How a wife and husband communicate with each other tells other people a lot about their relationship. I have to admit my communication habits with Lisa aren’t always the best. If I have had an especially long day of interaction with other people I find it difficult to listen and often lack the patience to do so.

What about you? How are you doing in communication with your spouse?

Listening carefully. When life gets busy, it’s hard to carve out time to focus on your spouse. Maybe you have one eye on the TV or cell phone. Have you ever noticed your wife or husband stop talking in the middle of a sentence, because she or he can tell you’re not really paying attention? It’s not a proud moment.

Try asking thoughtful questions. If you need to, think of questions throughout the day and save them for when you’re together. Then, really focus on your spouse’s response. Listen without an agenda or becoming defensive. Use empathy and pay attention to tone of voice and other signals. Maybe there’s a deeper emotional message underneath the words.

It may also be helpful to repeat back what you heard her say and see if what you heard was correct. Alot of times misunderstandings happen when we assume we heard the other person but we didn’t really hear exactly what they said but what we thought they said which causes overreactions. Clarify your spouse’s statements without judging or getting defensive.

Watching your words. If your spouse is insecure or seeking your approval, he or she might take an offhand comment personally that you didn’t intend as an insult. Be careful with your words and don’t underestimate that need for your spouse to be affirmed — a lot — each day.

You can also begin to implement a daily communication skill that uses daily dialogue and compliments. This helps immensely in opening the line of communication and feeding on positive things about each other as opposed to negative things.

Daily Dialogue is an intentional effort to talk about your relationship, rather than discussing your activities that day. The focus of this dialogue should be on your feelings about each other and your lives together. Set aside five minutes per day to discuss the following:

  • What did you most enjoy about your relationship today?
  • What was dissatisfying about your relationship today?
  • How can you be helpful to each other?

Daily Compliments help you focus on the positive things you like about each other. Every day give your partner at least one genuine compliment. These can be general (“you are fun to be with”) or specific (“I appreciate that you were on time for the concert”).

*Daily dialogue and daily compliments are a communication exercise as part of Prepare and Enrich learn more here.