A study published by the Institute for Family Studies states that the divorce rate hit an all-time high in the 1980s. In the study, it notes over 22% of marriages ended in divorce. Since then, the divorce rate has declined, but at a significantly slower pace than the decline in marriage rates.
Fewer people marry now than at any time in history. It is no surprise that a high divorce rate would cause a lot of people to rethink the concept of marriage.
When considering tying the knot, the risk of divorce is a weighty consideration. After all, no one wants to deal with such a devastating and serious situation in their love life.
However, divorce isn’t something that only happens to a marriage. Instead, it is often the result of the partners in that marriage failing to focus or work on what is essential in making their marriage succeed.
While the list of what a couple can do to improve their chances of marital success is almost endless, the real key may be simpler than it seems. Divorce attorneys were surveyed about the cause of divorce, and the winner (or loser) by a landslide was: Communication.
This may seem an overly simple explanation for the wide array of problems plaguing couples nowadays. But just stop and think for a moment.
Disagreements on issues such as money, time management, marriage goals and priorities are almost always the result of ineffective communication. This prevents a couple from finding a compromise.
Likewise, feelings of confusion, loneliness, and hurt are almost always the result of ineffective or even destructive communication.
The bottom line is, working on improving communication is the best thing to do to reduce the risk of divorce.
In this guide, we’ll explain why communication in marriage is such a key factor in your relationship. Also, we will show how you can focus on communicating more effectively and saving your marriage.
How Communication Affects a Marriage
Communication is key in any type of relationship. Whether it’s your relationship with your boss, a friend, family members, or yes, your spouse.
Communication is how we trade information. It’s the only way both parties can express their feelings, wants, needs, and visions for the future in an effective way.
When it comes to marriage, communication plays a pivotal role.
This is due to the time spent with your partner. You treat each other as support pillars, and ultimately rely on each other for basic survival. If you’re not on the same page, things may fall apart pretty quickly. This is tough given the number of important decisions you make together, as well as how much each partner affects the other’s life.
The Way You Communicate Matters
Communication is a broad term. It covers every eventuality from grunts through to complete conversations.
Often, it’s not the general lack of communication or giving your spouse the silent treatment that causes problems. Instead, many of the problems couples experience today are due to either ineffective or destructive communication.
You may speak frequently to your partner, and you may even try to express yourself when something is on your mind. However, how you communicate may lead to unintentional tension that ultimately harms the relationship.
How to Communicate Effectively in Your Marriage: The Key Points
Communication is pivotal, but most people pick up some bad communication habits as they grow up. These habits can have a profoundly negative impact on relationships.
Some people shut down and withdraw when upset. Others may let their emotions control their behavior when communicating something intense. These are only two types of habits that are more destructive than helpful.
So, we are going to identify and explain the key factors of effective communication. Also, we will cover the negative behaviors that often replace effective communication leading to that tension in a marriage.
1: Word Choice and Blame
Many people have a common problem: while trying to explain their side of things, they use language that is accusatory. This is the classic “You, you, you” type of language you’ve probably heard before. It’s ineffective, and it makes the other person feel attacked. There is no time where this language should be used.
Conversely, have a more effective way to relay the same information without sounding like you’re on the offensive. Explain the behavior without assigning any blame. Follow with how the behavior, not your partner, makes you feel.
For example, let’s say your wife frequently comes behind you and picks up things you just cleaned. This may make you feel your efforts aren’t good enough, and it undermines your attempt to do your part of the work.
Some people would approach the situation by saying something like “You’re always doing this. You don’t respect me. You treat me like a child. You can do this by yourself, because I’m not wasting my time anymore.”
As you can see, even with a calm tone, the word choice is aggressive and likely to make your partner feel attacked. This can lead to them retaliating. Alternatively, they might just walk away from the conversation and withdraw from you.
Neither response achieves your goal of expressing yourself to work through the problem. Instead, the accusatory or attacking approach is more likely to escalate something fairly minor into a huge problem.
Instead, it’s more effective to say something such as this. “When you come behind me and rearrange things I’ve already picked up, I feel like my effort doesn’t matter, even though I’m trying to help. Can we talk about how I can be more helpful?”
