One of the most common reasons for couples to seek counseling is to improve communication. What most people really mean when they say they want to improve their communication however, is that they want to understand and feel understood. They want a deeper connection.
From the surface, the following tips might seem obvious, but these tips are about taking your marriage to a deeper level. I’d like to invite you to contemplate how you can further implement these into your own relationship to improve your communication and bring deeper, more intimate connection.
- Assess for Subtle Dishonesty- Most couples don’t realize that they are not being completely honest in their relationships. Yes, there are obvious dishonesties such as cheating or stealing, but there are also subtle dishonesties. For example, many couples withhold their thoughts or feelings from their spouse to avoid hurting them. Or they avoid saying what they really want so as to not disappoint their spouse. For a more concrete example, imagine that one partner says, “I’d really like it if you would stop doing the dishes and come spend time with me.” Then their partner, not wanting to disappoint them, stops what they are doing to meet their wishes, even though they would really like to finish tidying up so that they can go to bed with a clean kitchen. This often leads to feelings of resentment in the submissive spouse, causing them feel trapped. The dominant partner is often left unaware, because their partner has failed to communicate their true feelings with them. Look at your own relationship and see if you can think of any areas where you could be more honest.
- Use Assertive Communication to Hold Boundaries- Once we have recognized our lack of honesty in the relationship, we can use that information to hold boundaries. In order to hold boundaries, we must first understand what we need and want. A good way to know that boundaries have been broken or that they have not been held, is when we feel resentment or disappointment. Those feelings are clues that we are not operating from our true desires. Using the above example, assertive communication could look like this: “It is important to me to have the kitchen tidied before I go to bed. I would be happy to spend time with you when I am finished with the dishes.” Or, “I would appreciate it if you could help me finish tidying the kitchen so that we have more time to spend together.”
- Don’t Be Afraid of Contention– Another common reason that couples don’t share their honest thoughts or feelings is because they are afraid that it will start a fight. If you ever notice that you are thinking you don’t want to talk about something because you are afraid it will start a fight, try to tell yourself this: “Yes, this might be a difficult conversation. But, I know that we can come to a place of understanding together.” What couples often find is that when they share these difficult conversations with their partner, it potentially leads to increased connection and opportunities to resolve problems.
- Share Feelings- Again, this might seem obvious, but look a little deeper. Our feelings can cause insecurity. We might feel like we are a bad parent because we overreacted to our kids today, and don’t want our partner to confirm those thoughts. We might have questions about our faith, but we are afraid to share those concerns for fear of judgment or rejection. It takes bravery and courage to share these vulnerable feelings. But when we share these feelings with our partner, it presents an opportunity for connection. We are allowing our partner in, which creates greater intimacy and more opportunities to be vulnerable in all areas of our relationship.
- Share Thoughts– Whenever we notice that something doesn’t feel right, our brains like to try to make sense of the situation. For example, we get home and sense that our partner is more quiet towards us or withdrawn. We might start thinking, “I wonder what he/she is mad about. Maybe it’s because I forgot to take the garbage out, or I said something wrong, or they aren’t attracted to me, etc.” Basically, we are creating stories in our head. Sometimes it can be easy to run with those stories and dive deep into them until we believe that we are indeed, unattractive, or any of the other stories we had. Anytime that we wonder what our partner is thinking, it presents an opportunity to communicate with our partner. Here is an example of what that could look like: “Hey, I have a story going through my head right now and I’d like to run it past you. Is now a good time to talk?” Doing so prevents us from going off the deep end into thoughts that are quite possibly untrue, and it also provides another opportunity for us to resolve problems and connect with our partner.
- Commit to 100% Honesty- When couples come to the agreement that they are both going to be 100% honest with each other, they no longer have to run stories through their head. They do not have to be responsible for their spouse’s feelings. If one partner recognizes that their partner seems off, they might say, “Are you okay? It seems like something is wrong.” The partner might respond, “I don’t know. I need some time to think about how I am feeling and I will come to you when I am ready to talk.” Then the other partner responds, “Okay, I will give you some space. As soon as you are ready to talk, know that I am here for you.” And then that partner continues to go about their day doing what they would like to do, without trying to diagnose or fix their partner’s feelings. This gives their partner the space that they desire and it also frees the other partner from feeling responsible for their partner’s feelings.
We understand that every couple’s relationship is unique, and that creating healthy communication is a process. If you would like to learn how to more effectively implement these tips into your relationship, give us a call at Desert Consulting.