Imagine with me, for a moment, a conversation with a friend over text.
It starts off nice and easy… you start to make plans for the weekend, crack some jokes, and chat like normal.
Then, your friend suddenly stops responding. Huh? Everything was going great, why did they stop? Then you spot it – a little typo a message or two before that totally changed what you were trying to say.
It’s no secret that marriage requires LOTS of communication. But unless you’re intentional about communicating in an effective and healthy way with your partner, you’re bound to hit some challenges.
Throughout our marriage, we’ve identified some “rules” of healthy communication (often through doing the wrong thing). Let’s share them with you.
Rule #1: Get face to face
Just like the example of a miscommunication happening over text with your friend, the same can happen in a marital conversation. The simple fix is to get face to face when you talk to your partner. Look at their face, their body language, their expressions. Want to avoid miscommunication? Put the phone down and look your partner in the eye.
Tip: Practice this while you’re engaged. Lots. Sit across from each other when you go out on dinner dates, have conversations looking at each other, and start to study your partner’s body language and expressions.
Rule #2: Say “I” more than “you”
When we get frustrated with our partner, the natural thing to do is go on the defensive and start our attack, “You make me so frustrated! You always talk over me!” As Les and Leslie Parrott say in their book Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts, “A ‘you’ statement guarantees a relational barrier. Your partner has virtually no alternative but to feel blamed, accused, and criticized.”
Instead, say “I” more than “you.” Here’s how we quickly flip the statements above, “I feel frustrated when you talk over me.” See the difference? The latter allows us to take responsibility for our own feelings, actions, and needs.
Tip: Find yourself saying lots of “you” statements? Take out your phone and voice record your next conflict with your partner. Listen to it later and see if you’re guilty of attacking with “you” statements.
Rule #3: Listen first
This sounds so simple, but it’s probably the most difficult on this list. Here’s the deal: listening sucks. It makes us feel so much better about ourselves to talk and try to get our point across. But if you want to end your conflict way quicker, listen. Listen. Listen. Force yourself to be quiet and truly listen to what your partner is saying.
Rule #4: Apologize often
You’re gonna mess up often, which means you’ll need to apologize often. Be sure to know and understand your partner’s apology language and get comfortable using it.
Rule #5: Time & context matter
Have you ever been around a couple who argues in front of you? It’s probably the most uncomfortable thing ever. You just kinda stand there pretending like you’re not listening to what’s happening. It’s awkward because it’s 100% not the right time for them to be having that conversation.
If you and your partner need to have a tough conversation that can’t happen right away, set a time to revisit the conversation. A hard conversation at the right time is going go a lot more smoothly than the alternative.
Is there anything you’d add to this list? Let us know! @loveyourfirstyear on Instagram