If said in the right tone, this can initiate a conversation directed at finding a solution. This is better than just venting frustration.
Of course, you may not agree with what you hear. However, if you both commit to a conversation that discusses the problem as a team, you can work through almost any problem and find a solution you can both live with. They might tell you why they’re doing it, and you might suddenly understand. Or, they might see what they’re doing and stop.
2: Approaching the Situation with a Clear Mind
This is an issue that many people face. You have an intense conversation to handle, and let your emotions lead the way.
This is a natural reaction, but it’s also a huge obstacle for working effectively as a team. When you allow your emotions to lead the conversation, rather than approaching things intelligently and with a willingness to hear the other person out, no real communication takes place. It turns into two people barking at each other until feelings are hurt and things are said that otherwise wouldn’t be.
Instead, it’s best to enter the conversation with a clear mind.
Understand that a problem has occurred. State how it has made you feel, and why the other person might have done what they did. Be ready to bring the facts – as well as an honest evaluation of how you feel – to the table in a calm and collected manner.
Yes, something bad happened, and you may be justifiably angry beyond all belief, but going on an emotional rampage is likely to worsen the problem. Emotionally charged arguments generally lead couples away from solutions, not toward them.
In fact, most of the hurtful and damaging things said in a marriage, and those that often lead couples to give up on a marriage, come during these emotional outbursts. Remember, you’re on the same team. Irrationally yelling at your teammate is not a good game plan for winning.
It’s also important to recognize the risk of becoming too emotionally driven when discussing a serious topic. If you know there is a risk that things may get out of hand, set some ground rules prior to starting. Even discussions with the best intentions can get off track. Set some boundaries ahead of time to make it easier to keep things from getting out of control. This will help you keep a clear head.
3: Listening is Key
This is undoubtedly one of the most important facets of effective communication, and it’s also where most people fall short. Communication isn’t just spouting your opinions, views, and emotions, and expecting the other person to play along. Instead, it’s a two-way transfer of information. Both people need to be as ready to receive information from their partner as they are with giving information.
When you and your partner communicate, make sure you pay attention to what they’re saying. This is both verbally and non-verbally. Absorb as much information as possible; even if it’s frustrating or annoying.
Here are the key components of developing listening as a skill:
- Do not cut them off while they’re speaking. Take a mental note of everything said, and then bring that up when it is your turn to speak.
- Block out distractions such as phones, televisions, outside conversations, or anything else that may be pulling you from the conversation with your partner. These little distractions prevent you from listening. They not only prevent you from absorbing what your partner is saying, but also make your partner feel undermined if you’re caught staring off into space while they’re expressing their side of the situation.
- Try to understand before you try to be understood. You can hear the information, but it doesn’t help if you’re only concerned about making your partner understand you. If you openly and honestly listen to your partner, and try to understand their point of view, you’re far more likely to find solutions.
When you listen properly, instead of focusing on what’s on your mind, you not only show your partner the respect they deserve, but you become better equipped to find a resolution that works for you both.
4: Take Your Spouse’s Points Seriously
Whether your spouse is talking about their emotions regarding something you know nothing about, or they’re trying to explain a problem they have with your marriage, it’s important to take it seriously.
Few things are worse than opening up to someone you love, letting them know exactly how you’re feeling, and being met with indifference. So, don’t do that to your partner.
Practice your listening skills and respond meaningfully to the conversation. For instance, say your partner is upset over something that seems unimportant, like some small trinket being broken. You might be tempted to dismiss their feelings as silly. However, if you start from a position of dismissing or diminishing their feelings, you will not invite the type of open discussion that leads to a solution or identifies any deeper, more serious issue facing your marriage.
Whatever issue your partner raises, no matter how trivial it might seem, it’s important not to just brush it off.
5: Prioritize Communication
Life is busy, and that makes it easy to put off communicating about various topics. However, that’s not a good idea. If a situation requires you and your partner to communicate, prioritizing that over everything else is key.
Putting it off so you can spend some time with friends or on a personal hobby is wrong. It leaves room for both you and your partner to get your gears spinning until you’ve both spun the situation into something more serious than it should be.
