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What To Do When Your Spouse Gives You The Silent Treatment

Here's some help for those times when silence is NOT golden.

When your spouse gives you the silent treatment, it can be frustrating, painful, and confusing. It happens when one spouse refuses to communicate, ignores, withdraws from, or totally avoids their partner. It may not mean there’s absolute silence. You might still talk about daily tasks like who’s picking up the kids, who’s handling laundry, or dinner. The silent treatment shows that one person is unwilling to address an issue or connect in any meaningful way.

Ouch.

If you’re getting the silent treatment, what do you do?

Process On Your Own

What triggered the silent treatment? When did it start, and what were you discussing? Did something happen that may have been viewed negatively? You may not even know, but thinking about it can help you understand your partner’s perspective. 

What’s the goal? Is my spouse trying to punish me, hoping I’ll feel the pain they feel? Are they withdrawing so they can process their own thoughts and emotions? Are they trying to protect themselves? 

Processing can help you listen to and better understand yourself and your spouse, but try not to let it cause you to look down on your spouse.

Address it Carefully

Start with Compassion. Often, we use silence when we don’t have or can’t use healthy conflict resolution skills to deal with issues. 

Is the silent treatment a healthy approach? No. Especially when it’s used to control or manipulate. It can be abusive. (More on this later.) 

Provided this situation is not an abusive use of the silent treatment, remember, this is your spouse — and something sparked the treatment. This doesn’t mean you justify or excuse the behavior. It’s purely recognizing that something caused your spouse emotional pain. And different people respond to pain in different ways.

Speak directly to the issue. You might say something like, “I know you haven’t been talking to me lately. I’d like to discuss what started this. Can we talk?” 

Never forget, your body language and tone of voice communicate 93% of your message to your spouse. Getting the words right isn’t as important as having a healthy attitude toward your spouse.

Be Willing to Listen and Understand. When your spouse is ready to talk, put your energy into understanding their thoughts and emotions first. Some people give the silent treatment because they feel unheard. Let your spouse know you want to understand their thoughts, feelings, and their desires.

Model Healthy Skills to Resolve issues. You can’t change your spouse, but you can control yourself. Demonstrating respect, openness, and transparency while working together to resolve conflict can paint a picture of the kind of communication many people crave.

Things to Think About While Talking 

Don’t play the blame game. Focus on the ultimate goal: resolving the issue in a healthy way. Using lots of “I” statements and as few “You” statements as possible can keep you from blaming each other and getting distracted.

Own your contributions. Frame it this way in your head. “I understand that I hurt you when I did or said _______.” This focuses on the pain without justifying their response to the hurt. And when appropriate, apologize for the pain you triggered.

Be self-aware of your emotions. Your spouse may express a lot of pent-up emotions. They may flood you with more than you were expecting, but try to keep your emotions from controlling you. Be aware of your feelings as they share. At an appropriate time in the conversation, share. Remember, though, one of the reasons for the silent treatment could be they don’t feel heard. 

What if the Silent Treatment Continues?

Know what you can and can’t control. You can’t control how your spouse responds to emotional hurt. But you can control how you respond. You can gently let them know you’re ready to talk when they are. And you can choose to acknowledge the issue without letting it control you.

Don’t badger or nag. You can’t force someone else to talk. Don’t try.

Seek help. If you need to talk to a trusted friend or seek a counselor for your own mental health, it’s worth the effort. If you don’t go together, going alone can be helpful.

When is the Silent Treatment Abuse?

Consistently using silence to control someone can be abuse. Healthline lists the following signs to look for: 

  1. It’s a frequent occurrence and is lasting for longer periods.
  2. It’s coming from a place of punishment, not a need to cool off or regroup.
  3. It only ends when you apologize, plead, or give in to demands.
  4. You’ve changed your behavior to avoid getting the silent treatment.

