Straight Talk: Communication Tips for Your Relationships

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communicationIn any healthy relationship, there is one crucial component: communication! I have known my husband, Shawn, since I was 18. This year, we will celebrate 18 years of marriage. Sometimes I really can’t believe it! We are both passionate people. I joke around that our house could be featured on a weekly soap opera, which is not necessarily a good thing.

However, even after years of difficult times and some doozy fights, the foundation of our relationship remains strong.

How We Keep Our Marriage Strong

Our secret to staying together is simple. After years of fumbling through and making mistakes, we have finally learned to communicate with one another.  In no way do I claim to have a perfect marriage, nor do I claim to be an expert on marriage. But if someone had offered these hard-earned tips when I was a newlywed, I would have appreciated it.

I think this advice could have saved many sleepless nights, countless arguments and negative feelings during my marriage.

Unexpressed Expectations

The first thing I would like to talk about is unexpressed expectations. We all enter into relationships with an idea of what a healthy marriage looks like. We think we know what our role in a marriage should be.

Where problems can arise is if our communication about our expectations to our spouse fall short. If we simply assume that our partners should know what we want or what we are thinking, we will be disappointed every time.

No One Has A Degree in Mind Reading!

It is simply not possible.

Yet, in a long term relationship, communication decreases because each partner assumes that the other partner knows what they are thinking and feeling. A common scenario is when one partner, typically the wife, is busy getting ready for whatever event the family has to go to. She scrambles to get herself and the children ready and to make sure everything they need to bring is checked off the list.

Sometimes, the husband just sits there after he gets himself ready. The husband might be thinking, “Wow my wife sure is a competent person! Look how she’s handling it all. I better just stay out of her way.”

Meanwhile, the wife is looking at the husband with building resentment as he just sits there. She is probably thinking, “Would it kill him to lend me a hand? Can’t he see how stressed I am?” However, if she does not ask for help, how is he supposed to know that she really would like some help?

I have learned over the years that I have to ask for what I need and want. I encourage him to do the same. This keeps resentment from mounting and dissatisfaction from creeping in. Another helpful tool is to plan ahead about how your partner can help you instead of trying to ask for what you need in the chaotic moments.

Conquer the Big Issues as a Team

One of the nuggets of wisdom that changed my communication with Shawn when it comes to the big issues such as sex, money, in-laws and parenting, is to approach these issues as a team.

When money stresses a couple, for example, its easy to regard your partner as the enemy. This is the wrong approach. You both want the same thing: to get out of debt or to have more financial security. Remember to treat the money problem as the enemy and your partner as your ally. Put your effort into finding a solution together, instead of wasting your energy fighting.  

Are you Communicating in Their Love Language?

How does your spouse like to give and receive love?

A great book that really opened my eyes to this fact is “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” by Gary Chapman. They also have an edition that helps with your children.

Your love language is the way that you communicate and understand emotional love. If your love language is quality time and your husband’s love language is acts of service, you can both be doing your best to show your partner that they are loved. But, if you don’t understand how they like to give and receive love, this can lead to hurt feelings and unmet needs. If on the weekends you want to cuddle with your partner and watch a movie, but he is too busy performing acts of service, there are going to be some misunderstandings.

The same thing applies to your children. If you show love to your children through gift giving, but their love language is words of affirmation, it doesn’t matter how nice the gift is, they will not feel like you love them.

It is really important to understand how your partner and your children give and receive love. In addition, it is necessary that you understand your love language so you can communicate the ways that you like to give and receive love.

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Adrienne is a Colorado native and would not want to live anywhere else! She spends her days juggling the many demands of three sons, and her school-age daughter. When she is not busy deciphering the perplexing young boy brain, or trying to please her diva daughter, you will most likely find her nose in a book, or writing. She loves encouraging her fellow parents in their journey. Recently she has begun a new career as a Real Estate Broker with Colorado Home Finder Realty and is definitely enjoying the roller coaster ride. She also loves finding great happy hour places with her husband, Shawn, and acting young and sometimes crazy with friends! She does not spend enough time outdoors (unless forced to) and comes up with any excuse to put off cleaning her chaotic house. She is very grateful for her completely imperfect life.