What are the keys to effective communication? Well, research on what makes marriage work show that happy and healthy couples have 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 effectiveness of communication in your relationship:
Be intentional about spending time together.
On average, couples spend only 20 minutes a week talking with each other. To change this, 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.”
When issues arise, be specific. Broad generalizations like, “You do it all the time!” are not helpful.
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. It’s one thing to say, “I am really disappointed that you are working late again tonight.” But if you say, “You clearly do not care one whit about me or the kids. If you did, you would not work late every night,” will convey something entirely different.
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, and approval 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.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
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