- You or your partner doesn’t feel adored.
- You or your partner doesn’t feel heard.
- You or your partner doesn’t feel understood.
You can avoid all of these marital stressors by regularly having the 5 conversations outlined in this post. I’m thrilled to have Jennifer Gill Rosier, PhD, bring you the following post based on her research into the communication tactics that lead to a happy marriage. Jennifer is an assistant professor of communication studies at James Madison University, creator of the site JensLoveLessons.com, and author of the recently released Make Love, Not Scrapbooks. What follows are the 5 conversations she says all couples should have in order to grow closer and understand one another better. Next time you find yourself staring at your spouse over dinner wondering what the heck to talk about, bring up one of these topics.
AWESOME INFO YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS: Dr. Rosier will be hanging out in the comments area to answer all of your burning questions about marital communication. She’s also giving away a signed copy of her book to one lucky person who comments. The winner will be chosen by a random drawing noon Friday Aug. 19th.
The 5 Conversations Every Couple Must Have
By Jennifer Gill Rosier, PhD
Good communication– those exchanges where you feel more loved, respected, or secure–is vital to your marriage’s success. What should you be talking about? Below are five conversations that you can implement into your daily interactions to enhance your marriage.
The I Love You Talk
This one probably seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but unfortunately, many individuals let days, weeks, or even months go by without offering assurances to their partners. I cannot begin to express how extremely important it is to tell your partner, on a daily basis, how much you appreciate, adore, and need him or her. Communicating these things helps your partner feel like a significant part of your life, secure in your marriage, and valuable to you. And believe me, everyone wants and needs to feel this way.
The Sexual Likes & Dislikes Talk
Having an active and satisfying sex life is key to a healthy, happy marriage. And, one of the best ways to improve your sex life is to open the lines of communication between you and your partner. Studies have revealed that disclosing your sexual likes and dislikes to your spouse can improve your sexual and relationship satisfaction, bring you closer as a couple, increase feelings of intimacy and trust between the two of you, and even increase pleasure during sexual activities. Telling your partner what you like and dislike in the bedroom, however, can be scary and/or overwhelming. These feelings of apprehension are expected and completely acceptable. In order to ease your nerves about these talks and to increase your effectiveness when having this conversation, be sure to:
- Maintain a positive tone.
- Give clear descriptions of what you want and don’t want.
- Be sensitive to your partner’s feelings and perspective.
- Be realistic about what could actually be improved. In other words, avoid discussing topics that are not controllable like body shape or size.
- Regularly “check in” with your mate because sexual preferences do change over time.
The Daily Activity Talk
Talking and listening to each other about the day’s ups and downs can have a significant impact on the positive emotions and feelings of closeness you share in your relationship. Talking to your spouse about the positive aspects of your day is more than just small talk. It’s important. According to Drs. Hicks and Diamond (2008), asking your partner about his or her day may lead to increased feelings of happiness, closeness, and intimacy. And these advantages are not just limited to your end-of-day discussions. All of those other little chats through out the day count, too.
The I Want to Understand You Talk
Have you ever struggled to understand your partner? We have all felt this way at some point or another. Why did he respond like that? How was I supposed to know what she really meant? How did he get that from our conversation? How did she not understand my point of view? Believe me, I know the feeling.
Sometimes, these misunderstandings can be explained by taking a look at (and then being sensitive to) your partner’s past experiences, core personality traits, and upbringing. Gaining some perspective by putting yourself in your partner’s shoes is a great way to solve and avoid conflict. But, taking your partner’s perspective is only the first step. You also want your partner to understand you. Begin by explaining how something makes you feel. You might use the following sentences as a guide:
- “When you say things like _________, it makes me feel _____________.”
- “When you react like ___________, it makes me feel _______________.”
Then, give your mate a turn. And LISTEN to what he or she has to say. Really listen. Don’t interrupt. Once your partner finishes, tell your partner how you are trying to understand how he or she feels.
Next, you’ll want to discuss your game plan. What do the two of you need to work on? Note: this will not be one-sided. Both of you will need to work on something. Talk it out and even make pledges to one another about your plans to be better partners who are in tune with one another.
The Respectful Talk
Speaking to your spouse with respect is more of a mindset than it is a one-time conversation. Still it is absolutely vital to a happy marriage. If the two of you do not respect one another, your relationship will have some serious problems down the road. Respectful communication includes:
- Acknowledging one another’s thoughts and feelings.
- Having your partner’s back.
- Speaking to your spouse as if he or she is your equal
- Including your spouse in your life and in your decision about life (big decisions and smaller, everyday decisions).
- Asking (instead of telling) your spouse if he or she wants to do things.
- Speaking to your mate in the same manner that you would speak to a stranger. If you wouldn’t say it to a random person on the street, them you probably shouldn’t say it to the person you love.
On the other hand, respectful communication DOES NOT include criticizing your partner. Try to eliminate words like “never” or “always” from your vocabulary because these words are rarely true, are often exaggerated, and usually come just before a hurtful remark. It also doesn’t include belittling or demeaning your partner, making fun of your partner, treating your spouse like a child, bossing him or her around, threatening to leave the relationship (directly or indirectly), or giving ultimatums.
About Jennifer Gill Rosier, Ph.D.: Rosier is the creator of JensLoveLessons.com, an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at James Madison University, and author Make Love, Not Scrapbooks. Her broad scholarly research interests include communication skill development and relationship maintenance behaviors. Much of her current research focuses around examining the actual skills needed to effectively communicate about sex in romantic relationships and investigating the role that a wide variety of communication skills play in successful marriages that have experienced hardship (i.e. loss of a child, terminal illness diagnosis, raising multiples, etc.). In the future, she plans to publish two more books based on these two areas of research. Jennie is married to her favorite person on the planet, has beautiful boy/girl twins, actually likes change and trying new things, tries not to take herself (or life) too seriously, strongly believes that good social scientific research should improve the lives of others and should be accessible to the masses (like through her blog and this book), gets a huge adrenaline rush every time she steps into a classroom at James Madison University, highly enjoys sarcasm, and loves helping others enhance their communication and relationship skills.
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.