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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

“We both want to get back to the basics of loving communication”

Nurturing loving communication skills is important to any marriage, whether it’s in trouble or even if it’s doing OK. Here are a few tips.

Be great listeners. In most conversations, especially heated ones, people aren’t really listening; they’re formulating what they’re going to say next. That’s so sad because we all have deep, mostly unmet needs to be heard. A man once showed up late for a meeting apologizing, “I’m sorry but on my way here I ran into a friend and that darned guy just wouldn’t stop listening to me!” Be like that friend to each other. Try this: In a quiet (non-heated) moment ask something like, “So how are you really doing?” Then listen closely with loving interest, even if it’s painful to hear what you hear.

When discussing difficult things, use “I” statements and avoid “you” statements. For example, say, “It bothers me when I see wet towels on the floor” and not, “It’s inconsiderate of you to leave wet towels on the floor.” It’s a slight difference, but it makes a big difference. Because “I” statements by their nature are less confrontational, they’re more likely to keep tensions low and lead to peaceful solutions.

Be willing to suffer silently for each other. Not everything bothersome deserves to be brought up. So sure, maybe talk about those wet towels on the floor every now and then. But consider that it might be far harder for your spouse to change that habit than for you to lovingly endure it. A key ingredient to marital success is “bearing with one another in love.” (Eph 4:2)

Always be kind. Never speak hurtfully, even when parts of you are hurting and angry. So if you’re having a serious disagreement, keep reminding yourself that the other is God’s beloved child and your beloved spouse.

Keep learning how to be the best communicators. Top athletes don’t leave their performance to chance. They study their strengths and weaknesses. They listen to coaches and trainers. They read books. They practice, practice, practice. Take the same determined approach to your communication skills, even if you’ve got a pretty good marriage. Why? Because the biggest obstacles to a great marriage are the ingrained habits of a pretty good marriage.

Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.

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