I don’t recommend the silent treatment as a strategy for solving marriage problems. But a good starting point is to talk with your spouse about how you can resolve conflict in healthy ways. Your spouse may feel like you haven’t heard other attempts to solve problems, and understanding that may help you find better solutions together. It may be something as simple as asking for a timeout and agreeing to discuss later. Or it may take some effort for them to feel you’re an emotionally safe person to talk to. Whatever the case, learning to be compassionate without excusing the behavior may be the trick to eliminating the silent treatment in your relationship.

Other helpful blogs:

***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 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.***

What to Do When Your Spouse Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations

Talking about your expectations can help your relationship thrive.

Expectations are part of a healthy marriage. But unmet expectations can cause frustration and tension. 

You expect something from your spouse. 

Maybe you expect them to do something (but they’re not). 

Or to not do something (but they are). 

Your expectation is for them to live up to a certain standard. And for whatever reason, your spouse isn’t meeting that standard. 

So what do you do? 

Well, the big question you need to ask is: Why? Why aren’t they living up to the standard you’re hoping for? 

Typically, there are three simple reasons a spouse might not meet your expectations: 

1. They don’t know or don’t clearly understand what you expect. 

I expected my wife to spend a lot of time with me when we were first married, but it didn’t seem to happen much. The problem? She didn’t know what I wanted because I never told her. And I get it; it’s easy to think, but we’ve been married for a while now… they should know me! 

Expecting your spouse to read your mind (even after decades of marriage) sets them up for failure and you for frustration. It doesn’t matter how close you are to someone; there’s no substitute for good communication. 

Your goal is to clearly and respectfully communicate your expectation to your spouse. When you can both positively focus on the conversation, say something like this: 

  • Hey, I just want to be sure I’m doing a good job of being clear. 
  • Do you feel like we clearly understand what we hope to expect of each other? 
  • Can we talk about what I hope can happen with… (keeping the house clean, spending time with each other, eating better as a family, etc.)?
  • Can we work together to make sure these things happen? 
  • Is there something I can do better to explain my expectations more clearly? 

2. Your spouse can’t do what you expect them to do. 

The critical question here is: Does your spouse feel like your expectations are realistic? 

Here’s a hard truth: Even when you believe your expectations are realistic, if your spouse thinks they aren’t, expectations aren’t going to be met.

Ask yourself, Do I expect my spouse to give me something they don’t think they can provide?

Like their undivided attention right after a stressful day with the kids or at work? 

Or a chore that needs to be done to your exact specifications? (Fold the towels this way…) 

Or a level of fitness or body type that’s beyond reach? 

Maybe you could say something like, I was hoping I could count on you to… But now I’m wondering whether my expectations have been realistic. Can you help me figure this out? Let these questions guide you in a respectful conversation about what you can realistically expect from your spouse.

3. They just flat-out refuse. 

When you’ve expressed a realistic expectation clearly, and your spouse says no, what do you do? 

I’m going to assume your spouse isn’t refusing just because they’re a stubborn jerk (unless you’re into marrying stubborn jerks). If this is the case, it’s time to seek some professional help

Refusal to meet expectations may happen because there’s some kind of disagreement about where those expectations are heading. It may indicate they’re dealing with past baggage. Or maybe it suggests that a deeper marital issue needs to be addressed. 

Again, this is where an honest conversation with your spouse is helpful. Say something like, I realize you don’t like the thought of (doing whatever your expectation is). Could you help me better understand why, and how we might be able to come to a compromise? 

One last thing: After talking through any of the above scenarios, you may not end up having the same expectations you initially brought to the table. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Expectations are part of a healthy marriage. And they shift and morph throughout the marriage journey, but you’ve gotta talk about them. The idea is to maintain expectations that help you both grow stronger as individuals and as a couple.

Other helpful blogs:

***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 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.***

AFTER I DO | THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO NEWLYWED LIFE

SEX. CONFLICT. IN-LAWS. OH MY.

