Communication is key to making a marriage thrive. A husband and wife are not always on the same page and must communicate in order to be a unified force and make decisions together. Use these effective communication strategies in your marriage in order to better communicate with your husband and ease the tension of differing opinions and ideas.
ARGUING over what?!
Our first real fight as a married couple was how to make up the bed. The bed!! It’s funny now but in the moment communication broke down quickly and tempers flared. I turned the printed side of the flat sheet down so when folded back it was nice and pretty. I tucked the sheet under the mattress. He’d always had the printed side face up with nothing folded down. Sheet straight up, comforter straight up, and pillows standing up nice and tall.
There we stood, on opposite sides of the bed, arguing opposite sides of the right way to make up a bed. Ugh. I wish I were making this stuff up – trust me, hindsight is 20/20 and it was really as stupid as it sounds. Why on earth were we arguing about that?!
Communicating our feelings and ideas obviously hasn’t always been an easy task for us. Although it can still be a challenge – we’ve come a looong way in two decades. And now, we know how to make up the bed the Monsey way (although I still tuck my side of the sheet under the mattress). 😉
It took time and lots of learning to figure out effective communication strategies in our marriage. Keep reading to discover the best skills we use to better communicate with each other.
regular relationship talks
Busy couples can get into the routine of talking about not much more than schedules, dinner options, kids’ activities to manage, and the never ending TDL. Monthly or even biweekly date nights are always a great idea! Dinner at a quiet restaurant, coffee or dessert at a cute little hangout, or take a walk through the nearest park. Make it a priority to get some quality time together to give yourself the chance to have connecting conversations rather than simply co-management talks.
report vs rapport Communication
It’s important to realize that men and women communicate differently. Picture it – your man asks how your day was. You answer with how it was pretty good, you got this and that done, you learned that your coworker knows one of your friends from church so y’all got to talk about that, your lunch made you kind of queasy, a big report got messed up by a software crash, and how your manager had to write someone up last week and they’re still complaining about how it wasn’t fair. You ask your husband the exact same question. “How was your day?” The response takes maybe a third the time and he gives you a general “good” or “busy” or “crap” along with a short list of the day’s tasks, if you’re lucky.
Men tend to give report conversations. They’re going to go through the general report of the day. Women have conversations in order to connect. We want rapport, the close relationship in which we discuss and understand each other’s feelings behind each situation from the day.
It’s beneficial to remember this when communicating with your man. This can help me keep myself from getting long winded, spurring what I take as my husband’s disinterest or disconnect, and the hurt that follows suit. To learn more about report talk versus rapport talk, read Deborah Tannen’s book You Just Don’t Understand
I absolutely adore all of Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott’s materials and one of my favorites is this effective communication strategy they call withholdings. Like we said, many couples are so busy they barely have time to sit and have quality conversations. Life is just so busy!
Sometimes you have a feeling or thought in reaction to something your spouse has done, either good or bad, but either don’t have the time or energy to voice it in that moment. The Parrotts came up with a quick way to address those feelings with a spouse.
When you decide to share withholdings (feelings that you didn’t get to express in the moment), you each share 3 reactions to something your spouse did.
The most effective part of this communication is that you sandwich a negative feeling between two positives. So for example, I’ll tell my husband that I really appreciated when he wrapped his arm around me in public the other day when it was obvious a woman was looking at him and how it made me feel very prized. I’ll follow that with the negative feeling. Such as when he scolded me for something in front of the kids how I felt patronized. Then I’ll share another positive withholding – like how watching him spend quality time and conversation with our daughter struggling in school made me proud to call him father of my children.
You can either have a scheduled time the same week or tell your spouse you’d like to do it then give him some time to think through his.
The key to this effective communication strategy is that the spouse listening cannot say anything other than “Thank you”. You don’t defend your actions, turn the conversation into something he did wrong, or offer any explanation or apology.
If further discussion on a withholding needs to be had then it has to wait 30 minutes to give each spouse time to process it mentally and cool off before coming back to have a productive conversation.
If you’re having a hard time thinking through how to effectively communicate your feelings toward an action of your husbands, try the Parrotts’ method of XYZ statements.
When X happens and you Y I feel Z.
When (we get the numbers wrong on the budget) and you (get frustrated and snap at me) I feel (stupid and belittled and get resentful).
Another version of this effective communication strategy is to simply use statements that start with I. This avoids accusatory statements that spur defensiveness and counter attacks. For example, “I feel belittled and resentful when snapped at during our budget meetings”.
seek to understand then be understood
This effective strategy comes from Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Side note – this is one worth buying and highlighting and scribbling notes in. It changed how I functioned in my parenting, marriage, and work relationships! Ok…back to effective communication strategies.
When each spouse is mainly concerned with being understood there is no one actually listening! If we start each communication with the goal of understanding the other person first before even starting with our feelings and opinions and ideas then the other person feels important, respected, and loved. That’s exactly how I want my man to feel.
Sometimes you think you know what he’s going to say next. I mean, you’re married, finishing each other’s sentences in cute, right? Assuming his next words, feelings, and motives is not an effective communication strategy.
