Trying to communicate in your marriage?
Most people come to marriage with an invisible list in their head.
Then they try to shove those lists together. Good marriage communication means you stop shoving.
This method of tearing and taping your marriage communication doesn’t work. You’ll feel like everything you wanted was torn apart to accommodate your spouse. Your spouse won’t be happy either because they’ll feel the sticky residue of accommodating you.
If you want your marriage communication to sparkle with joy, you need to start with a blank slate that is well prepared for both of you.
Let’s review our discussion about how to have the hard conversations in your marriage:
- You identified what you want in your relationship.
- You protected your fears so you could listen to your spouse.
- You discovered what’s important to your spouse.
Now you’re ready to integrate your desires with your spouse’s desires to cultivate the best possible marriage communication.
Pause a moment to notice how much effort it took to prepare the two of you for a productive conversation in your marriage.
That’s a lot of self-awareness to cultivate. It also takes a lot of patience to truly listen to what your spouse wants. Be realistic. Good marriage communication can’t be an after-thought.
When you practice this approach on the small issues, you relieve the explosion or resentment that tries to demolish your marriage communication.
Self-care prepares you for productive marriage communication.
The biggest prerequisite to good marriage communication is to seek first to understand. You want to understand your spouse before you go making demands. But before you can garner genuine curiosity about your spouse, you must clearly understand yourself.
We often sabotage our marriage communication because we don’t know precisely what we want, or we don’t value ourselves enough to feel like we deserve to have what we want.
Self-care is relationship care. When you treat your fears and desires kindly and with fairness, they will be content to sit quietly while you discover what your spouse wants.
When you treat yourself with kindness and grace a calm permeates every word you utter.
However, when you defer your wants and desires, your animal body takes over and puts up walls or explodes. This does damage to the long-term health of your marriage communication.
How does calm energy empower your marriage communication?
When your animal body is reassured and quiet and you’ve had a chance to discover what your spouse truly wants, compassion floods your imagination.
Compassionate imagination creates all kinds of options to keep both of you happy and thriving in your marriage. It’s no longer about compromise where you each give something up in your relationship.
The key to cultivating compassionate imagination in your marriage is genuine curiosity about your spouse. You will only be able to access that when you feel safe. So please don’t try this until you’ve spent time identifying and protecting your own needs. Then discover the needs of your spouse.
Ask questions that open your compassionate imagination.
These questions will foster clean and clear marriage communication.
Throughout this series we’ve been looking at the example of how should we spend time at the holidays? Let’s examine the above questions remembering each of your fears and desires.
How can we reassure both our fears?
When your fears (or those of your spouse) feel heard they calm down. Your lizard brain wants to know you received the alert signal and that you have a plan to keep things safe.
Ask your spouse about their fears: What do we need to do so that you are certain you will get to go surfing in life?
Ask your spouse to remember your fears: What ideas do you have so that I am reassured my family of origin is important as our marriage grows?
What are our shared values?
Often times we marry someone who shares our values but puts those values in a different order. It helps to clarify that, bottom line, you share many values. This will minimize what can feel like a gigantic chasm.
When you state your shared values aloud, it’s a reminder that, at least mostly, you’re on the same page: We both value adventure. We both value family. I put them in this order: family, then adventure. You put them in this order: Adventure, then family.
A different priority on those values helps keep your marriage balanced. Understand why you may have chosen someone with a different order of values.
Maybe you like how you feel when the adventure is done and you feel energized by the excitement, but in the moment, when getting into your wetsuit, you might be tempted to stay home and bake with your family.
This is when you can see how your spouse helps to keep your marriage exciting. You help keep your marriage tender. That’s a great combo.
How can we accommodate both our desires?
Simply asking this question fully engages your compassionate imagination. When this question is a regular part of your marriage communication your relationship will deepen every day.
Is taking turns appropriate? Or do we need to find a way to do this simultaneously? If you booked a trip to go surfing in February, would you be willing to spend the holiday with my family? See how both desires are satisfied in this scenario?
But maybe that’s not a fiscal possibility, so try: I know you only get 2 weeks off each year. Would you be willing to spend four days with my family every other year? And would you jump on FaceTime with them with me some evenings as we make dinner?
Integrate your desires in your marriage. Don’t settle and give up what matters most to you.
Keep talking. Keep feeding your curiosity about your spouse. Ask questions in a way that values both of you and assumes there’s a solution that will deepen happiness for you both. This will improve your marriage communication.
What happens if you don’t share fundamental values, though? Join my newsletter because I’ll discuss boundaries and your bottom line soon and I don’t want you to miss out.
This essay is part of a 4-part series: