To achieve healthy and effective communication in marriage, a few things form the foundation:
The first ingredient of that foundation is making it your mission to know your partner’s childhood and earlier life experiences. Without this knowledge, there can be no understanding, which is the second ingredient. When you know what your partner has experienced, good or bad, you gain knowledge of their basis point. All communication has a basis. A place of departure, before the intention is even made manifest. For example, the behaviors that your partner was exposed to will be the behaviors that he or she repeats or tries by all means to avoid. If you do not know these behaviors you will miss where he is coming from with what they say, or with the manner in which they respond to what you say. They also hold information on what matters the most to your partner, whether it’s what they want or despise.
The second ingredient, as mentioned, is understanding. Now that you are aware of your partner’s experiences, the requirement is that with every communication that takes place, you reference that knowledge. This way, when their words do not make sense to you, you at least have an understanding of their origin. You are then able to be of a sound and calm mind when responding. This is not easy. It requires practice and patience in huge amounts, as often times you have your own issues that you want understood and addressed. However, we submit ourselves to our partner, who in turn must love us. Submission requires understanding and patience.
The third thing is to appreciate that your “love language” is different from that of your partner. You may be encouraged by constant support, pep talking, advice giving, and written reminders of feelings. Whereas he may prefer you give him space when dealing with something, as he feels “mothered” when you give him advice on everything, so he is encouraged by you allowing him to be and allowing him the space to tell you when and if he needs your input. Maybe he is encouraged by affection and attentive listening, whereas you prefer physical gifts and immediate action on issues. Whatever your differences are in “love languages” it is important that you are aware and make the effort to nourish your partner with these.
The fourth is to choose words that build, not destroy. Speak life with your mouth. You cannot do this when at the height of anger. You must figure what you can do to remove and calm yourself from anger, and practice that at all times when communicating.
Fifth is to humble yourself enough to be able to realize when you are wrong. Let go of pride, past pains, and fears of what could be, and apologize when you need to. This brings in submission as well. Also, forgive where forgiveness is due for progress, even when an apology has not been given. Sometimes our partners apologize in other ways that do not necessarily involve saying the word “sorry”. He may help around the house more, or show extra kindness towards you, or do something unexpected as his way of apologizing. Either way, when you have communicated that a certain behavior yielded unpleasant results, he cares enough to understand that he has hurt you and will make efforts to avoid it. You must trust that he cares, and let it go.
Lastly, make time to “check-in” with each other. Schedule and keep date night. Take time out, without there being any issue to be addressed or challenge to tackle, and just draw goals for your marriage together. It may seem obvious that you share the same goals, but it is not always the case. Even if you do, the levels and means of achieving those goals will be different. That needs to be communicated. Also use this “check-in” time to remind each other of what matters the most to you. Get back to ingredient three, on “love languages” as you may forget them with time and life getting in the way. With this casual and positive communication, you also encourage easy and free flow communication in your marriage.
Never be so discouraged or hurt that you think talking will not help. Communicating is what fuels progress in our marriages. Without it, there is stagnation and sometimes even worse, repression.