a man and a woman having a passionate conversation

Why Can't We Talk? Lesson 3 - Can You Hear Me Now?

Looking for a marriage that works? Money is great. Sex? Awesome. But a marriage that really works requires a husband and wife who can communicate! It's a topic we hear all the time. Research conducted by The Joy of Marriage in collaboration with The Heart of Marriage Retreat shows that a staggering 62% of respondents cited communication as the primary source of conflict in their marriage when conflict arises. That's why we started this series of blogs, "Why Can't We Talk?" This is our final installment: "Can You Hear Me Now?"

In our previous blogs, we explored why you should Assume Good Intent and In Order To Listen You Must Listen to your spouse. Now, in our final installment, we focus on another critical aspect, expressing yourself clearly. Too often, we are not clear in our conversations with our spouse and leave too much for them to assume. We can't understand why we're misunderstood because we are not clear in our communication. Let's take a deeper look.

Speak Clearly and Specifically

When communicating with your spouse, clarity is paramount. Speaking in generalities often leads to misunderstandings. For instance, saying "You never help around the house" is vague and likely to be met with defensiveness. Instead, try "I felt overwhelmed doing the dishes alone last night. Can we share that chore in the future?" This specific request is much more likely to be understood and acted upon.

Avoid Misleading Terms

Sometimes, in an attempt to soften our words or avoid conflict, we end up being misleading, leading to a bigger issue. Phrases like "It's fine," "Whatever you want," and the often used "nothing's wrong," can create confusion and frustration. And by the way, your spouse can read right through that response. Be honest and direct about your feelings and needs. If something is bothering you, express it clearly and calmly, rather than expecting your spouse to read between the lines.

Tone and Body Language Matter

Communication isn't just about words. Your tone and body language play a crucial role in how your message is received. Sarcasm, raised voices, or crossed arms can contradict your words and escalate conflicts. Aim to use a calm, respectful tone and open body language. Smile, make eye contact, and ensure your non-verbal cues align with your verbal message. Pointing at your spouse as you are talking to them sets off red flags, just the same as standing while they're sitting and other more offensive body movements. Be aware of what your tone and body language are telling your spouse. As the saying goes, "What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying."

Create a Safe Space for Dialogue

A safe, non-judgmental environment encourages open communication. Avoid interrupting or dismissing your spouse's feelings, even if you disagree. Listen without judgment and acknowledge their perspective. This creates a foundation of trust and openness, making it easier to address issues constructively. Some couples find it a good idea to actually have a physical "safe space" in their home where they are free to share and be transparent without fear of repercussions. The kitchen table is often a favorite spot for this. BTW, the bedroom is not recommended. This is a great way of introducing the kind of non-judgmental environment that fosters good communication in a marriage.

Understand the Importance of Timing

Timing can significantly impact the effectiveness of your communication. Discussing sensitive topics when one of you is stressed, tired, or distracted can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Interrupting a football game or the latest movie on The Hallmark Channel is not the most effective time to express your feelings or convince your spouse to follow along with something that you want. Choose a time when both of you are relaxed, calm and undistracted. This will give the conversation the attention it deserves.

Conclusion - Communicating in a marriage takes work

Improving communication in your marriage is a continuous journey that requires effort, patience, and understanding. Speak clearly, avoid misleading terms, be mindful of your tone and body language, create a safe space, and choose your timing wisely. These are the ways in which you help your spouse hear you clearly and express yourself more effectively. The result is hopefully avoiding or at least reducing misunderstandings in your marriage. Remember, your goal is not just to be heard but to be understood.

As we wrap up our 3 part blog series asking the question "Why Can't We Talk," we urge you to continue to find ways I which to foster effective communication in your marriage. Let's embrace the wisdom from Proverbs 15:1: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Let's also remember the words of James 1:19: "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." Let's work to develop clear, compassionate communication and pave the way for harmony, understanding, and a stronger marriage.