Tired of no one talking about how hard those first years can be? Well, buckle your seatbelt. We’re here to embrace the awkward (sex!), talk through the hard stuff (in-laws!), and give you everything you need to ace your newlywed years and beyond.

After I Do is a COMPLETE guide for those first 5 years of marriage, when everything is new and sweet… and freaking difficult. Even if you’ve dated for years, going from ME to WE is a huge transition and sometimes you just need a little (or a lot) of sage wisdom so that you don’t completely go off on your spouse. (But if you already have, no judgment. We’re here to help.)

Our relationship experts will guide you and your spouse through 12 modules covering all the hot topics like communication, conflict, sex, in-laws, money, etc. Get practical solutions you can put into practice! So if you wanna turn up the passion and connect with your spouse on a whole new level, get this marriage course, stat.

How to Be a More Supportive Spouse

Here are some tricks to help them feel your support.

You want to get a degree. Your spouse wants to lose some pounds.  

You want to stop smoking. Your spouse wants to start gardening. 

You want to tap into your artistic talents. Your spouse wants to tap dance. 

And you, being the committed, loving spouse that you are, want to be fully supportive. 

But, if you’ve had any experiences like mine, you know that the effort to be supportive can sometimes blow up in your face. You said that one thing you thought would be encouraging, but somehow you left limping away after a good lashing. I was only trying to help! 

And after licking your wounds, you’re left to wonder: How in the world can I be supportive? Is it even possible? 

Well, you can be a supportive spouse if you remember a few things: 

Goals are emotionally-charged.

Anything we set out to accomplish carries the risk of setbacks and failure. It’s easy to worry we aren’t going to do what we hope. In turn, our insecurities are on high alert. One small word, one slight inflection in your voice, has the potential to make your spouse feel great or horrible. Awareness of this helps you gauge the kind of support your spouse needs from you. 

Understand what your spouse wants from you.

Your idea of support may not be theirs. If your spouse asks you to support them, find out what they mean by support. Ask how they picture you being fully supportive. If they share something they want to accomplish but don’t ask for support, ask, “Is there a way I can support you that would be helpful?”

Hear the kind of support your spouse doesn’t want from you.

There’s encouragement, and then there’s accountability. Both are important. But they’re different. Accountability means your spouse wants someone to check in regularly on their progress and acknowledge with them when they’ve fallen short. Encouragement is cheering them and letting them know you are right beside them in their efforts. You’ve got this. I believe in you. You can do this. I’ve learned that encouragement is almost always a welcome way to support my spouse. Accountability… well, that could be a different story. Ultimately, it’s up to them which they need from you. 

Others can often say what a spouse can’t.

There are supportive words my wife’s best friend can say that would not be effective coming from me. She can invite my wife to join her at the gym and be okay; it would only make for an awkward rest of the day if I said it. Your spouse still needs you to support them in ways they feel safe. But it can be good to encourage your spouse to add another person to the support staff. 

Compliment the positive changes.

I can remember vividly when my wife told me, “I can tell your stomach is looking flatter.” I was ecstatic. That was years ago, and my stomach is no longer flat. But when I am trying to shorten the waistline some, I think back and remember her words. And it makes me want to try even harder. 

Words are powerful.

I can really tell your painting is improving! Your clothes are fitting looser! I noticed you haven’t had a cigarette in two weeks! You’re doing great! 

Your spouse needs you to be supportive.

But they need you to support them in a way that’s valuable to them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of showing support with the hope of receiving gratitude. (Oh, sweetie, thank you for telling me I missed leg day; you’re so supportive!) But your support is ultimately there to help your spouse be a better version of themselves as they see it. 

Now go compliment them on their development of tap-dancing skills! 

Other helpful blogs:

25 Fun Dates to Spruce Up Your Marriage This Spring

Bring more fun and joy to your relationship by dating each other!

It’s the time of year for flowers, birds, and butterflies. Spring is known as a time of rebirth after the dormant season of winter. For many, it’s the time for spring cleaning and sprucing up your home, inside and outside. Likewise, making time to spruce up your relationship may be what you need to stir up those butterflies in your stomach, too!

