The “heart of the matter” is this – successfully married couples report a high level of satisfaction with the way they communicate. They talk about everything and anything with each other—there are “No Sacred Cows.” Great couples attribute their marital success first and foremost to the fact that they have honed their communication skills over time.
So, what are the lessons we have learned over the past 30+ years of research from those couples that communicate effectively on just about every level? As we poured over our interview notes from thousands of couples around the world, five important actions emerged.
1. Effective marital communication always begins with proper engagement and in a proper context. Talking about serious matters cannot occur effectively when dealing with chaos, such as a blaring television, crying baby, etc.
2. There is proper etiquette to follow in effective communication. Lower your voices, speak in a calm manner, make eye contact, listen intently and seek clarification if you don’t understand. Refrain from blaming, accusing, calling names, making nasty remarks or getting defensive.
3. Discussions about serious issues must always begin with agreement about what the issues really are. Work to identify the issue, establish the parameters of the discussion, and agree to solve the problem together.
4. A fruitful conversation about important matters always begins with the brainstorming of ideas. It is important to get your respective ideas out on the table. Talk about the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. Agree on ideas worth exploring.
5. Never, we repeat, never be judgmental when debating issues with your mate. Instantly passing judgment on an idea is usually the death of open and honest debate between two people.
The thousands of successfully married couples we have interviewed report to us that they never felt invalidated by their spouse, that they always felt their arguments were heard, and that their opinions always mattered. Learn the simple lessons of communication that these wonderful couples practice everyday of their lives together.
Simple things matter in love and marriage.