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Learning to Communicate

Communication is the most important aspect of keeping a marriage afloat. There are many different kinds of communication, both verbal and nonverbal, and these can be essential elements in maintaining a happy relationship. You and your partner may think you communicate to the full extent you can, but there are always new ways to explore communicating with your partner. Try some of the communication opportunities below.

Sharing
Instead of sitting side-by-side with your partner while watching TV or reading, set aside an hour each week with privacy and no interference. During that time, resolve to only have one agenda: to share something about yourself and discuss feelings. You do not need to problem solve, make financial or parenting decisions, or discuss current events. The topic is your thoughts and feelings and your partner’s own experiences and reactions. This may sound forced or silly to you, but think about the benefits from an interaction like this. You are encouraged to really listen to your partner and also to be heard.

Sharing a secret
Like with sharing, set aside an hour per week for couple time. Think about an experience that you have not shared with your spouse. The secret you choose to share does not have to be a bad one. It can be any experience, attitude, dream, or feeling that you have not previously shared with your spouse. Begin by communicating your motivation for sharing this secret and what you want from your spouse. Once you have told your secret, discuss how it was to reveal it and your partner’s reactions. Be sure to listen with openness and respect when your partner shares a secret, as well.

Your parents’ marriage as a model
Parents are a major influence in many aspects of our lives. One particularly influential part is what we learn about marriage from observing them and their patterns of communication. Take some time with your spouse to discuss your parents’ marriage. What aspects of it did you see as positive? Would you like to follow in their footsteps in this way? Are there any negative patterns they fell into that you see yourself currently emulating? What can be done about it? Discuss these questions openly with your spouse to raise awareness to marital challenges and seek solutions.

Expressing negative feelings and requesting specific changes
Expressing negative feelings may sound like a bad form of communication, but it can actually be overall beneficial to the marriage. The importance is in expressing your feelings with direction for future interactions. If there is something that your spouse does that bothers you, speak up, but be sure to express what it is you would like him or her to do instead. This second aspect of the equation demonstrates trust in your partner that they can and will change your feelings to more positive ones. Acknowledging strengths and accepting compliments

For many couples, this can be a difficult task. Many of us were raised to believe that humility is synonymous with self-deprecation. However, self-respect is a vital aspect to any marriage. We may expect compliments and appreciation from our spouse but then have difficulty receiving them graciously. Spend time with your partner discussing the positive aspects of yourself. Have your partner chime in on what he or she thinks your strengths are, as well. Begin to take these ideas as truth and encourage your partner to do the same regarding himself or herself.

(Source: Couple Sexual Awareness by Barry and Emily McCarthy)

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