11 Keys to Effective Communication in Marriage

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Silence. It’s all we heard. During lunch, at the museum, throughout our entire day in Seattle.

It was like the Twilight Zone episode I saw as a kid, where a man went into a realm where he was invisible, people worked, did what they needed…but never communicated. The man screamed and shouted, trying to get everyone’s attention…but they were like zombies…

Silent.

And even as a child, I remember thinking how strange it would be, some individualized existence where everyone is silent, separated from society, unable to communicate with the people right in front of them.

So, on the way home from Seattle I asked my husband, “What are some of the things that you see as being effective to keeping communication going after twenty-five years of marriage?”

For there is a myth; talking is an extrovert thing, for certain personality types, or even saved alone for those who are verbal processors. Not true.

Communication is really about loving the person in front of you more than your phones, meals, egos or anything else that may hinder or distract you.

Talking and listening strengthens a marriage and is the core foundation to any healthy marriage.

My husband and I are far from perfect but we have witnessed…couples who are willing to talk about issues are more likely to be married longer and are happier than couples who clam up, stuff, or stonewall each other.

So, here is the list my husband and I came up with of how to continue to enhance unstoppable conversation between you and your spouse.

  1. Silence and put your phone away when you are together – It’s so easy to hide in our phones when we don’t want to face issues, when stressed, tired, or we just want to retreat, justifying it as a means of escapism. But choosing a screen over the one right in front of you will damage a relationship every. single. time. Put it away.
  2. Compliment in public, correct in private – This is a quote from our pastor. We LOVE it and use it often. Nothing will silence a spouse like correcting them, “guiding them”, intimidating, or belittling them in public. Correction is done when no one is looking. When we are with family or friends, lavishly compliment your spouse and see how it build trust, respect, igniting self-confidence and communication.
  3. Check your heart – We all carry quiet, unspoken thoughts about our spouses. In aquaintance relationships, we can mask those thoughts. But, when it comes to our spouses,happy-couple-embracing what’s in our heart will come out, in nagging, subtle “hints”, rolling of the eyes, snidey comments, or ugly truths shouted from the top of your lungs in a ragging fight. Be careful what you think about your spouse. Have a humble view of yourself, not exhalting yourself in position over the one you are marriage to. Ask God often for His heart for your spouse, to see them as He sees them. For out of our hearts our mouths will speaks. Edify your heart, keeping it close to God’s word, making it safe for your spouse to share.
  4. “I am sorry” isn’t a cuss word – When I first got married, it was painful to say, “I am sorry”. I was so subborn and prideful. But, as the years have passed, I realize these three words are some of the most important we ever say. When we have faultered, acknowledge, confess and in doing so we keep repairing the relationship. Bridges of repentance make for effortless conversations. Your spouse will trust you, and words will just naturally flow when our spouse sees we are humble and honest about our shortcomings.
  5. Fill up your spouses love-tank – If you haven’t read, “The 5 Languages of Love”, it’s a must read for any marriage. When your spouse’s love tank is filled, they will be more likely to want to engage and communicate. Selflessness and service is a key to honoring the one God put before you. Making sure your spouse’s needs are a priority turns a bumpy, side road of silence, to an easy driving freeway of communication. Try it.
  6. Tear down the walls – Again, this is about the heart. As my husband and I were talking, we have noticed couples will “walled off rooms” in their hearts for things they won’t talk about. Thing is,one dead-bolted room turns into another, and before you know, year later, your spouse is standing in the entry way of your heart, and you never get past “hi’s” or “hello’s”. Don’t be afraid to discuss hard topics, expose your heart and vulnerablities, fears, doubts, and dreams. The greatest advice we were ever given was to work through each topic even if we have to talk well into the morning. Conversation is hard if we have vaulted hearts and won’t let people or their words come join us. Life was never meant to be lived alone, and hearts were created to love, not just to be bolted shut, filled with rooms no one can ever enter. 
  7. Make space to talk – For us, this isn’t really relevant because we talk constantly; while cooking, changing babies, in the car, whenever we are together. But, I realize some people aren’t like this, and it is a good idea (especially if you have trouble communicating) to set aside time (without children) to look your spouse in their eyes and talk. Eat a meal, get a babysitter and set aside uninterrupted time to talk transparently. Your marriage and children will thank you later.
  8. Listen as much as you talk – Often in marriages one can be the chatter box and the other more quiet. If you wonder if you are too quiet or too verbatious, try considering if you talk equally as much as you listen? If not, maybe you need to step back and make space for the other person in the marriage.
  9. Play together and laugh together – I wish my husband and I would have known this sooner, but laugher has a way of opening the heart, tenderizing us and making us vulnerable. Play has the power to break down walls, letting those we are having fun with, closer to us, in more ways than one. Try getting out, doing something different, enjoying each other and your family, and watch conversations just naturally start flowing. Laughter and play has a power to enhance communication, giving you and your spouse a common theme and fun-loving memories. Life is too short to take it too seriously.
  10. Ask great questions and truly listen for the answer…then ask more questions – We see this with Jesus in His relationships. He knew everything, and yet, He asked people awedding-rings-on-pillow ton of questions. Questions draw people out, making them think and really engaging them in relationship. Questions are always a great conversation starter. But the key is to actually listen and then thougtfully ask even more questions afterwards, listening to hear, not just to respond.
  11. Rid your heart of offense – This is the #1 suggestion both me and my husband had. If you read anything, please read this. From what we have seen, most people stop talking because one or both people in the marriage have felt some kind of offense from the other. One ridicules and blames, doesn’t listen, is prideful and thinks they are perfect, making it unsafe for the other person to talk. One person might have been hurt or lied to, didn’t agree with, or somehow offended the other. When we are offended, we cannot love and when we cannot love, the first sign of a strained relationship is that we stop talking. Ask God to help you forgive, trust, talk through, and rebuild the broken boundaries/issues in your relationship. Once you do, you might just find conversations flowing again, like a dam released, where clean mountain waters start streaming effortlessly as a result of forgiveness and trust.