Also, putting off a conversation that your partner feels important in favor of things that can easily wait is a sure-fire way to make them feel unimportant and detached.
Obviously, there are some things that you can’t handle right away. Maybe something comes up right before one of you has to head to work or to some other commitment. You both need to respect that there will be times when you are unable to engage in a discussion about a topic.
However, simply saying you’ll talk about it later may lead your partner to feel that you are blowing it off. This is worse if there’s a pattern of saying “we’ll talk about it later” and then not bringing it up again until prompted to do so.
An easy solution is to take a minute and schedule the discussion. That’s right, actually book an appointment to talk about it and put it on your calendar. Treat it like you would any other important appointment.
Doing this lets your partner know you are taking the issue they raised seriously, and that talking to them is a priority. However, they know you can’t do it now.
This same strategy works for times when you both might need to take a step back and gather yourselves before engaging. This is true when topics are particularly serious or when emotions are simply running high. At those times, starting or continuing a discussion is likely to just result in an argument. Acknowledge that risk and set a time to return to the conversation.
Putting a time on the calendar for a discussion, particularly on important topics, is a great idea. It lets both partners approach more proactively, instead of emotionally and reactively.
6: Be Empathetic
Like we said earlier, communication in marriage goes both ways, and you should listen to your partner as much as you speak. However, there’s another facet to that concept; being empathetic.
To come to a meaningful resolution, you often need to empathize with what your partner is feeling. This applies even if you don’t fully understand it.
Empathy is essentially the ability to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. You seek to see how they might be experiencing the situation or how they may feel if you take certain actions. Empathy is key to ensuring you communicate in a way that is likely to resolve the problem. Without it, the problem may continue or even grow.
Let’s say you’re discussing your current move to a new home. Your partner has a bunch of stuff from deceased parents that has sentimental value but isn’t used and, in your mind, just takes up valuable living space. Ideally, you would want to get rid of at least most of it, but you know that doing so will be hard for your partner. How you approach the discussion is crucial.
You can be blunt and tell them, “We can’t keep this junk. No one even uses it.” This is certainly honest, but it also doesn’t consider how they feel and paints them into a corner. Most likely, they’ll respond defensively because, frankly, you’re being silly.
Alternatively, put yourself in your partner’s shoes and recognize their emotional attachment to the stuff. Acknowledge their ongoing grief, and maybe spend some time looking at items individually and letting them tell you about the memories connected to that item.
Being empathetic doesn’t necessarily mean that solutions will be easy. In this case, you’ll still need to decide what stuff to keep. However, by trying your best to put yourself in one another’s shoes, you’ll be amazed at how much better you understand each other’s position.
Most Importantly, Put in the Effort and Be Transparent
Finally, the biggest point we can make about communication in marriage is that it requires a lot of purposeful effort and transparency. If you’re not actively trying to improve your communication, it will never improve.
Transparency is also key. You’re each other’s most important teammate, and you shouldn’t hide or omit important details while you communicate just to avoid difficult discussions. Doing so destroys trust and prevents you both from making your best contributions to the marriage.
The key is remembering that marriage is about working together. When partners are pulling together as a team, in the same direction, they can and almost always make progress. On the other hand, when they are pulling in different directions, all you end up with is a tug-a-war where you’re working against each other instead of with each other. You can say that if you’re not pulling together, you’re ultimately pulling apart.
Communication is the key for aligning your efforts. It is the only way to ensure that you’re both working toward the same goal. It is the only way to avoid distractions and confusions, and to get back to working together when you find you’ve drifted apart.
Finally, it is the way to uncover the hidden synergies that you have as a couple when you are working your best as a team.
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Read more articles that can help you in your relationship:
- How To Get Your Life Together | The Ultimate 12 Steps Guide
- Top 9 Most Important Characteristics Of A Healthy Relationship
- How To Fix Your Marriage & Make It Better [Ultimate Guide]
- Living With Purpose | Top 5 Steps To Fulfilled Life
- Why Is It Important To Set Realistic Goals? [Explained In Detail]