Blog #598 Communication Tips for Couples

Communications (in Marriage and more)

For the past three days, I’ve focused on love and Valentine’s Day.  But, what about the couples who are having troubles and thinking of divorce?  All the marriage articles suggest “communications” as the main factor. This article from Healthy Psychology has communication tips for couples.

Let’s look at some of their points about communications in Marriage

-1 Active Listening.  Sometimes we are not fully present when your spouse is talking to you.  First, some ground rules, if you can talk (and listen) at that time, then turn off the television; turn off your phones, get off the computer, and give your spouse undivided attention.  (Note, “if you can’t talk” might mean that you are up-to-your-neck in something and this is not a good time to talk. The toilet is flooding all over the bathroom floor and you are trying to take care of it – is not a good time to talk about how to raise the children!!)

Active listening means slowing down, facing your spouse and making an effort to understand.  Sometimes we are only listening partly – and we are formulating an answer (or retort). Listen intently.  Open your ears and heart. Do not interrupt. And, when you are speaking the other person needs to do the same.  

In Systems Analysis and Design we sometimes have ‘violent agreement’ (and sometimes violent disagreement).  Like the old Miller Lite commercials “Less Filling” versus “Tastes Great”. We really are agreeing, maybe not to the same ardor, but we do agree.  

-2 Avoid criticism – and especially personal criticism.  No bringing up the past. Don’t roll your eyes, have a positive body language.  Make this a discussion rather than a fight. Don’t put the other person down or insult them.  (on both sides). Think of a discussion with your boss. You would NOT bring up personal negatives like (sarcastically) “Yeah, will what you you expect from somebody who went to XYZ University”  [In Texas, that might be the University of Texas and Texas A & M].

-3 Be gentle.  Use a gentle tone and approach.  One of the proverbs is “A quiet answer puts away wrath”.  In a marriage, your conversation (discussion/argument) is with the person who once said you would love them ‘for better and for worse’ and ‘until death parts us’ – keep this on the better side.  The concept is “If you can be anything, be kind”.

-4 Seek first to understand (the other person) rather than for you to be understood.  What is really the issue. Put your focus on trying to listen and understand the other person. The old adage is to walk a mile in their shoes – understand them FIRST.

-5 Stay calm.  Try to keep emotions out of the discussion.  If things get too heated, you need (in advance) to take a break to calm down.  Maybe you can agree to discuss this later in the day when the anger has cooled.  

-6  Keep your emotions in check – find a way to ‘self-soothe’ yourself when things get too hot.  Take a time-out, count to ten, take deep breaths, take a short walk around the house, yard, whatever.  Make the time out sign (and as part of the ground rules that needs to be observed by both parties), Don’t come back with verbal attacks like ‘you just want to get away because you are wrong’.  (Be gentle, be kind).

-7 Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Is she indicating that she would like you to pick up after yourself, or that you should put the toilet seat down?  Think what that means to her – she has to spend 10 to 30 minutes a day picking up after you – then you need to understand that.  Or, the unfortunate situation when she sits down on the toilet and finds that the seat is up and she sinks down. Or, if you have left something out because you are going to use again it in fifteen minutes (like a ladder) – and you really didn’t want to carry it back to the garage and put it back only to get it again in a few minutes.  And, then you got busy and there the ladder is – three days later – sitting in the middle of some room.

-8 Accept influence from the other.  “research indicates that ‘a marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife.’”.  [Guys, don’t think she is always trying to ‘change you’, but that she sees things differently. Listen before you get upset!!]

-9 Share appreciation – be positive.  Again, the article suggests that “research indicates that those in successful relationships make 5 times as many positive statements as negative ones when discussing problems.  [Aside, I’ve heard that you need at least nine positive statements for every one negative statement – so don’t be crabby and negative]

-10 Use “I” statements – You statements are ‘in-their-face’ and can put fuel on the fire.  Say “I feel <whatever>”. The article suggests this: “Remember the “XYZ” technique: “I feel X when you do Y in situation Z.” For example: “I feel frustrated when you don’t take out the trash on Tuesdays, the day you agreed to do so.”

Tomorrow, we’ll look at strategies for ending arguments. Stay tuned to Informal Education with Bruce White – also at:


Posted by Bruce White

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