We’ve all been told that effective communication is the key to any healthy relationship. In reality, there are several keys to building a strong, mutually affirming, lifelong bond with someone else. But good communication is one of the most important.
The way we communicate with one another, both in listening and in expressing what we think and feel, shapes our connection with those we love. Depending on our specific communication choices, they can either bring us greater connection or drive us apart, increasing positive emotions or antagonizing conflicts that already exist.
For married couples and all intimate relationships, great listening, respect, and openness inspire mutual vulnerability and honesty. We feel invited to share the truth of our experiences and our emotions. We find ourselves able to solve problems with greater ease and navigate conflict more effectively. Not to mention, an abundance of the right kind of communication leads to greater intimacy. And we could all use more of that.
With all the benefits of communication, we often find ourselves saying things we don’t want to say, not saying enough of what we do want to share, and avoiding interactions altogether when tensions run high. This avoidance only increases our apprehension and aversion to working things out together in the future.
With this in mind, we want to inspire you toward better, more life-giving communication choices between you and the one you love. Let’s look now at the best ways to communicate with your spouse.
1. Spend Time Together
You may ask what this has to do with better communication. Well, it’s really the foundation of quality conversation and connection. So many couples simply aren’t spending much time together. Between work, kids, fitness, outside commitments and everything else swirling around our lives, we often have very little time left with our significant other.
The basic truth here is that spending more time with each other has innumerable benefits. More face time means more opportunities to share our lives with each other. We experience real communication that builds intimacy. It puts us in close proximity, forces us, so to speak, to confront things we’ve been avoiding, and to share important or meaningful truths we may have otherwise kept to ourselves.
What we really need is to prioritize time together instead of leaving it to chance. If you have to schedule it in, do so. Even if there are things to work through, you’ll find that the increased hours with each other will slowly wear down your bad defenses, increase your level of trust, give you the confidence you need to share your heart, teach you to listen more, and help each of you find a level of connection you’d previously given up on.
2. Validate One Another’s Feelings and Experiences
Does your spouse ever say you don’t listen to what they’re really telling you? Do you ignore them when they ask you to take what they are saying more seriously, or find that you aren’t being taken at face value when you express important things? We’re all guilty of this and we all suffer from not being really heard and understood sometimes. It’s a sad truth that we often invalidate our spouse’s thoughts and feelings, even belittle them when they’re trying hard to share something deeply felt and important for them.
Instead, be conscious of this whenever you begin a conversation. Think about how good it feels, all the positive emotions that come when we are respected and validated in all you share and feel. Begin by giving this to your partner. This will inspire them to do the same.
Without really affirming the things we share with one another, our sharing becomes mere talking points instead of meaningful conversations. We stay on separate sides and hurl things across the divide. We talk at one another instead of with each other. And that’s no good for anyone. Begin with eye contact, practice active listening, stay aware of your tone of voice, and validate what they share with you and the conversation will be productive and strengthening every time.
This habit of validation is an essential component of a loving relationship and it changes your perspective during conflict and times of difficulty. It decreases angry outbursts and engenders affection. Showing respect and honoring someone else’s worth and convictions always leads to a positive outcome.
3. Laugh Often Together
There’s nothing more healing and intimate than laughing hard with someone you love. Even without words, laughter has a way of dispelling conflict, reducing anger, easing communication issues, shaking us out of stubbornness, complacency, and pent-up frustration. It releases pleasure chemicals that make us feel closer and it increases our desire for physical affection.
Choose activities that involve humor, laughter and joy. Joke about old times, reminisce about funny memories, tell jokes, play with each other, wrestle and tumble, leave one another funny notes, watch comedy, and choose to laugh sometimes when everything around you is full of tension. It’s an amazing remedy for many of life’s ills and immediately makes the two of you feel that much closer.
4. Choose Ideal Times for Difficult Conversations
Have you ever been stewing all day about something, whether you’re upset or simply have something important on your mind, only to find that when you bring it up, you’re shot down right off the bat, as you watch your spouse walk away to do something else? Sometimes, it’s just your timing.
Don’t launch into a heavy talk right when your spouse gets home from a full day. When it comes to the grind of daily life, everyone needs to decompress, rest for a while, and clear their head. Wait and give them time to recoup. Otherwise, your attempts will be in vain and you’ll miss out on a more productive conversation.
Also, be mindful of family dynamics. Avoid starting serious talks or arguments in front of the children. This is embarrassing for the two of you and stresses out your kids.
You can even mention respectfully that you have something you’d like to talk about and ask your spouse when they would feel good having the conversation. This doesn’t always work, but it’s a healthy alternative to randomly forcing a tense conversation without notice and alienating your spouse in the process. Healthy communication recognizes the need for respect and good timing.
