- Don’t criticize and blame: Your spouse must know that you see things in a particular light, but it is your own opinion. Rather than criticizing, describe your problem fully and make sure it is entirely explained. You want to be listened to, and criticizing or blaming your partner for the problem will only encourage defensiveness and criticism in return. If your partner comes to you with a problem, listen carefully and avoid becoming defensive.
- Don’t be discouraged by communication challenges: Talking about feelings, needs, and desires is often hard, but it is crucial for a successful marriage. Failure to communicate because of fear only results in increased anxiety, misinterpretation, doubt, confusion, and unhappiness. In addition, failure to listen accurately creates tension in relationships. The only way you can overcome these challenges is through practice.
- Don’t assume difficult topics are best avoided: Avoiding certain subjects because of their association with strong emotions and conflict will only continue the cycle of unhappiness. This cycle includes arguments, defensiveness, verbal attacks, and separation. The only way to create a satisfying relationship is to learn skills of communication so you can talk and understand accurately and clearly about these difficult subjects.
- Communicate to understand: This requires you to demonstrate acceptance of your spouse’s ideas and opinions. You will not agree with your partner in every issue raised during your marriage, but you can suspend judgment and gather information about the other person’s feelings, needs, and wants. Communicating to understand demands careful and active listening. Ask for clarification and summarize your spouse’s statements to be sure you are understanding. Pay attention to, acknowledge, and identify the feelings and emotions of the other.
- Express your expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your relationship: Some expectations are culturally prescribed and carry over into how we think our relationship should be. Whatever your expectations for your relationship, you need to discuss them. When both of you have expressed what you want and expect, you can begin to make adjustments in your relationship and behavior.
- Only discuss one issue at a time: There may be several areas of conflict in your marriage, but trying to resolve them all at one time will create more confusion rather than successful conclusions. Narrow each subject, and agree you will stay on that topic until you have both expressed your expectations. Keeping focused on the problem at hand will allow you to share and resolve more, helping you believe you can resolve your conflicts together.
Scoresby, A. L., Ph.D. The Marriage Promise