Marriage Mondays | Communication in Marriage: Creating Connecting Conversation

I feel lucky to have close friends who are counselors. They're so inspirational even when they don't know they're being so. They're full of all these nuggets of wisdom that are usually just so simple yet profound. I can think of a handful of my friends who are so gifted at this profession, and these next couple weeks, the blog is being graced by them!  Over the past couple years, I realized just through catch-up conversation with them, that there are actual formulas and ideas that are beneficial for all relationships and communication. I had never heard of these concepts before, and I wondered WHY!? They seemed so helpful, so I knew I definitely wanted my friends to share with us all. 

Because, y'all, it's really not rocket science! Today, Kimberly Galindo, a Licensed Professional Counselor & Certified Sex Therapist, and dear friend of mine who I met a little over a year ago in my home group from church is sharing a simple communication formula with us. She's got the warmest personality and the most sincere heart, and I truly wish you could hear her explaining this in person. You would adore her! I've loved getting to know her more this past year and knew she'd be perfect to share with us! I hope you all enjoy! 

Hello readers! Lindsay asked me to share some thoughts on communication with you. As you know, Lindsay is passionate about marriage and capturing its beauty not just behind the camera but relationally as well. As such, she asked me to share some thoughts with her readers about marriage and communication.  It’s a topic that is near to my heart as I often hear couples in my counseling room state that they feel so disconnected So many times, connection is the result of health in the communication process. So, let’s explore some thoughts on healthy communication.

Healthy communication is foundational to fostering connection in relationships. When we feel understood, heard, and validated by an empathic experience with another human being it is powerful. It breathes life into our souls and into the soul of the relationship. Alternatively, when we experience disconnect in communication we can feel so many unpleasant experiences like loneliness, anger, confusion, disappointment, and many more emotions that may lead us to further disconnection.

Building a healthy foundation of communication is vital to every relationship including the marriage relationship. So, how do we do this? First, we must start from the ‘’I” perspective. Speak to your own observations, thoughts, feelings, and needs. We cannot speak for another person and when we do, we create disconnection. I have yet to meet a human (myself included) that feels connected after hearing ‘’Well, YOU think, feel, need, should, etc.” We do not feel connected when the conversation starts with ‘’you.’’ So, start with “I” statements. For example, when an event occurs in the relationship, ask yourself a few questions. What did I observe? What do I think about that? What do I feel about it? Finally, what do I need or what request would I like to make?

When we start with the “I”, share it with our spouse, and then allow them to do the same we are pursuing connecting conversation. We must also align our goals for connection as well. Your goal does not have to be to agree, but rather to understand. Seek to understand what is happening for you, share that with your spouse, and then seek to understand what they are experiencing. We can do this through something called reflective listening. So, reflect back what you heard and ask if that is accurate. If it is not, then ask for clarity. Statements like ‘’so, when _____ happened, you thought ____, and felt ____. Is that correct?” are extremely helpful to pursuing understanding.

Pay close attention to feelings and emotions. What are you feeling? Share this with your spouse. What are they feeling? Do you understand the emotion fueling the conversation?  Without tuning into emotions and sharing them we are just participating in data exchange and that is not a connecting form of communication.

Below is a guide that may help in your next conversation where you need to understand and resolve a matter. It is called the Awareness Wheel and can be a very helpful tool to guiding conversations.

Remember, the goal of communication is understanding not agreement. Speak from the ‘’I’’ and the next time you find yourself feeling disconnected in conversation try using the Awareness Wheel or phrase “When ______, I think _____ , and I feel ______. I would like to ask ______ or I need ______.” This seemingly small change can lead to powerful connecting impact.

Give this a try in your next conversation. It may feel new or even a bit awkward at first, but it can be a powerful way to create connection in your relationship. 

Miller, Sherod, Phyllis Miller, Elam W. Nunnally, and Daniel B. Wackman. Talking and Listening Together: Couple Communication I. Littleton, Colo.: Interpersonal Communication Programs, 1991. Print.