Dating in marriage can bring joy and fun to your relationship and even make it feel new and fresh again as you enter a new season.

This list of date ideas for couples can get you goin’.

  1. Visit a local u-pick farm. Find a farm that grows your favorite fruit (strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
  2. Check out a farmer’s market for some garden goodies. You’ve probably got a weekly market with local products you’d enjoy.
  3. Stargaze. Light your fire pit. Find specific constellations in the spring sky and talk about your dreams for the future.
  4. Watch a sunset/sunrise together. Take a thermos of coffee. Grab a blanket, find a spot, and snuggle up.
  5. Go Junking/Antiquing/Yard Saling. Spend $10 on a unique gift for each other.
  6. Ride bikes.
  7. Take walks together. It can be in your neighborhood, nature, or park. 
  8. Play games in the park. Pack your frisbee, fly kites, or bring a ball to throw or kick around. 
  9. Plant something together. Think flowers, an herb garden, or trees. 
  10. Have an old-fashioned game night. Card games, board games, or Truth or Dare are good options. Use your imagination. 
  11. Make homemade ice cream. Make your favorite ice cream and have toppings on hand that you like!
  12. Take a Segway tour, either of your city or a city near you.
  13. Fill out your own March Madness brackets with friendly wagers either game by game, Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, or national championship. Prizes could be massages, Girls’ or Guys’ Night Out, or maybe the winner gets breakfast in bed.
  14. Participate in a First Things First Virtual/DIY Date Night.
  15. Plan a community service date where you focus on helping other people. Join local Meals on Wheels, a food bank, or a community clean-up. Give away stuff you don’t need/use. (Don’t be limited by this list. Let your creative juices flow!)
  16. Do a spring photoshoot. Take selfies, ask a friend to take pictures, or hire a pro. Go to various locations, such as a parking lot, museum, car lot, or a nature park.
  17. Visit a winery or distillery. Learn about the process they use and try samples.
  18. Have a water date. Paddleboarding, a water balloon fight, rafting, swim park, sprinklers/water hose, beach, canoeing, fishing, or kayaking are options.
  19. Create your own food tour of local eateries. Sample Thai food, pizza, sushi, tacos, hamburger, ice cream, or french fries. Check out places you haven’t tried before!
  20. Fire up your BBQ grill. Have a grilling contest and eat outdoors.
  21. Attend a minor/major/little league baseball game. Grab some peanuts and Cracker Jacks…
  22. Go to a drive-in movie theater. Find one here.
  23. Plan an “Expand Your Mind” date. Read and discuss a book together. Watch a documentary.
  24. Zoo date! Visit a nearby zoo or travel to one. You may be able to see newly-born baby animals. (And sometimes the library will let you check out a free pass!)
  25. Spa date night! Give each other pedicures, back and shoulder rubs, or foot massages. Do facials or take a steamy bath. 

Spring is a time for new beginnings. And after the year we’ve had, that may be just what the doctor ordered. These spring date ideas can not only help you have fun with your spouse—they can create a fresh start for your relationship and help you have a stronger marriage all year long. 

Have fun!

Practical Ways to Practice Generosity in Marriage

These things can get you on the road to a more fulfilling marriage.

Do you want to knock your spouse off their feet? Want your spouse to want more sex without even saying the word “sex”? Wanna keep a smile on your spouse’s face and have them bragging about you to others? The secret (drumroll, please): Generosity. Overwhelm them with generosity

Generosity in marriage is quite underrated. But researchers have shown that when couples focus on generosity instead of fairness, their marriages tend to be more fulfilling.

Here are some practical ways to show generosity to your partner.

Ask what makes them feel special. 

Don’t assume you know. Ask questions like: When do you feel most loved? What makes you feel appreciated? What challenges are you facing right now? How they answer will help you show generosity in ways that say you know them. These aren’t one-time questions. You might ask every few months. Situations and circumstances change—challenges and needs for appreciation change. 

