relaxed? Why don’t we go to that breakfast place and we can flesh things out over eggs and coffee?”
In addition to a good sense of timing, a generous dose of compassion and empathy are also in order. When your spouse comes home and tells you that she was bypassed for promotion, don’t start telling her how incompetent she is and that she should have been more assertive. Remember that she just suffered a letdown and her ego is probably hurting.
Instead, show compassion and say: “honey, I’m sorry that management failed to realize that you can make a valuable contribution to the company. I know you work hard but you’re being bypassed for promotion doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable. They must have reasons for choosing someone else. This is your chance to turn disappointment into opportunity. Maybe you’ll get it next time, or perhaps it’s time to re-think your career prospects. Whatever you decide, I’m behind you 100%.”
A favorite advice of experts is that couples must set up specific times to “brief” each other. Major issues like upcoming trips, home renovations, and the children’s education are topics that can’t be dealt with on the fly. Make it a point to schedule discussions so that these subjects can be dealt with intelligently and with mutual consent.
Even if there are no major issues to discuss, husband and wife must make the effort to be alone together so they can remind themselves how much they love each other and that their marriage is solid.
How’s this as an example?
Husband: What’s new with you? Anything you want to tell me?
Wife: Nothing important, but let’s take a long walk in the park, shall we, and just shoot the breeze? I want to feel physically close to you and tell myself how lucky I am to be married to you.
With that much love in marriage, who needs a divorce lawyer?