Guest post from our friends at Thriveworks.
Relationships are hard. And despite our fantasies, marriage doesn’t make them any easier. In fact, we often experience our biggest challenges in marriage, from fights about money to declining sexual intimacy, parenthood, and a waning appreciation for each other, just to name a few. Many people brush these issues under the rug and insist that it’s fine: “We’ve vowed to stand beside each other for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health.”
Remembering your vows can certainly help you and your spouse stay strong during the tough times, but that alone will not resolve the marital issues you are encountering. Instead, working through these matters will require you to have a conversation with your spouse. And maybe even fight a little!
Despite popular belief, fighting is not a bad thing. It shows that the two individuals still trust each other and care about their relationship. Now, it is important that you fight fair, which is why we’ve put together these 5 communication tips that will help you open up and actually resolve conflicts with your spouse:
- Pick the right time and place.
It’s true: Timing is everything. It’s important that you choose the right time and place to bring up the issue at hand. You want to ensure that both you and your spouse are available to have an extended conversation and that you are in a place that allows you to have a private discussion. Based on these guidelines, it probably isn’t a good idea to tell your husband that the way he washes dishes irks you, right before he walks out the door for work; nor is it a good idea to bring up your concerns about money when you’re out at dinner with friends. It would be better to talk about the matter at hand at a private dinner between just the two of you.
2. Choose your words wisely.
Even the most innocent conversation can quickly escalate if someone feels offended. To prevent your conversation from taking this turn, choose your words wisely. Use words like “we” and “us” to emphasize that you’re in this together. You can also use statements like “I want” and “I feel” when you need to communicate about your specific feelings. However, you should be very careful about using the word “you,” as this can lead to your spouse feeling attacked and becoming defensive
3. Listen to what your spouse has to say.
Communicating well requires you to listen to your spouse’s thoughts and feelings, not just talk about yours. Be sure to tune into what your partner has to say without preparing a response, which many of us are guilty of doing. We lose focus as our brains start to generate a rebuttal for what was said. As a result, we don’t fully understand our spouse’s thoughts, feelings, or needs. And we might even miss an apology or solution!
4. Don’t just talk about problems.
Yes, you need to discuss problems, about money, intimacy, parenting, or the fact that your spouse forgets to lock the front door every day. Any problem is important to talk about… but it’s also important to talk about the good. Positive communication can increase the potential for future positive communication. In other words, having a positive interaction right now about how much you care for each other increases the likelihood for more positive interactions, even when they cover the tough stuff. Especially if you ask each other proactive questions like, “What can we do to keep each other happy and stay on the same page?”
5. Work with a marriage counselor.
Some couples are able to steer these important conversations with ease. Others have trouble communicating well, understanding each other, making sure each partner’s needs are met. If this sounds like your relationship, consider working with a marriage counselor. Marriage counselors are mental health professionals who have specific skills, training, and experience to help couples work through marital issues, improve communication, and build a happier marriage.
Marriage might come with many challenges, but it also comes with a whole lot of love, laughter, and irreplaceable moments with the one we care about the most—which means that having these tough conversations and fighting with your spouse from time to time is but a small price to pay.