Communication Tips for a Happily Ever AfterJan 23, 2024
Does this little scenario sound familiar?
Woman: Communication is key
Man: What’s wrong?
We all know that communication is key to any healthy relationship. However, most of us lack the skills it takes to communicate effectively, meaningfully, and respectfully. Let’s face it: most of us got our communication skills - or lack thereof from our parents and families.
Conflict often arises as a couple when you grow up with very different communication styles. For example, my husband’s family enjoys the banter of conflicting opinions. They like to play “devil’s advocate” even if they disagree with what they are saying! They will dive straight into the deep end of any hot topic - politics, religion. You name it - it is fair game!
On the other hand, my family is more of a “retreat from conflict” type. We all err on the side of not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, so we’ll keep it to ourselves and not make waves.
You can imagine how much of our communication (especially when there was a conflict) turned out for us.
- We have a disagreement
- I say my peace and am done.
- He continues talking circles around the issue, trying to get me to engage in the “friendly” banter.
However, that pattern didn’t last too long because we had an underlying love and respect for each other. We quickly learned how to communicate with one another in a way that satisfied us both. I learned to talk things out a little more, realizing that much of the talking was him just trying to process the situation. And he learned that if we were talking about something that just didn’t matter, to stop before he might say something that could hurt me.
I guarantee that we would not have come to understand each other so quickly if we didn’t both have a strong relationship with God. So, again, each of us sought God and listened for His direction in our lives individually and then together.
Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
We have now been married for 26 years. In those years, we have learned different types of communication for the various seasons of life. However, we are still a work in progress. We don’t disagree or have conflict much, if at all. But if we do, it is because our communication has been off.
I could write a whole book just on this subject of communication because there is so much to explore about it. However, I want to highlight some communication points for the different stages of your life as a couple.
Touch less, talk more! People seem to get this turned around and then get in a world of hurt because of it. When it comes to communication, this is the time when you are learning about each other - checking to see if you should go further or take an exit! Again, refer to last week’s blog for issues you will want to communicate while dating.
Again, it would be best if you grew together spiritually and intellectually BEFORE you grow together physically. Spend more time preparing for your marriage than your wedding. This is the time in your relationship when you need to talk about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING! Nothing is off the table at this point. You also need to explore your love languages, which is how you receive love and like to give love. To sum it up, there are five different types of love languages - words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
If you are engaged, hopefully, you have been in or are going through marriage counseling. Here are some of the topics that should be discussed before getting married. For a list of questions under each heading, download the discussion prompts below.
Sex (this changes with each season of your marriage)
How do you deal with conflict?
Rate your top needs and discuss why it matters to you:
Communication in a marriage is a continual growing and evolving thing. Different seasons of our lives require different types of communication. Likewise, our love languages have also changed according to our ages and life experiences. Therefore, it is important to remember that as your life evolves, your communication must evolve as well.
My husband and I have a lot of time to talk now that we are empty nested. However, if we hadn’t kept communication up throughout the busy years of raising kids, we wouldn’t have much to talk about now.
I would suggest downloading and going through the questions above as a married couple and revisit the questions periodically. There are many specific things to communicate about, but I want to share some general tips for good communication.
- Have a vision for your life together, and keep talking about it, tweaking it, and expanding it. Bryce and I have continued to dream together and cast the vision of each season of our lives. We are not caught off guard by empty nesting or even sad about it, for that matter, because we have talked and envisioned what it would be like. And although we miss our children, we are thrilled to have time for just us again. Some questions for casting a vision together may include:
- Where is a destination you want to travel to?
- What activity would you like to try?
- Where would you like to live when you retire - if you even want to retire?
- If you were living your best life, what does that look like?
- What legacy do you want to leave your children and grandchildren?
2. Timing is everything! Topics like how you will discipline your children or if you will allow them to sleep in your bed should be discussed way before you have children rather than when your 2-year-old is in a full-fledged tantrum.
Timing is also crucial for serious conversations. For example, when your spouse gets home from a stressful job is probably not the best time to talk about bills. Make sure you don’t ignore an important issue but know the best time to have a conversation.
When our kids were young, there were times that I disagreed with how Bryce disciplined them. However, I never (or very rarely) corrected him or talked about it in the heat of the moment. I would wait until everything was calm (and away from our kids) to say, “You know, hun, I wish you had handled the situation like __________ because _________. Then, he could explain why he managed it the way he did. We could discuss it without the tension there.
- Technique - there are specific techniques for communicating effectively. Instead of shooting words of accusations toward each other during a conflict, approach the conversation with,
“When you _______________, I feel _______________ because __________________.”
Another communication technique is to mirror back what you heard your spouse say. Often, what they said and what you heard are two different things. You can check your understanding by reflecting,
“So what I hear you saying is…..”
This allows room for clarification without assuming they meant something when they didn’t.
A Word for the ladies:
Ladies, don’t expect your man to read your mind. If you would like ice cream, say so - don’t use cryptic language like, “boy, ice cream sure sounds good.” (Yes, this is from experience!) If you want the dang ice cream, say so!
Also, If you want help with doing the dishes or doing the laundry, ask him instead of pouting and getting passive-aggressive. On the other hand, be sensitive to how his day has been and be okay if he doesn’t want to talk right when he gets home from work.
A Word for the men:
Gentlemen, romance starts with communication. Truly listen to her and care about what is going on in her world. Also, you don’t need to solve her problems, just be there and listen to her. Instead of responding with a solution, reflect on what she is saying, “I see this has you upset. How can I help you right now?”
There is so much more to say about communication. However, the bottom line is to learn about each other and learn with each other. Keep dreaming - cast the vision for the next 5, 10, 20 years, and beyond. Life is beautiful...together.