5. Respect and Affirm Each Other in Front of Other People
This goes equally for times when the two of you are spending time together with others and when you’re enjoying time with friends when your spouse isn’t present. You can learn a lot about the health of a relationship by how spouses speak about one another when the other isn’t around or when they’re interacting in a group setting.
Outside company either inspires a desire to praise our spouse, speak highly of them and affirm their individual value and importance to us, or it leads us to speak poorly of them and complain. Life is difficult for all of us. Marriages have enough trouble without us adding to it by spreading negative things about our partner to others.
It’s okay to discuss things and get advice from a trusted friend. It’s not okay to use these times to just dump on our spouse’s life and choices, complain and gossip. This breaks down our respect for our loved one, increases our anger and dissatisfaction, and solves nothing.
Instead, make a habit of speaking highly of them when you’re with others. Talk about the things you love about them, the times they’ve encouraged you, surprised you, built you up. Speak of their gifts and talents and personal sacrifices. The world and your marriage are much better places when love and respect run free instead of constant negativity. Your encouragement of one another will bring your intimacy to a deeper level.
6. Express Affection Openly and be Specific with Affirmation Every Day
Don’t withhold the good things you think and feel about your spouse. Tell them how and why they make you feel good. Talk about how they turn you on physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Compliment their choices, their appearance, their unique, quirky, individual personality traits.
Encourage your spouse by sharing with them each day or at least a few times a week, something unique about them you love and adore. Whether it’s a physical trait, something about their intellect, the way they think or speak, or how they see the world. There’s so much to love about each other. Don’t just admire from a distance. Let them know how much you love it and share in the positive emotions.
7. Treat Marriage Like an Opportunity Instead of a Burden
This isn’t just some corny self-help idea. Each one of us has a choice in how we view our relationship. If we see it as a burden, we’ll treat our spouse like a cellmate, ignoring their desire for connection, their need for support, all while giving them the silent treatment.
Marriage is often the deepest and most powerful relationship we have in life. And it should be. It’s up to each of us to make of it what we will – a burden or something that sets us free and makes us experience life in new, challenging, and exciting ways.
When you start to feel weighed down, like things are mundane and growing cold, don’t pull away from your spouse; press in. Choose to affirm them. Compliment them. Play, laugh, take a trip, go on a date, surprise them with something good, and find ways to connect both physically and in conversation.
This list barely even scratches the surface. There are so many ways we can strengthen our communication with our spouse and successful relationships in all areas of life. We’ll get into more in future posts. But this list should be a great start for you and the one you love to build new paths toward one another.
We are all responsible for our own choices. This is a wonderful thing because it means that every single day we have a new opportunity to change different parts of our lives, to share ourselves more, solve problems together, listen more attentively, express our love and affection, and uncover new places within each other. Invest in your relationship by upping your communication game. The benefits are endless.
Torrone Law helps individuals and families find healing and wholeness with caring, experienced legal counsel for a range of needs, including divorce, custody, adoption, and more. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can help you and your family.
To learn more about communicating with your spouse, see our frequently asked questions and answers below.
I feel stuck. How can we improve the way we communicate with each other?
A great place to start is with couples counseling. Partnering with an experienced marriage counselor has many benefits. They’ll have lots of tips to help you grow closer and sharpen your communication skills by drawing you out, working through past traumas, and exploring various communication exercises and communication techniques. These will help you both work through conflict, control your tone of voice, explore negative and positive emotions, and build intimacy.
We all have different communication styles and individual needs but if you follow the tips above to sharpen your communication skills, read marriage blogs and respected books, seek counsel, and begin making choices to affirm the positive things in each other instead of the negative, you’ll experience change every day in your relationship.
When should I approach my spouse to have a serious conversation?
The first answer is to never spring it on them as soon as they arrive home from a full day. It will only backfire on you because they’ll be justifiably frustrated with you for confronting them when they’re worn out.
Avoid treating it as a demand that they must fulfill for you. You’re both individuals on a journey together. Don’t make demands or manipulate someone into talking. Wait until they have had time to rest, then approach them with respect, love, and vulnerability, not with verbal weapons drawn.
You can even ask them when a good time will be for the two of you to discuss something important.
I don’t feel affirmed or seen in my relationship. What can I do to change this?
It’s not an overnight fix. But it’s definitely possible. Start by modeling the behavior yourself. Listen attentively and sincerely when your spouse is speaking. Really hear what they are saying. Respond with calm respect and openness. Over time, they will begin to emulate your approach.
Also, ask them to be more present when you’re talking with each other. Ask them for more respect and to take what you say and feel seriously. Share with them how important it is for you to be taken seriously and how good it makes you feel when both of you do this for each other. Talk about how it makes you feel closer and more attracted to them, and about how excited you are about your future together.