The value of effective communication cannot be overstated. As a married couple, you absolutely must be able to talk to each other – and not just small talk, either. You should be comfortable sharing your fears and desires, and even beyond that type of communication, you should be able to talk about the relationship itself.
People sometimes mistake this concept of communicating about the marriage as only discussing the negatives, but that shouldn’t be the case at all. Talking openly about the state of your marriage must include the positives – otherwise the “discussion” becomes an ongoing series of complaints.
Ineffective communication can have a lot of detrimental effects, but one of the worst is creating skewed or unrealistic expectations.
We all have expectations of our partners – how they will act, the kinds of things they will say, how often they will want to have sex, maintaining household responsibilities, the list goes on and on – these expectations, though, are only partly based in reality, and can instead be a projection of how we’d like our partner to behave. The way to pull these expectations back into reality is to communicate them!
This is a twofold problem: on one hand, unspoken complaints or issues cannot be resolved without first addressing the issue in conversation, so if the communication is poor (even if an issue is actually addressed), we may develop an unrealistic expectation for the problem to be solved.
The other side of the issue comes directly from our individual personalities. Because we cannot read one another’s minds, we have to share what we’re thinking and feeling to remain connected. If the communication is lacking, there may be aspects of your partner’s personality that you aren’t even aware of – and if you aren’t aware of their motivators or hang-ups, you will develop an expectation for their behavior based on partial information – which can hardly be accurate.
Keeping the channels of communication open has so many benefits in a marriage, not only for staying connected, but also for simply knowing what to expect from each other. Everyone has their own internal struggles and stresses, and when we aren’t vocalizing them, our partners will fill in the gaps on their own, or misunderstand why we are doing what we do (or don’t do what we don’t do). When we understand each other’s motivation, we will better understand each other’s actions, as well as what to expect for the future.
Building effective communication is not necessarily the easiest thing in the world – it can be embarrassing and downright scary to get into the nitty-gritty of a marriage, but it is an absolute necessity. It’s ok to start slow. Start with the positives and go from there – your marriage will be stronger for it, and you’ll both be able to root your expectations for one another firmly in reality.
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com