We all know the Twilight Zone is intriguing to watch. But as social beings none of us should ever have to live life alone or sitting silent across the table from the one we’ve pledged our life to.

Hope you’ve enjoyed some of the communication starters that have worked for our marriage. We would love to hear your suggestions for healthy communication. (Feel free to share in the comments)

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Jen Avellaneda

Jen is an adoptive, foster, & bio mom to trans-racial family. She speaks, writes, & passionately advocates for the orphan domestically & internationally with her husband of twenty-five years.
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16 Comments

  1. It’s so important to keep talking… even, and maybe especially, when you don’t feel like it. My husband and I recently pushed through a time of tension only because we kept talking. It sounds counter productive, but at one point, i suggested that we start an email chain with each other so we could choose our words carefully and take time to think through our responses. It actually allowed us the space to work out some things “in print” and that cleared the way to some great face to face discussion that cleared the air of some things that had built up over time. It may not be optimal for everyone, but it sure was great for making some “space” while we keep on talking. Thanks for your post!

    1. Love this line Karen,”It’s so important to keep talking… even, and maybe especially, when you don’t feel like it.” We so agree! Also love your e-mail chain idea! We’ve used texting and have also found written conversations are great because there is no “raising your voice”, and time to thoughtfully express yourselves before emotionally reacting! Thanks for the excellent ideas!
      Jen Avellaneda recently posted…One Step To Greater Freedom This YearMy Profile

  2. wonderful tips, Jen. We like to take walks and talk. Also, one of the things I’ve learned to do in our 25 years of marriage is just to say,”hey, can we talk about (this)?” So much easier to be forthright with your need to communicate more clearly, than it is to wish you communicated differently. :) Great article, thanks for sharing.
    Brenda recently posted…If My People, 4th EditionMy Profile

  3. Yes! We will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary in May, and I totally agree with your points here :) We all know that communication is key, but being intentional about it is so vital! Thanks for sharing… stopping by from #CoffeeForYourHeart

  4. These are great tips, Jen – and I’m thinking through a couple in particular and how they might have affected my marriage in the past couple of years. Such good food for thought – thank you!

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