The Keys to Healthy Communication in Marriage
It was a few months before we got married. Our friends kept asking us, “So what was your first big fight about?” There was a problem though—we didn’t have an answer.
We didn’t fight. Ever.
People would say that we needed to fight to develop deep bonds of trust in marriage. Everywhere we turned the phrase “opposites attract” was on repeat. Neither of these concepts resonated with us, because they weren’t us. Instead we were working on developing healthy communication in marriage.
Relationship for a Lifetime
We were laser focused on preparing for marriage—because we knew our wedding day was just the beginning. Our relationship was for a lifetime. My husband’s cousin who was officiating the ceremony, started us out with pre–marital counseling.
However, with all the comments we were getting about fighting, we decided to do more counseling. We wanted someone that could be objective, challenge us, and really speak truth to us. We decided to meet with one of our pastors and his wife. They didn’t know either of us really well, and they gave us some of the best advice for our marriage.
How and Why You Communicate
With every look, word, touch or lack there of—this is how you are communicating something to your spouse. It’s all defined through the lens of love and respect. As a woman, you want to be loved. As a man, he wants to be respected.
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A healthy foundation for your marriage is established when you are effectively communicating respect to your husband—and he is communicating love to you. One book our pastor and his wife highly recommended to us, was Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.
It’s a great book for building your marriage and understanding yourselves better. One of the key takeaways that we got from the book was that couples have a tendency to get stuck in the love versus respect cycle. To sum it up—you don’t feel loved—so you react. Your reaction makes him feel disrespected. His reaction to your reaction then makes you—feel unloved. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps repeating, until someone or both of you, do something to make the other person feel loved or respected.
What We Communicate About
Our pastor and his wife, who had been married for over 25 years, said that when it comes to things that put stress on your marriage, it helps to be able to talk through it—not fight about it. It helps to be aware of the 5 common areas that cause marital stress.
You can regularly refer to these 5 Stressors, to engage in conversation proactively, rather than reacting to situations as they happen. The more you talk about it together, the more you recognize what are common stressors for your marriage. This not only helps to foster healthy communication, but it gives you a starting point for making changes to strengthen your relationship.
Let Your Marriage Thrive with Friendship
Your spouse cannot meet all of your emotional and social needs—all the time. You both need friends, but not just any friends! Surround yourself with people who want to be better—who you can really do life with. That means people that you can talk with and about the hard stuff, support you in prayer, and offer godly wisdom. For us, it has been most helpful when those we “do life with” use the same language that we do—the 5 Stressors of Marriage, mentioned above. We can easily pick up conversation that is deep and meaningful by simply asking, “Which stressor are you struggling with most right now?”
The Best Way to Building Trust
The idea that you NEED to fight because it builds deeper bonds of trust—is a myth. It’s simply not true. Can fighting build deeper bonds of trust? Yes, but it’s not THE BEST WAY to build trust. In fact, as I look back on our pre–marital counseling with our pastor and his wife, our sessions had nothing to do with fighting—but practical ways to build a framework for healthy communication.
Do you have a tendency to fight in your marriage? If you do, try using the 5 Stressors of Marriage as a way to start talking about your frustrations. Ask your spouse what stressor they feel is most affecting your marriage right now.
Spouses Are Different
Remember that phrase, opposites attract—then they attack? It kind of sets you up for a fight—like your spouse is on a different team or even worse, the enemy. It seems subtle and harmless, but it really can affect your marriage and how you view your spouse. Actually, it’s more helpful to recognize that spouses aren’t necessarily opposite but different. We see things differently and we may even use the same word—but unknowingly, that word has a different meaning. Sometimes it’s because your spouse doesn’t communicate the same way that you do. For example, you may be someone who needs time to think about what’s going on, while he is wired to want to fix the problem right now.
Some advice that I’ve shared, and that others have found to be helpful, is to tell your spouse what you need during a time when you are not in a heated discussion, aka fight. The reality is, that your spouse cannot read your mind. You need to let them know how you’re really feeling, but you need to do it during a time of calm, not during the chaos.
The Ultimate Showdown
The winner in our marriage? Healthy communication or fighting? I’m sure you probably have guessed by now that healthy communication has been a winner for us. We’ll be celebrating our five year anniversary in a couple of weeks. To this day—we don’t fight.
Don’t think everything is cupcakes and roses, though! We do have more intense conversations when the stress is heightened. In these moments, our conversations take more time and patience because our emotions often prohibit our language. More often than not, we find that we feel the same way—frustrated. Yet we know and trust that we really want the same result and we will get there—eventually.
The bottom line that keeps us strong and has a deep bond for us is this: we know we are a team that works together and struggles together. We recognize that we are two sinners trying to live well and that we desperately need God’s wisdom to guide us.
Other helpful resources to develop healthy communication: