Communication - the Key to a Good Marriage
Effective communication means verbalizing needs and listening carefully.
It can't be stated often enough.If you don't have a
healthy way of expressing your thoughts and emotions to each other, of speaking
and being heard, then everything else will ultimately crumble.
In order to have a successful marriage you have to make
yourself an expert in communication.You have to try to understand what your
partner is saying on a simple level as well as try to analyze the underlying
message or desire.
The last thing a woman wants to hear when she complains about her weight is a suggestion for a new diet plan.
For example, the last thing a woman wants to hear when she
complains about her weight is a suggestion for a new diet plan.Actually the
last thing she probably wants to hear is, "Yes dear, you do need to slim down a
Nor does she want just a sympathetic ear (just when a man
thinks he's mastered the art of good listening).What she really wants is for
her husband to say, "You look terrific!" "You look thin!" "You look so young!"
Having said that it is important to look at what Virginia
Satir calls the "metacommunication." This is the underlying message,
the motivation behind the communication. We all need to be amateur
psychologists and try to figure out what our partner really wants. For example,
when Susan tells her husband that she isn't feeling well, that may be her way
of saying "could you drive the children to ice skating lessons today dear?" or
it may be her way of expressing a need for more attention from her spouse. As
I'm about to illustrate we can't all be mind readers, but it is important to try
to focus not just on the words being said, but what may possibly be implied as
It is important to hear what your spouse is really saying,
but it is also important for the other side to give clues.
We shouldn't expect our mates to intuit our needs nor rely
on some level of divine inspiration. If there's a special necklace you want for
your birthday, point it out to your husband.It will save him the agony of
choosing and spare you both needless pain.It works both ways -- maybe he
doesn't want socks this year.
TELL YOUR PARTNER WHAT YOU WANT
Joe is the romantic type.Every week after he got engaged
he brought his fiancee flowers.He even sent her flowers every day of the week
before their wedding.
He continued this practice a number of years into their
Finally Emily, his wife, ever the unsentimental and
practical one, spoke up."You know Joe, I really love you and I like that you
want to bring me flowers.But I actually don't like flowers that much.And
besides, they die so soon after that I feel like we've wasted our money.I'd
rather you saved up for a more lasting gift."
If we want something, we need to say it.
Luckily this is a very trivial example.But being able to
express yourself in the small areas will lead to open discussion in the big
areas as well.If we want something, we need to say it.
It sounds so obvious, but how many hurt and angry couples
come in for counseling saying "he should have known..." or "she should have
realized..."?How should he have known? How should she have realized?Did you tell
DON'T RELY ON INTUITION
I have a friend who never makes grocery lists.She goes to
the supermarket and relies on her intuition.This led to, at one point, 12 jars
of mustard in her refrigerator.
This approach to life has relatively little impact on her,
other than maybe leading to excessive consumption of hot dogs, but in marriage
it could be disastrous.
This approach could be disastrous in a marriage.
Don't rely on your intuition. Ask. Don't rely on his/her
"You knew I wasn't feeling well.Why didn't you offer to
make dinner? "This and many similar dialogues often lead to tension around the
home.Yet the solution is so simple. "I'm really not feeling well dear. Would you
mind making dinner?"
It is a common assumption that prophetic power is proof of
your spouse's undying love and devotion.Let's destroy that myth right now.Tell
your spouse what you want.His or her thoughtful response to your explicitly
expressed needs is a sign of commitment.
While we're on the topic, don't ask for signs or proofs.It
will get you in trouble. Everyone expresses their caring and develops their
love in differing ways and at varying rates. A confrontation over "do you love
me?" will be just that -- a confrontation. Express yourself in a way that shows
understanding of your spouse's personality and he will respond in kind.
Perhaps the most essential quality for good communication
in any relationship, and particularly in a marriage, is to be a good listener.
Take a minute to ask yourself if you listen attentively
when your partner speaks.Or is your mind on tonight's dinner, tomorrow's
business meeting, Bloomingdale's sale ... Do you comprehend clearly what you mate
LISTEN TO YOUR PARTNER
Sometimes when my husband and I are quarreling, he'll stop
me in the middle to say: "What am I saying, and what are you saying, and what's
the difference? "It's infuriating but effective.
Frequently I find that I've been so caught up in hearing
myself talk or the passion of the moment that I haven't really been listening.I'm
amazed to discover that our positions aren't that far apart, in fact they're
not apart at all.
I've been so caught up in hearing myself talk that I haven't really been listening.
If this is a difficult issue for you it sometimes helps to
establish structure.You could set aside a time where you are required to listen
to your mate without interrupting for 10 minutes.Don't plan your defense or
rebuttal.Just listen. You'll be surprised at how much you'll learn and when
it's your turn you'll realize a pleasure in being able to express
Another technique psychologists favor is called active
listening.There are many variations on this theme but the basic style is
mirroring back what your partner says."I hear you saying..."
Keep doing it until you get it right. Maybe many of your
misunderstandings are because your heard your partner wrong the first time, or
you didn't hear your partner at all.
We have numerous distractions in our lives today -- telephones,
televisions, and now the Internet.If we want to be listened to with
concentration, we must provide the same.Hang up the phone when your spouse
walks in the door.Turn off the TV.Escape from the Web.Otherwise your mate feels
like second best, and when you have something to say it will also fall on deaf
We have to remember that marriage creates a unity, a
oneness.We can use our powers of communication to solidify that unity or, God
forbid, to tear it asunder.
As the Chazon Ish, a great Jewish scholar, wrote "Treat
your wife as a left hand protecting the right one ... and not an independent
limb."If we accept this attitude we will recognize that spending time and
energy to improve communication is the way to achieve a true marital bond.