Marriage 101: Express yourself!
It’s probably a cliché, but communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship.
Most of the people who come through our doors say they struggle to communicate effectively and well. Sometimes they struggle over a single issue, and sometimes it really is that their overall communication is poor.
In any case, there isn’t much else that can cause huge amounts of distress in your relationship but bad communication.
Here are some tips for making it better:
Express yourself in an open way. Don’t assume the other can read your mind. We hear all the time that, if you have to tell me what you want, it doesn’t count. The reverse is actually true – it means more if you know what I want and choose to give it to me! Take responsibility and express your needs, wants and thoughts.
Express yourself in an honest way. Without honesty, relationship is fake and superficial. We put up walls when we fear that truth will hurt us. That’s understandable because it’s scary to be vulnerable, but lack of honesty will affect the depth of your relationship.
Express yourself in a clear way. Be clear in what you’re saying – don’t ask a question when you mean to make a statement, and don’t make a statement you mean as a question. Make sure your body language matches what you’re saying.
Don’t demand. It’s fine to ask for what you want or need, in fact that helps others deepen relationships with you. But it is not a mark of good communication to demand that others do what you want or to manipulate them into doing your will. That’s controlling, not communicating.
Accept your feelings, and your partner’s, with respect. It’s fine to express your feelings, but don’t accuse your partner of giving them to you. “You make me feel …” is not helpful, as another should not control your feelings (you should). Take responsibility for your feelings if you are going to express them. They are your own. Likewise, it’s fine to hear and empathize with your partner’s feelings, but don’t dispute their rationality. It’s not ok to tell them they are not entitled to their feelings.
Actively listen. This doesn’t mean you necessarily follow a scripted talk like many of us have been taught in “active listening” classes. It means you listen carefully before you respond, without getting lost in thoughts of how you will answer. You don’t interrupt, or interpret their words, but give them eye and body attention. You avoid assuming what their next words will be. You affirm their ideas, thoughts and feelings as much as you can. Then you reflect back to them what they said – striving to understand their point of view better. This is an act of love, and difficult to do when all you want to do is defend yourself or present your point of view, but it enhances communication dramatically.
Speak from an “I” position. When you focus on you, and make positive statements of what you think, want, feel and need, your communication will be much more effective.
These are only a few of the ways that you can improve your communication to enhance your relationships. When you pay attention to how you talk, the way you talk to others and the meaning in all of it, you can make things better.
If you struggle with this, or other marriage difficulties, we can help. We are experts in helping grieving individuals, distressed teens and couples in conflict find peace, solutions and connection.
Give us a call!
Sanctuary Christian Counseling
9974 Molly Pitcher Highway, Suite 4
Shippensburg, PA 17257