This post was written by Arielle Ford, an author, love and relationship expert, and speaker.
Who doesn't want a happy marriage? In the land of fairy tales, we easily meet our one and only soulmate, quickly fall in love, and live happily ever after. But in the real world, after the “honeymoon” period (the first 6 to 18 months) ends, we discover that our once-perfect mate is a flawed and imperfect human after all--just like we are.
But to succeed in love, we must learn to respect each other’s differences and then figure out creative solutions to our differences; in other words, to truly communicate. When disagreements arise, here are three key communication skills to master to help your happy marriage last.
Happy Marriage: 3 Communication Skills to Master
1. Begin in neutral. When our buttons get pushed, instantly reacting is probably the worst thing you can do. Before you say something you can’t take back (which may make things even worse), take a time out. It’s critical to find a way to let go of the anger or whatever intense emotion you’re feeling so that you can communicate from a neutral place.
How do you get to neutral? You can journal your feelings, go for a walk, breathe deeply, and definitely remind yourself that your partner didn't wake up this morning with the intention of driving you crazy. If the argument begins late at night, it’s absolutely okay to go to bed angry rather than try to figure something out when both parties are tired and not thinking clearly.
2. Listen effectively. There is a simple listening technique created by Harville Hendrix (Oprah calls him “the marriage whisperer”) and his wife, Helen La Kelly Hunt. Called the Imago dialogue, it's a bullet-proof way to make sure you are communicating effectively.
There are 5 steps: First, listen without interrupting. Step two, act as a mirror. When your partner stops talking, repeat back to him or her what you heard as accurately as possible. Then ask, "Did I get that, and is there more?" Step three: Summarize again, especially if more was added, and ask, "Did I get it all?" again. Step four is to validate your partner by saying, "What you said makes sense to me." (This statement doesn't necessarily mean you agree. It just lets your spouse know that you understand.)
Step five is to empathize. Let your partner know that you can imagine, if you were in his or her position, how he or she might be feeling, hurt, angry, scared, disappointed--whatever feelings your partner acknowledged. By listening in this careful and structured manner, he or she will feel seen, heard, and understood.
3. Pick the right time to talk. Pick a time when it’s likely your spouse isn’t stressed out or super busy and ask him, "Do you have 10 minutes to talk to me about a problem I’m having?" If he says that now isn’t a good time, ask him when a good time will be. Then, at the appointed time, be as vulnerable as possible when explaining your position and be careful not too fall into a pattern of shaming, blaming, or yelling. If possible, go for a walk while having the conversation; it’s often easier when you aren’t looking directly at each other.
Communicating clearly--with love, respect, and the intention of coming up with creative solutions--will naturally lead to a caring, deep and long-lasting relationship.
Arielle Ford is a leading personality in the personal growth and contemporary spirituality movement. She is a love and relationship expert, speaker, and author of 11 books, including the international bestseller, THE SOULMATE SECRET: Manifest The Love of Your Life With The Law of Attraction and her latest book, Turn Your Mate Into Your Soulmate (Harper One). She lives in La Jolla, CA with her husband/soulmate, Brian Hilliard, and their feline friends.