Observe and Do. Listen and Follow Through

Study your spouse to find ways they like to feel appreciated or ways to help relieve stress. Look for things causing stress. Observe what’s pulling at their time and energy. Listen to what they’re complaining about. Don’t think about what your spouse can do for you. Focus on learning what you can do for your spouse. We can give you great ideas. Your spouse can give you better ones without even realizing it.

Keep Score. 

Researcher Shaunti Feldhahn says, “Trade a sense of entitlement for a sense of indebtedness.” She suggests that you can cultivate generosity in your marriage by keeping track of your spouse’s needs and doing those things for them. Make it your mission to outdo your spouse with generosity. How many needs can you notice and meet? Make a game out of it. See who can do the most little things to show generosity. 

Get Your Marriage Degree in the Little Things. 

It’s the little things that make the difference. 

  • Brew a cup of coffee and set it next to them so they smell it when they wake up. 
  • Give spontaneous compliments without expecting anything in return. 
  • Buy them their favorite little treat when you run in the store. 
  • Be their biggest cheerleader for work and extracurricular projects. 
  • Give them the night off while you put the kids to bed. Have the kids give your spouse a hug and kiss and then go quietly to bed themselves. 
  • Drop a surprise note on their driver’s seat so they’ll see it when leaving for work.
  • Text them before a work presentation.

Develop Unending T.E.A. Time (Tirelessly Expressing Appreciation). Make a habit of saying, 

  • “Thank you for…” 
  • “I appreciate you for doing…” 
  • “I’m proud of you.” 
  • “You were great when…”

Initiate discussion on sharing household chores. 

Admittedly, this is better for those who may naturally do fewer tasks at home. Anyway, being generous with your time in areas that aren’t necessarily as “enjoyable” for you is always good for your relationship

Be generous with a smile. 

Let your joy come from your spouse being loved and having needs met, not from what you are doing for them. Doing freely for your spouse without expecting anything in return is the essence of generosity in marriage.

Forgive.

It’s pretty hard to be generous when you’re holding on to resentment or unforgiveness. Forgiveness helps you to love as much as it helps your spouse to feel loved by you.

Perhaps you have some more ideas on ways to be generous in your marriage. If you do, please send them to us! We’d love to spread the word and help other couples increase their marital happiness through abundant generosity. 

In the meantime, keep giving generously and watch what happens in your relationship.

***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.***

7 Ways to Increase Trust in Marriage

Strengthen the foundation of your relationship with these tips.

Trust is the foundation of a healthy marriage. It’s like oil in a car engine, heat in an oven, Beyoncé in Destiny’s Child. Without it, things just don’t work well. 

Ideally, marital trust should grow with time. It’s a glue in your relationship that ought to get stronger, even though it isn’t always the case. Trust can rust. 

The good news is you can strengthen that glue. 

We all have the power to value or devalue a marriage, to help or hurt our spouse’s well-being. Think about it: the next words I choose to say to my wife can either make her smile or cry or make her just plain mad. I’ve got that power. (So does she.) And my words will make me look more or less trustworthy in her eyes.

A big part of increasing trust in marriage is channeling that power to be beneficial and to do that often. 

Want to increase trust in your marriage? Here are 7 ways to amp it up!

1. Extend Forgiveness

Forgiveness goes a long way. It means you’ve decided to work through negative emotions, that you’ve let go of the need to “get even.” Forgiving your spouse shows you’re willing to recognize they are human. Which, in turn, takes the pressure off having to be perfect for you. And it shows you can be trusted to not keep score of wrongdoings and that you are committed to trust again after a fallout. 

2. Uphold Boundaries

Maybe the idea of boundaries seems limiting to you. But when it comes to building trust, it’s quite the opposite. Healthy boundaries can keep you both on the same page. How you decide to navigate social media. What you view online. Friendships (particularly with the opposite sex). Resolving conflict. Spending leisure time. Dividing up chores. Handling these and other issues well can increase trust.

