Couple’s communication is about 7% words, about 38% tone of voice, and about 55% non-verbal, and happens at a blinding speed. In essence, you cannot NOT communicate. If you are together, it happens. And if a couple cannot communicate well, they are in trouble. As strange as it may sound, if you cannot communicate well, then chances are you cannot argue well. And if you do not argue well (a.k.a. fight, dispute, disagree), bad things happen…or at least good things do not happen.
I would like to offer five tips (there are many more) for checking and possibly improving your couple’s communication. And even if your communication is fine at the moment, a check-up is never a wasted effort. These tips take into account that each person has his or her own style based on the communication patterns from his or her own family, that the couple has further developed their couple style, and that every person has a preferred style of language he or she would like to hear coming from his or her spouse.
Check the “level” of your communication. Do you communicate mostly in clichés like, “Nice day today, isn’t it.” Clichés are fine, but not as a primary way of communicating. Or do you communicate only in facts? “The light at the corner is out”; “there’s a new Italian restaurant downtown.” Do you communicate mostly in opinions? Opinions about politics, religion, cars, food…the list is exhaustive. If communication is not going well, most couples get stuck here with clichés, facts, and opinions. The goal is to get past this point to the next two critical level — feelings and needs.
Feelings and needs are the riskier levels because feelings can be trampled on, and needs can be ignored. But these two levels of communication intimacy are critical to the couple’s well-being. Imagine yourself saying, “I feel”, or “I need”, and not being heard or acknowledged. These levels are riskier because the more you share feelings and needs, the more you know about each other. And the more you know about each other, the greater the vulnerability – the risk of hurting or being hurt, which requires greater care to guard against that happening.
Know each other’s Love Language. The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, will tell you what YOUR preferred love language is. The key to success is knowing what your spouse’s love language is and to be willing to speak it. You can find the survey here.
You can find a used copy of the book online for under $3. Hint – there are also versions of this book and surveys for children and teens!
Fight Fair! You may call it fighting, or arguing, or any number of things…but whatever you call it; however you do it; it should be fair. Fair fighting may be a follow-on topic for our blog, but for the moment, consider the purpose of fighting. The purpose of fighting is to solve problems – NOT win the fight. If there is a winner, there will certainly be a loser. There is nothing wrong with a good fight or an argument as long as it is fair and solves a problem. Fighting is not bad … it’s how you do it that can be bad. Believe me, where two or more are gathered there WILL be conflict. Just keep in mind that there is constructive fighting, and then there is dysfunctional fighting. What style do you have? By the way, if you fight about money or kids, you are not alone. You are in the same boat as the overwhelming majority of couples.
Manage your anger; again, possibly another blog follow-on topic. Like fighting, anger is not bad in itself … it’s what we sometimes do with it that can be bad. But for now a few mini-tips.
- Other people do not make you mad. Think about it; when was the last time anyone made you do anything?
- Anger is only one choice on your list of options.
- You can control it.
- It is the number one most destructive force in a relationship.
- Everyone has an “anger baseline”…a sort of anger “default position.”
- NEVER go to bed angry.
To determine your anger baseline, consider using a free online tool to establish your current default position, like the one Psychology Today offers here.
“What’s so great about them anyway?” Everyone likes to hear from those closest to them about those things we most appreciate about them. Take one minute, just ONE minute and find a place alone, turn on background music if you like, and tell your spouse what’s so good about them anyway! You can never overdo something like this. Make it a monthly or weekly sharing.
Finally, once again, please remember that you cannot NOT communicate. Just a look, just a sigh, just a barely audible groan from your heart — it all counts.