Seven Things I’ve Learned About Communication in Marriage

(1) It’s the water that keeps your relationship hydrated. You’re friends. You trust each other. So talk about what you’re thinking, feeling, planning, doing, learning, and believing. That’s what friends do.

(2) Do it with love. Affection is nice, but love goes the distance. It reaches deep and rouses kindness — a reliable guardrail for steering clear of wounding. Create a culture of grace. Neither winning nor accusing hold a candle to love. When the discussion heats up, hold hands and face each other. Then talk as friends.

(3) Things don’t always sound right. Intentions get misread and signals go crossed. When that happens, use “meaning” questions to diffuse tension and clarify comments. “Can you say more about what you mean?” “I may be missing what you want me to hear. Could you say it a different way for me?” Few comments are meant to be as offensive as they sound. For example, what sounds like anger is often just hurt. Look for the meaning.

(4) Have no fear. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you find yourself wondering about something. Understanding is better than fretting or stewing. There are no “off limits” zones in marriage. You belong to each other and are committed to one another’s best interests. Seek the good. Work to understand. Fear not. And don’t worry about making the other person angry. If a question provokes anger, you’ve discovered a whole new region of your relationship to explore.

(5) Never assume. It’s better to know than to suspect or imagine. Assumptions are rumors you tell yourself. They are barriers you erect around your relationship. Always pursue truth. Clear the air. Don’t erode your friendship with imagined obstacles.

(6) Know your styles. Are you moved by words? Feelings? Actions? If I’m a “feeler” and you’re big on “words,” we’ll miss each other. Come to appreciate one another’s style. The tender view, the linear reasoning, the mosaic context, and the sincere faith. It’s all good. When communicating, don’t focus on the destination. Enjoy the journey.

(7) Be courteous. Communication is an act of kindness. Volunteer things for the joy of showing you care. Initiate. Be proactive. Bring your friend in on the brilliance of your ideas/plans/desires. Tackle your lives together like rock climbers ascending a new route to the top. Stay on the same page, keep your love fit, and never forget who the enemy is. (Hint: it’s not your life’s partner.)