3. Express Humility

Humility is simply an accurate view of the self, both the good and the bad. You express humility when you use your power to build your spouse up instead of yourself or ask for forgiveness. And research suggests that humility is associated with greater trust and marriage satisfaction. 

4. Exercise Vulnerability

Brené Brown says vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and exposure. It’s being fully seen, warts and all. Research says trust arises when risk is involved. In other words, you’ve got the power to either affirm or attack each other’s vulnerable spots. The more you show vulnerability in your marriage and affirm your spouse’s openness, the stronger the trust. 

5. Practice Reliability

Your trustworthiness is also affected by how well your spouse perceives your follow-through. Do you follow up with people, complete projects, see your goals to the end? Keep your commitments? Have you ever given your spouse cause to doubt your reliability? When your spouse sees you as reliable, it builds more trust. 

6. Show Self-Control

The same idea goes for your spouse’s perception of your self-control. Do you typically keep your cool? Choose your words calmly and carefully? Keep your moral integrity intact? Do you try to respond in helpful ways, even if it’s tough or costly? These are all signs of self-control that build trustworthiness between you two.

7. Develop Confidence in Your Spouse

Author and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn says that couples who believe the best about each other have high marital satisfaction. Even during conflict, both acknowledge they’re on the same team. And no matter what, their spouse has their back. This kind of confidence boosts the marital trust factor.

The bottom line is, powerful trust makes for a powerful marriage. Share your intentions with your spouse. Begin working on one or two of these tried-and-true trust practices this week. Trust is key. 

***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.***

Why Generosity Matters in Your Marriage

Hint: It impacts how you feel about each other.

You know that couple. The one who has been married for many years and seems just as madly in love today as when they said, “I do.” You know who I’m talking about. Do you ever sit back and ask yourself how they do it? I do. If you could sit down and talk to them, you might be surprised if they told you that it takes more than love. That kind of love takes effort. It takes intentionality. But there is one other component present… generosity. 

What is generosity in marriage?

The National Marriage Project defines marital generosity as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly.” It’s giving without expecting anything in return. Giving with no strings attached. Their survey of 1,365 married couples explains that generosity is small acts of kindness, displays of respect and affection, and a willingness to forgive each other’s faults.

This doesn’t mean we view marriage as 50/50. If you’re married, you know you have to give way more than 50%. You’re all in. 

It means that we give generously, not to receive. It’s giving without expectation. Maybe that means you go above and beyond with the household chores. When your spouse has a rough day or a work deadline, you take on more responsibility around the house. You don’t expect them to repay you. Your actions are genuinely rooted in love.

According to Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, generosity in marriage is “signaling to your spouse that you know them, and are trying to do things for them that are consistent with your understanding of them.” 

Why generosity matters in marriage…

In an interview with the New York Times, Wilcox frames it this way: 

“In marriage, we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, childcare and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate. Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”

Researchers found that spouses who show generosity view their marriage as more satisfying. These spouses were the ones who gave, not received, the acts of kindness and appreciation. When we shower our spouse with selfless acts, we’re more satisfied with our relationship. 

Does this mean that more generous spouses have a happier, more satisfying marriage? Is the secret being more generous? Maybe. It sure doesn’t hurt! 

Researchers did find a correlation between generosity and marital satisfaction, but they couldn’t pinpoint which came first. Does being more generous lead to more satisfaction? Or is it the other way around? 

I can’t answer that question (and they couldn’t either), but both are a good thing. What matters is that these spouses genuinely love and care for each other.

So, where do you go from here? 

You can express radical generosity toward your spouse. You don’t have to shower them with gifts or a trip to a tropical island. (Although, who doesn’t love both of those?) You can start today with small gestures. In marriage, it’s the little things that mean the most. Make their coffee. Send a text to show your appreciation. Show genuine affection. Forgive them. 

