What do couples fight about the most? The answer is nothing. Yes, you read that right. Most couples have arguments surrounding meaningless topics, and sadly, enough of these disagreements can lead to a relationship's demise.
Interestingly enough, it's usually not the specific topic that is the problem. It's a person's response to their significant other's preference or point of view. You can improve communication in your marriage with some simple exercises, and it's not overly complicated. Couples can change their reactions, better understand their partner's needs, and keep their relationship strong with a little effort.
Practical Ways to Improve Your Communication in Marriage
World-renowned relationship experts at The Gottman Institute have found that "both partners in a relationship are emotionally available only 9% of the time. This leaves 91% of our relational interactions ripe for miscommunication." Part of the problem lies in the fact that relationship dynamics change; even if you've been married for years, it doesn't mean that your relationship won't need work from time to time. Try these actionable ways to better the communication in your marriage and potentially decrease the number of fights you have in the future.
Implement Active Listening
We all want to feel seen and heard. Not only that, but by truly understanding your partner's perspective, you're less likely to say something that you may regret. Unfortunately, technology has a tendency to divert one's attention elsewhere. This can make your partner feel less than important and it can lead to misunderstandings. Thus, designate a time every day to catch up with your spouse, without distractions. During this time, actively listen to what they have to say.
How exactly do you accomplish this? Try these ideas:
- Silence your cellphones and turn off other technology.
- Sit down and focus solely on your partner.
- Give each person a chance to talk without interruption.
- Summarize their main points and validate their feelings and concerns.
- Ask open questions to clarify points.
- Provide constructive feedback, without judgement.
Another important aspect of active listening is your body language. Pay attention to how you're sitting and absorbing the pieces of the conversation. Someone who is leaning in, nodding, and touching their partner's hand or shoulder while they are showing emotion portrays that the listener is invested in what the other person has to say.
Conversely, if you're leaning back in your chair, looking off at other things in the room, and fidgeting, your spouse will instinctively feel as if you are not interested in their part of the conversation.
Don't Expect Your Spouse to Read Your Mind
We all have roles we play in the household. Your husband may do the cooking and you may be in charge of cleanup. Laundry may fall on your chore list and yardwork may be one of your spouse's responsibilities, or vice versa. While there are regular tasks that each of you take on during the week, there will be times when you will need a little extra help. Don't assume that your spouse will automatically know what you need.
For instance, you may be in charge of dishes, but if you're hosting fifteen people for Thanksgiving and catering the meal, talk to your spouse in advance about sharing some of the cleaning duties. Similarly, if you have a handful of work deadlines that will have you working late each night, give your spouse a heads up! Saying something like: "Honey, I am going to be really busy with work this week, so I am going to need a little extra help with feeding and bathing the kids" will help your spouse know to make time to conduct these additional tasks, and it prevents a fight along the way.
Remember, while the need to do certain things may seem obvious to you, if your partner doesn't do them every day, they might not think to complete them without a little direction or information from you. Be proactive and communicate your needs before the moment that they need to be addressed.
Check In Regularly
Communication isn't just about letting your spouse know what you need. It's also showing them that you care. Take moments in the day to reach out and see how they are doing. Send a simple "I love you" text. Share a funny meme or TikTok video. Let them know about a potential movie that they may like to see. These little gestures can go a long way in showing your partner that they are a priority on your mind.
Write a Honey-Do List
Work, kids, school, pets, family, and the house all chip away at our time and sanity. If you need help, ask for it. But if you need a lot of help, write it down. This ensures that your spouse has a clear picture of what you need and gives them the ability to plan for these tasks.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Napoleon Bonaparte is famous for saying: "If you want something done, do it yourself." We all have a specific way of doing things, but if your spouse is picking up your slack, don't critique how they do it. This isn't constructive communication and it can actually make your spouse less likely to help in the future. Instead, be thankful for the help.
Take Possession of Your Feelings
We all have bad days. When addressing your grievances, process your feelings as an "I" statement. For example, the statement "I have been struggling with the kids today and I would love a little help" goes a lot further than "You never pitch in when you get home. Can't you see I am struggling?"
This goes back to mind reading - your partner probably wasn't with you for most of the day, so it's not fair to assume that they know what went on or that you may need some help. Don't make your partner the scapegoat for your problems. By taking an offensive approach, you can diminish conflicts and better communication in your marriage.
Anticipate Your Partner's Needs
Did you know that 55 percent of communication is non-verbal? If you want to improve communication in your marriage, then you might want to consider what is not being said. Is the house a mess? Are your kids being more difficult than normal? Is this a busy time at work for your spouse?
You are in a partnership. Look for non-verbal cues to see what your partner needs and take some initiative. Pick up dinner on your way home from work if you know your wife hasn't made it to the store yet. Help the kids with their homework when you know your husband is going to have to work late. Tackle the dishes that are piling up in the sink. Don't wait for your spouse ask for help when they're at the end of their emotional rope.
Did we mention that research also shows that men who help with chores have more fulfilling sex lives? When both partners pitch in regularly and equally, you can find more time to engage in other types of non-verbal communication.
Know When to Give Your Spouse Space
If your husband doesn't want to share the details of his day or your wife seems a bit irritated with you, don't assume that they're trying to push you away or that they're intentionally being mean. Step back and look at the big picture. It's likely that your partner has had a rough day and no time to process their emotions.
Ask if they need anything or want to talk. If they say no, then leave it alone. Let them have time to breathe and reflect. The last thing you want to do is push too hard and spark an argument or cause them to stonewall the conversation altogether. Instead, be patient and consider taking some stressors off of their plate. This can help them decompress and reflect more efficiently so that you can reopen your lines of communication.
Better Communication in Marriage Starts with the Golden Rule
The easiest way to ensure that your partner's needs are met and that their feelings are validated is to follow the golden rule - treat your spouse the way you would want to be treated. Say "please," "thank you," and most importantly, "I'm sorry." By recognizing your faults and apologizing for misunderstandings, you can learn and grow in your relationship. It also shows your partner that you respect and value them. This is a key part of positive communication in marriage and can help strengthen your relationship.