In the course of events, every marriage has its ups and downs; it’s how we handle them that determines the course of the relationship.
When difficult times arise, the question that many married men and women should ask themselves is: “Will we steer through these perilous waters into a bright future on the open sea, or will we run aground in a shallow harbor?”
Many times, the answer to that question depends in great deal upon one’s own approach to a problem or disagreement.
Often, when marriages present to counselors, there are common concerns which seem to distress relationships. These include: communication, finances, intimacy, time, power and respect. In almost all cases, communication comes up. It is one area in which all people can continually improve their abilities and relationship performance. It is also essential for any relationship to function, because if one spouse is feeling unheard, undervalued or unloved, the result is a breakdown in the trust that is the foundation for any relationship.
Married couples often make the mistake of believing that the relationship is at the mercy of fate, fleeting feelings, or external factors (such as money or time.) It’s important to remember that although these are all issues that affect our relationships, each individual actually has a great deal of power to steer a desperate situation into a very healthy outcome.
How can you do this?
1. Keep a goal in mind. When you approach your spouse about a problem, take careful consideration of what you will say. Before you make a statement, envision in your mind what outcome you want for the relationship, and ask yourself if what you are going to say is steering you in the direction that you desire to go.
2. Plan. Many times having a list that defines the key issues you want to discuss will offer a great deal of needed structure to your discussion and keep you from going off track.
3. Alone time. Set a time apart for the discussion, so that you are both able to fully focus on the issue at hand. Do whatever you can to minimize distractions. If you can’t get out of the house, give your children a project to do in the other room or put very young children down for a nap.
4. Listen. Actively listen to your partner and paraphrase what you hear them saying back to them periodically throughout the discussion. Although this may seem redundant, it’s actually quite necessary for successful communication. Offering this type of feedback will ensure you have not misinterpreted something, and will also encourage your spouse by reinforcing to them that you care about what is being said.
Using these few tips will provide a good foundation for good communication and when the need arises, allow you to re-set your navigation controls. It’s most important that you know you don’t have to feel like your relationship is at the mercy of external forces, you have the ability to take positive steps and affect the course.