Ready to get started? Ask your spouse to finish this phrase: “I feel loved when you…” Then find ways to be generous in making them feel more loved than ever.

Great articles to help you be more generous with your spouse:

***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.***

How to Communicate Better With Your Spouse

These six skills can transform your relationship.

What would the world be like without good communication? 

Airports would be a complete wreck (figuratively and literally). 

Kids couldn’t learn reading, writing, ’rithmetic, and computer coding. 

The barista at Starbucks would write a completely different name on my cup for my order. (Okay, well, that happens anyway.) 

Not to mention… marriage would be chaotic! 

Fortunately, communication in marriage isn’t some tricky thing that some people have, and some don’t. It’s a skill that you, me, and everyone else can practice and improve. 

Here are six of the most crucial skills you can use to communicate better with your spouse: 

1. Practice the art of listening well. 

Listening well means seeking to understand. It’s putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes. 

Seek to understand their point of view. And know that just because it’s not the same as yours doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. 

Repeat back to your spouse what you heard. This lets them confirm you heard them correctly or restate what they meant using other words. 

2. Ask lots of questions. 

The ultimate goal of healthy communication in marriage is to connect. Be curious for the sake of knowing your husband or wife better and how you can strengthen your relationship.

Ask questions to: 

  • Explore: What was it like growing up in your household?
  • Clarify: Am I right in saying you don’t like surprises because…? 
  • Draw out: Can you tell me more about how you feel when the barista gets your name wrong? 
  • Know how to be more compassionate: What can I do to help you feel more relaxed right now? 

Oh, and don’t forget to validate what you hear, even if it’s different from what you’d say! 

3. Go deeper in your communication. 

Communication can be shallow: My day was good. How was yours? I’m kinda tired. Tomorrow is Friday…

Nothin’ wrong with that. It’s just that way sometimes. But marriage can’t thrive in the shallow end of the pool; it has to take deeper dives. 

Your spouse is a complex person (in a good way!). So are you. The joy of marital communication is exploring and appreciating these complexities for what they are. 

And this takes deeper conversations about feelings, opinions, shortcomings, goals, hopes, needs, past experiences, and future dreams. 

4. Practice vulnerability.

Being vulnerable means showing more of who you are. Which means opening yourself up. And that takes trust, which is vital for a healthy marriage. 

Healthy communication is the treadmill that exercises the muscles of vulnerability. 

Showing vulnerability in deeper communication might be uncomfortable. Talk about that with your spouse. Why does it make you feel that way? What can your spouse do to help you feel more at ease and willing to be more vulnerable? 

Keep in mind that building trust through vulnerability requires affirming each other’s opinions—even if they’re different. Respect each other’s differences, and these kinds of conversations can totally help strengthen your relationship. 

5. Practice often.

Schedule times to talk and connect with each other on deeper levels, even if it’s for just a few minutes. The average couple communicates for only 20 minutes a week; choose not to be average. 

6. Learn to work through conflict well.

Disagreements are gonna happen. That’s part of marriage. But how you communicate through disagreements makes all the difference. And if you communicate better with your spouse, that’s a game-changer.

Attack the issue instead of each other. Be solution-driven. Remember, You. Are. A. Team. Establish your Rules to Fight Right: no name-calling, yelling, walking out on each other, bringing up past issues, etc. (You know what I’m talkin’ about.) 

(For more easy-to-use resources, check out How to Improve Bad Communication in Marriage and 6 Ways Poor Communication Can Affect Your Marriage.)

No matter what, remember communication is a process.  Learning communication skills doesn’t mean you’ll get it right all the time. 

Miscommunication will happen. Give yourselves a break and keep on truckin’ to better communicate with your spouse anyway. Look to these resources to practice: 4 Communication Exercises for Married Couples and 3 Great Dates to Enhance Communication in Marriage. Because working on healthy communication leads to a thriving marriage. 

***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 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.***