The opposite of making assumptions is active listening. Keep eye contact. Listen without interrupting. Listen to listen and not to mentally form a comeback or debate. Once he’s finished, ask questions. Affirm that you hear what he’s saying with statements like “I see”, “That makes sense”, and “Ok, I hear that”.
Rephrasing His Thoughts
This is a great way to be an engaged part of the conversation while trying to understand his perspective. You’re already actively listening and letting him completely finish his sentences. After he’s done, restate what you think he’s saying. You can even phrase it as a question that way he knows you’re earnestly trying to understand his perspective.
And girl, I’m not above taking notes LOL! That’s just how my brain works. I’m going to hear his words and write his words and that will help me better absorb his words. 😉 I don’t do this often but sometimes it really helps my spaghetti brain that is all over the place!
a second thought before speaking
This effective communication strategy is quite simple. Say what you’re going to say inside your head before it comes out of your mouth. No not every single sentence but start filtering! We’re not in high school anymore.
This is basic. Sometimes we just need to bite our tongues and not say something. The key is thinking through it before it saying it. Don’t criticize your husband. There is a difference between a criticism and a complaint (see XYZ statements section).
I can ramble when nervous or defensive. I have to work very hard at filtering my statements. I ask myself if what I’m about to say is true, helpful, intelligent, necessary, and kind. See how that spells “THINK”?! Haha, cute, huh? 😉
good vs. bad timing
Early on in our marriage I said what I thought and felt when I thought and felt it. Not the best idea! Over the years I’ve become a bit wiser and I can tell you discerning when it’s not the best time to have a conversation has saved me from starting countless fights!
Be mindful of other circumstances when trying to start a serious discussion. Is your husband dealing with other stresses and conflicts that would cause him to take that stress into your communication? Maybe there’s just not enough time to work through it before having to go to work or meet parents for dinner. Or maybe he is just plain tired, hangry, or grumpy and not capable of effectively communication in that moment. Maybe you are!
Here’s a tip – PMS is always bad timing (funny not funny)! 😉 After a long day when your heads finally hit the pillow (i.e. exhausted) is bad timing.
look at all your options
If you and your husband are having a hard time getting on the same page it might be that neither of you think the other’s idea is the best option. That’s ok!!
Another effective communication strategy is working through this question – What are all of our options? If you can go through and discuss pros and cons to every possible solution you might be able to communicate through the issue and come to a unified decision that neither of you initially even thought of!
Deal with Only 1 Issue
Have you ever tried to communicate through an issue only to have the flood gates open and seventeen different underlying issues come up as well?
You know the scenario. You’re upset that he has littered the bedroom floor with dirty clothes when there’s a hamper just six feet away. You bring it up and the tables turn so many times that now you’re dealing with laundry on the floor, what kind of detergent you use, the dishes stacking up, and the flower bed out front. What?!?!
This is a very effective communication strategy. Avoid turning the tables on each other and bringing up any other issue other than the one you’re trying to work through then.
Does your husband try to bring up other topics? I’ve found simply asking him about it to be helpful. “Do you want to talk/work through (laundry on the floor) or (the dishes) right now?” Then we deal with whatever one issue he brings up and the other waits for another time. It may not be the original topic solved, but hey, one issue solved is a success!
7 positives to 1 negative
Drs. John and Julie Gottman from the Gottman Institute have helped thousands of couples through a research based study method.
In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman says that each negative interaction between you and your spouse requires seven (seven!) positive experiences to balance the one negative experience. Yowza!
You know what this is called? Make up..ahem. Not really LOL! But really, think about this. One negative interaction take seven positives to outweigh it. This means for each negative complaint needs a positive praise.
Let us as wives focus on the good will of our husbands. Let us praise and appreciate his positive qualities. Let us adore the man we initially fell in love with. This desperately needs to be communicated to our husbands!!
Talk yourself down
One important goal of effective communication is to stay calm while trying to discuss an important issue (like how to make the bed hahaha). Sometimes the words that come out of that man’s mouth are just plain infuriating! However, it’s our job to stay calm no matter how frustrated we get.
Sometimes I have to take a break from a discussion. A simple statement that I need to take a break because I’m getting too flustered usually let’s my man know that I’m on edge and need to take some time to unwind.
This is hard for a woman! Take some deep breathes and think through the emotions.
Sometimes I have to talk myself down during a disagreement. I remind myself that I love this man. That he loves me. That we have a good life and are happy. That the man in front of me (and on the opposite side of the page) and I are on the same team working towards forever together.
Effective Communication Strategies
Again, remember that communication will not always be a walk in the park. You will have differing opinions, be on opposite pages, and come to an impasse at times. However these effective communication strategies are meant to decrease the times that communication breaks down between the two of you.
Using these effective communication strategies will help the two of you better communicate, decrease the tension during discussions, make decisions together as a unified force, and connect more closely as a couple.
Which of these strategies do you use already? Which strategies will you start implementing to better communicate with your hubby? Comment below!
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- Resentment in Marriage – How To Handle It
- Marriage Killers – Plus How to Avoid Them
- Communication in Marriage; Being Sensitive to Bad Timing