If you would like to have a better marriage, this article is for you. Let’s talk about leadership at home, specifically communication with your spouse. Think about this question for a minute before reading on: If there was one thing you could improve about your marriage, what would it be?
I recently asked this question to a lady who was struggling with her marriage. She could not answer because there were many things causing her distress in her marriage. While I don’t know the specifics of your relationship, I can say with confidence that the key to unlocking any problem between people is healthy communication. So, if there was only one area you could select to improve, choose communication with your spouse.
As a family doctor I see many people with depression and anxiety because of failed marriages and dysfunctional homes. How do I recommend mending a marriage? Two tracks: spiritual and relational. As a Christian, I know that if a person follows the teachings of Jesus, there will be nothing but healing. On the relational front, I encourage you to focus on improving your communication. If you can discuss any issue with your spouse—from the trivial to the sensitive—in calm, affirming way, then together you can resolve the tension between you.
COMMUNICATION MUST BE INTENTIONAL.
If there is one principle I can stress about communication, it is that good communication is not automatic. One must be deliberate in keeping communication healthy with anyone they lead, anyone important in their life, and certainly their spouse. What does that mean practically? Do not leave it for chance. We must constantly think about it, plan and grow our communication skills, and seek advice on how we can improve our ability to communicate.
One common complaint I hear, mostly from women, is that men do not like to talk. If that seems to be your situation, I recommend that you choose a time when both of you have a moment of calm connection and say something like, “Honey, you know how much I love you. I want us to have a strong, healthy, life-long relationship. I don’t see how that can happen if we don’t have healthy, regular, deep communication. What would you think if we set time aside just to talk?” Remember that if you are a person who excels in bearing your soul and expressing your feelings, fears, and needs, and the other person cannot for whatever reason, start small. Maybe five minutes, but do it regularly and make sure this time is affirming to your spouse.
Don’t blame your spouse; lead your spouse. Help your spouse. Take ownership to make sure communication is always healthy.
COMMUNICATION MUST BE REGULAR.
How often should you have good communication with key people in your life? As often as needed to keep the connection strong. Here is the rule of thumb for me: “daily chat, weekly dive.” Find opportunities to connect every day to talk, text, FaceTime, etc. Share the sensitive, fear-producing moments, as well as the joys of your day. Then find a time weekly to ask each other about your deeper thoughts and allow one another time to open up.
COMMUNICATION IS BEST WHEN EMOTIONS ARE CALM.
We must not communicate when we are upset or highly emotional. One may argue that it is important to show frustration if we are frustrated, and anger if we are angry. We must tread carefully here. High emotional states cause us to reason poorly and speak hurtfully.
When something is bothering me, I want to express myself in a calm way to the people I care about. So I try not to share my feelings with them while I am frustrated or angry. Why? Three simple reasons. One, when I am emotional, I strongly believe I am right. Many times after I calm down, I see things in a different (and often more accurate) way. Two, when I am emotional, I cannot always control what comes out of my mouth. Therefore, I tend to be more hurtful. And three, when I am emotional, it can be a catalyst for the other person to escalate their emotions too, and then we get into an argument trying to prove our own points. This never gets us anywhere productive. Rather, we usually end up in a worse place than we were before we started.
COMMUNICATION MUST GO DEEP.
A few months ago, my wife and I started going on weekly dates. Each week one of us surprises the other with plans for our date. These are fun! After a while however, we started noticing that although we are having fun and connecting and making memories during these outings, we are not going deep in how we are feeling and how we are doing.
What does going deep mean? Sharing from the heart. Going deep for me means sharing with Joanne what battles I am going through, or maybe things that are concerning me, or even bothering me. Deep communication does not have to be dramatic, where each time you must bring out the tissues because someone is crying. Depth of communication creates empathy, and empathy usually leads to people treating each other with dignity and honor.
I hope that you are inspired today to be intentional with your communication with your spouse, or really, anyone you lead. Remember that no leadership success outside your home can substitute for leadership failure in your home.
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