Proper communication is absolutely essential to a healthy marriage.
When two people come together, they are two very different people. Very much in love. But from very different upbringings. Even if you had similar upbringings, you're still vastly different....with different ways of communicating and different expectations in life.
The only way to bridge that gap is to communicate effectively. No one is a mind reader, so in order to understand one another, communication is imperative.
The communication I am speaking of this week is verbal communication. Body language actually communicates much more than words, but for the sake of your time, I will stick to verbal communication today. But, ladies, stop rolling your eyes. Ok?! (That's written mostly to myself).
The biggest encouragement I can give to anyone is to share your expectations with your spouse.
As you are probably well aware, I love my birthday, and particularly, I love gifts on my birthday. If Brett never received another gift, he'd be fine. So early in our relationship, I let him know how important it is for me to receive a gift for my birthday (and Christmas).
A lot of women would think that selfish and crazy, but it is truly a gift to my husband. He wants to make me happy, so he appreciates knowing how to do that! Since his love language is acts of service, the way he shows love is by unloading the dishwasher or cleaning the house. While I totally appreciate those, receiving gifts is what fills my love tank, so it is important he knows how to truly love me.
My disclaimer is that, in sharing your expectations, they must be realistic and empowering to your mate. I shared with Brett my desire to receive gifts, and your desires will be something different. But I would never tell Brett I expect him to clean the toilets everyday. Does that make sense? When I say "share your expectations", I mean to clearly communicate genuine needs you have that you're counting on your spouse to fulfill.
Some big expectations worthy of discussing: how often to have sex, how much of your money you spend/save/give, what holidays/traditions look like, etc. But small expectations are just as important.
Talking through these before they come up is very important. Unless you talk about them, you don't truly know what the other person is thinking. You may not always get your way, but you will form compromises. As life circumstances change, your expectations will, as well. Keeping open lines of communication is so important.
My next encouragement would be to share your heart with one another, even when it's hard. There was a time when Caleb was about six weeks old that, for some reason, I thought Brett had kissed another girl at a wedding he attended. This was absolutely crazy, but I could not shake the feeling. Rather than continue to wrestle with it, I told him what I was thinking. I was so embarrassed to question his fidelity (he is such a man of character and integrity that it seemed hurtful). Of course, I was SO off. Yet, that lie lost its power once I voiced it to him.
There will be times where the thoughts of your heart are ugly, but sharing those is so valuable. Do not attack your spouse but talking through things is so freeing. I am not saying you have to speak every single thing that comes to your mind, but it is important to share your heart. There have been many times that I was just struggling....with parenting, a friend, a sin issue, etc. When I share those with Brett, I feel so much better and empowered to make changes.
When it comes to correcting your spouse, my encouragement is to pray for them a thousand times more than you correct them. There have been a few times in our marriage where I have had to ask Brett to change. But, most of the time, when I see an issue I think needs changing (after all, we're all imperfect), I spend a considerable amount of time in prayer before addressing the issue. Most of the time, God is faithful to resolve the issue...by either changing me or changing Brett. As I said, though, there are times when an issue needs to be addressed.
When talking through an issue, make sure to catch your spouse at a good time. During a football game, after a long day of work, or when the kids are screaming is NOT a good time. Also, talk about the issue before it arises. Don't wait for a conflict to discuss it. Being calm makes a world of difference. Speak in a respectful tone, and only discuss the issue at hand. Don't bring up a laundry list of offenses.
The last thing I will say about communication is to spend most of your words speaking life. Encourage, encourage, encourage. An atmosphere of encouragement does wonders for everyone, and I cannot say enough how important it is to build each other up.
Now....get to talking!!
How do you communicate effectively with your spouse??