I remember one day, shortly after Trent and I got married, my Aunt Mary commented about how she and her husband had never fought. Trent and I were in the early stages of our marriage and let’s just say we were
fighting finding our way. :-) I remember thinking that my Aunt Mary’s
comment meant that she and her husband were either passive or perfect and
I was neither.
Now that I have 16+ years of marriage under my belt, I have learned that she is neither passive nor perfect. Instead, she is a good communicator. Trent and I have thankfully grown in our communication skills as well. We have learned a few rules along the way that help me now be able to say that we rarely, if ever, fight. Sure we drive each other bonkers sometimes, but we honestly don’t fight because we address conflict using the following principles.
We all need a marriage tune up at least once a year, so I encourage you to sit down with your spouse to discuss these and see how you are doing.
10 Keys to Effective Marital Communication:
Affirm - When addressing an issue with your spouse, open with a statement of affirmation. No one likes to be cornered. A statement of affirmation will disarm them and remind them that you are on the same team.
Address - Address the issue using the principles below.
Affirm - Finish the conversation by reaffirming your commitment to and appreciation of your spouse. You want to walk away from the conversation a stronger couple, not more insecure individuals.
2. Eliminate "You always" and "You never" from your vocabulary
Those are statements that move the conversation away from the topic and open the door to assault the character of your spouse. Instead try saying, "When you __________, I feel _______________."
- Statement- You always leave your clothes on the floor.
- Translation- You are a slob.
- Better Statement- When you leave your clothes on the floor it communicates to me that you don't value my efforts to keep our home clean.
- Better Translation- I have a hard working wife and I need to step it up. Time to apologize and carry my load.
3.Take care of your stupidity filters
You are probably wondering what in the world I am talking about but let me explain and I think you will relate. My stupidity filters are food and sleep. Those are the things that when I lack them, I am capable of saying really stupid things. I will confess that a few situations that have upset me have been known to become a lot less significant after a nap or handful of cashews.
There are several possible stupidity filters. Yours might not be sleep and food. It could be something like physical touch, alcohol, or even exercise. Some filters make us stupid when we have them and some make us stupid when we go without. If your spouse gives you the look of "are you freaking kidding me?", it is probably time to check your filter.
4.Repeat back to your spouse what you hear them saying and then affirm, as best you can, that their feelings are real to them
This is not agreeing with them but is saying that you are listening and you recognize that they are upset. Validation is a great first step to disarming someone and moving toward resolution.
So it might sound like, "What I hear you saying is that you are frustrated about ________".
5. No "Buts" in your apology
"But" invalidates your apology. Your apology is not your place to get in another word. Simply and authentically apologize.
6. Eliminate hyperboles
I am the child of two lawyers and married to a pastor. Hyperboles naturally find their way into our conversations. What we have found is though hyperboles are intended to add weight to your statement, their overuse comes across as an exaggeration and actually weakens your statement. Was it really catastrophic or just sad? Is your trust truly destroyed or just challenged? Are you really devastated or just disappointed?
7. Say what you mean and mean what you say
My dad told me once that he doesn't remember what he and my mom fought about but he still remembers some of the things they said to each other. That makes me sad and I am sure some of you have the same testimony, Your goal in dealing with conflict is marital harmony, not to wound your spouse. My advice is to run what you are going to say through the “Am I going to have to apologize for this later?“ filter. If the answer is yes, don’t say it and get back on topic.
On the same note, Phillipians 2:14 tells us to do all things without murmurings or disputing. I don't think it is telling you not to talk but is encouraging you to choose your words wisely.
8. Stay on topic
My nine-year old's teacher called me in November to check on him. She said that she was fussing at him for having a messy desk and then he broke down in tears and started telling her that his sister was sick and almost died. I laughed and reassured her that she had just been conned by a 3rd grader. He wasn't upset about Maggie but was changing the subject to jockey his position from offender to victim in order to get himself out of trouble. How many of us are like this or married to someone like that? Sam may have come by this naturally. :-)
When that happens, let me encourage you to say "Okay, let’s write that down and table it for later but right now we are discussing ________." Next you need to reaffirm them because the deflection is probably a result of insecurity. Sam did not like being corrected. His deflection turned his teacher from accuser to comforter. I believe some people don’t even realize they have that communication flaw because it is such a built in protective mechanism. Furthermore, many have trained their spouse to follow along.
9. Don’t build a case
You don’t want to turn your spouse into a defendant by creating a laundry list of their offenses. Your goal is marital harmony, but some approach conflict like it is a case to be won. My husband has a great statement that it is better to pursue right relationship than to pursue being right.
Think about it, people who sue each other don’t usually return to a state of harmony when the judgment is rendered.
10. Fight naked
Okay I have never had to try this one personally but some friends of mine made a great point once that it hard to be mad at your spouse when you are both standing there without clothes on. If you try this one, don’t tell me about it. :-)
That's all folks. Here's to a great year of marital harmony.