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Communicating with your Spouse

Do you sometimes find yourself at an impasse when communicating with your spouse? There are books and jokes galore written about misunderstandings and frustration between partners, which suggest that marriage is a constant state of unhappiness and misunderstanding. Although those stereotypes are rooted in centuries of failed relationships, marital bliss is not a lost cause. A recent study suggests that married couples are happier than people who are single, widowed, or divorced.

So how can you keep your relationship issues from boiling over? The key is communicating with your partner in ways that sustain your relationship instead of tearing it down. Here are some communication tips that might just save your relationship.

1. Validate Your Spouse's Feelings

Does your spouse ever accuse you of not paying attention to how they feel? You might blow it off as a bit of drama on your spouse's part but take note and validate. Your spouse is likely not trying to stir up trouble; he or she is reaching out about how they feel. Perhaps their delivery is not always obvious, or you might not agree with their point of view. But when your spouse tells you how they feel, pay attention. Take it seriously. Even if you disagree with the content of their message, acknowledge that what they are feeling is real. Only then can your spouse truly be heard and feel seen by you. Once you are both aware of each other's feelings, together, you can come up with a solution to an argument or ongoing challenge.

2. Use “I” Statements When Communicating with Your Spouse

If you believe your feelings are not being taken into consideration by your partner, it may be that you're not expressing yourself constructively. Of course, your partner might have trouble validating your feelings, but that's something they need to work on, whether alone at an individual therapy session or in a couple's counseling with you. You are not in control of their reactions.

On the other hand, the way you express yourself is solely within your control. When you want to get your feelings across to your partner, don't project them onto them through criticism. For instance, do not say, "you never get the kids to school on time." Instead, focus on your feelings about the issue, and perhaps ask how you can come to a solution together: "I feel concerned that the kids aren't getting to school on time, would it help if I make their lunches while you are feeding them breakfast?"

When you talk to your spouse using "I" statements, you bring up an issue without playing the blame game. Your spouse has room to realize that an issue is important to you without feeling judged or attacked. This offers a better chance at a respectful, mutually satisfactory resolution.

3. Spend Quality Time Together

Did you know that spending quality time with your spouse can positively impact your personal well-being? A recent survey suggests that people who spend quality time with their spouses are happier as individuals. These people also feel more fulfilled in their marriages. Spending time with your husband or wife allows you to bond and reestablish the kind of chemistry you had back when you were dating. Doing something you both enjoy gives you a chance to interact in a relaxed, unguarded manner. Even if you are both busy, make an effort to spend at least a few minutes doing something fun with your spouse each day. Even if you sit down to a quick dinner after work and catch each other up on your day, it will go a long way to establishing healthy communication patterns in your relationship.

4. Laugh Often

Also, don't forget to laugh. This may seem trivial, but laughter is the best medicine for stress, and it's the best kind of icebreaker when there is tension in a relationship. When you laugh, your body releases a lot of endorphins, creating an opioid effect. That's right -- laughter can have the same effects on you as a drug, without the unhealthy side effects, of course.

5. Show Appreciation

How often do you let your partner know that they are appreciated? Recent studies suggest that mutual dissatisfaction in a marriage can bring about communication issues and vice versa. Therefore, try boosting mutual satisfaction as you learn to communicate better together. Expressing appreciation toward your partner is a small but very effective way to boost marital happiness. You don't have to put much effort into expressing appreciation. Even a small statement of thanks for doing the dishes will go a long way toward putting a smile on your partner's face. Make an effort to recognize something that your spouse does to improve your relationship or benefit your family each day. Say, "Thank you" as often as possible. Feel free to get creative about appreciating your spouse. This could even rekindle your romance if the spark has been a bit dull lately. For example, put a note of appreciation into their lunch bag, and cap it off with a compliment. Remember that kindness and grace keep your love and respect alive.

6. Express Your Affection

Did you know that physical closeness with your partner does your heart good? This is not just true in the figurative sense. A recent study concluded that women who spent just a short time being affectionate with their partners had a lowered level of anxiety and a boost of oxytocin. High levels of oxytocin increase your overall mental well-being and affect your heart positively as well. Even a 20-second hug from your spouse can ease any anxiety and increase your happiness. It's no surprise, therefore, that physical intimacy fosters healthy communication between spouses. Remember to show affection every day. Even small gestures like a hug or a quick kiss will make you feel more connected to your partner. If you've been arguing a lot due to your communication issues, chances are you've distanced yourselves from each other over time. It might feel awkward to resume physical touching or speaking affectionately toward each other at first. However, as your connection strengthens, you and your partner will begin to show affection in a way that feels natural again.

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