Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.
~ David Augsburger
Every day communication can often start to feel like a bad game of telephone. You say one thing and your spouse hears or remembers hearing something different. It can be frustrating or worse, especially if it occurs often, it can cripple a relationship. Have you been there? Here are 5 tips you can use today to improve your communication and your marriage:
1. Timing is everything. The worst time to have an argument is when you’re angry enough to want to argue. It’s ok to request a time-out. Take a deep breath. Retreat to your best alone, reflective spaces and pray on it. When you’re both calmer, sit and discuss – not debate – the issue at hand.
2. Be direct: Don’t assume your spouse knows what you are feeling, what you need or what you want. Let’s say, for example, that you’re feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list. The solution is not to list all your spouse is not doing in comparison to what you are doing. Identify some things your spouse can do to lessen your burden. “I’m feeling overwhelmed. If you could take responsibility for making dinner at least a few nights a week, it would be a huge help.”
3. Own it, don’t assign it: We all do it. The moment someone begins an argument with “You,” especially in a statement like “You never” or “You always”, we stop listening and go on the defensive. Try reframing your discussions. It’s not “You never listen to me…” it’s “Sometimes I feel like I’m not heard.”
4. Engage your filter: Not everything has to be said. You know that adage “pick and choose your battles”? Yes. Exactly. Before you unleash a complaint about the latest thing your spouse did to irk you, step back and measure its worth. Is this really something worth arguing about? In the big picture, is it worth what lies ahead if you bring it up or can you just let go and move on? If you’re not sure, pause and pray on it before you bring it up.
5. Highlight the highlights: How often do you and your spouse argue, resolve and forget? Don’t let it end there. If your spouse heard you in bullet point 2 above and is making dinner for the third night this week, offer your gratitude. “I have really enjoyed the meals you’re making. Thank you for understanding and taking some of the weight from my shoulders. I appreciate it!” Notice the small things. Notice the not-so-small things.
Challenge: Don’t wait for the next fight. What’s one wonderful thing about your spouse you can highlight today?