Psychologist Dr. John Gottman said, “Relationships live and die not by the sword, but by the amount of discussion.” What Gottman meant is that the survival of our relationship depends on how well we communicate with each other. Married couples must find a way to communicate regularly, openly, and directly. Someone said that the minute we stop communicating, it is the death of the marriage. The failure to communicate with one another is the number one cause of marital conflict and divorce. However, many couples have shared with me that they have very few things to talk about after years of marriage with their spouses. In my opinion, one of the reasons couples talk less with each other is because one spouse feels the other spouse is not listening to them. They feel their spouse is either reactive or defensive especially when they do not share the same opinion or agree with them.
Research studies have shown that defensive listeners will be less likely to listen and hear well what another person is saying. Thus, the failure to understand what the other person is saying. In some cases, instead of listening, the person is thinking about why the person is responding in this way and at the same time is preparing a response to what the other person is saying. This is “The Fight or Flight” response. In this case, it is a “fight” response as one wants to win the argument.
Author Dave Maurer has said, “A great marriage is not when the perfect couple comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences, through kind and patient communication with each other.” Therefore, if two people learn to focus on what each other is saying in order to understand, clarify, and respond accordingly, the marriage will grow stronger and deeper. Non-threatening communication reduces the likelihood of distorted perceptions on the part of the listener. Hence, it will help strengthen their mutual love and trust. Therefore, I would like to suggest a few guidelines to help us improve our communication with our partner:
1. Give each other a chance to speak – each partner is given a designated amount of time to express his or her thoughts and feelings.
2. Do not be tempted to give unsolicited advice; do not try to problem-solve or accommodate your spouse’s emotions for understanding must precede giving any advice or solution.
3. Show genuine concern or interest, maintain eye contact, do not allow your mind or eyes to wonder.
4. Stand on your spouse’s side, and be supportive even if you think that his or her perspective is unreasonable. Do not try to win every conversation.
5. Cultivate a “we” concept. Let your spouse know that the two of you are in this together. We are a team and issues that we have should not come between us.
6. Show affection; intentionally create opportunities for a fun date, and spend quality time chatting with one another.
Research also shows that emotional connection will enhance physical intimacy and having great sex. If you feel emotionally rejected by your partner, chances are that you would not be in the mood to have sex with him or her. Try these guidelines in communicating with your spouse and see how they can affect the level of emotional attraction and trust you can build with each other.
If you are struggling in communicating with your spouse or partner or having marital issues in your relationship that require more support. At SACAC Counselling, we have a group of professional therapists that can help you to resolve your conflicts, and learn better communication skills, and strategies to build a good relationship with each other in your marriage. Please do not hesitate to call for an appointment.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist