Research on what makes marriage work indicates that happy and healthy couples demonstrate a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative behaviors in their relationship.
This means there are five times as many positive interactions between happy couples (i.e. listening, validating the other person, using soft words, expressing appreciation, affirmation, physical affection, compliments, etc.) as there are negative (i.e. raising one’s voice, stating a complaint, or expressing one’s anger).
Tips for improving the quality of communication in your relationship:
- Be intentional about spending time together talking. The average couple spends only 20 minutes a week talking with each other. Turn off the technology and make it a point to spend 20-30 minutes a day catching up with each other.
- Use more "I" statements and less "You" statements. This decreases the chances of your spouse feeling like they need to defend themselves. For example, “I wish you would acknowledge more often how much work I do at home to take care of you and the children.”
- Be specific. When issues arise, be specific. Broad generalizations like, "You do it all the time!" are not helpful.
- Avoid mindreading. It is very frustrating when someone else acts like they know better than you what you were really thinking.
- Express Negative Feelings Constructively. There will be times when you feel bitterness, resentment, disappointment or disapproval. These feelings need to be communicated in order for change to occur. BUT - How you express these thoughts is critical. “I am really disappointed that you are working late again tonight,” is very different from, “You clearly do not care one whit about me or the kids. If you did, you would not work late every night.”
- Listen without being defensive. For a marriage to succeed, both spouses must be able to hear each other’s complaints without getting defensive. This is much harder than learning how to express negative feelings effectively.
- Freely express positive feelings. Most people are quicker to express negative feelings than positive ones. It is vital to the health of your marriage that you affirm your spouse. Positive feelings such as appreciation, affection, respect, admiration, approval, and warmth expressed to your spouse are like making deposits into your love account. You should have five positive deposits for every one negative. If your compliments exceed your complaints, your spouse will pay attention to your grievances. If your complaints exceed your compliments, your criticism will fall on deaf ears.
When your spouse pays you a compliment, receive it and be blessed by it. It is easier for many to give a compliment than it is to receive it.