Communication in Marriage: 3 Rules for Effective Communication

Effective couples communication can make life a lot easier for you and your partner. But communicating effectively doesn’t just happen—it takes effort and certain communication strategies that should be practiced.

Here are three communication strategies that have helped many of the couples I work with.

1. The clarity rule

This rule applies to both the speaker and listener. As the speaker, your job and responsibility is to make your message as clear as possible so your spouse/partner can understand the gist of your message. When discussing an important issue, it’s crucial to stay on topic and not get derailed. As the listener, you seek clarity when you are uncertain about the central points your partner is trying to make. This is the time to ask questions and get more information if needed.

Violating the clarity rule furthers misunderstandings and increases frustrations.   

2. The validation rule

This rule is for the listener. Your responsibility here is to show your spouse/partner that you understand what s/he is communicating—that you “get” the emotional impact and meaning of what is going on for your spouse/partner. This is an extremely important part of effective couples communication and should be practiced over and over again. It is up to the speaker to determine if s/he feels truly understood by the listener and if not, the speaker should  give the listener as much information as is needed to reach the desired level of understanding.  

3. The what-would-be-helpful rule

This rule is for the listener and is used when you (as the listener) feel uncertain about how to respond/react to what the speaker has just communicated. You might ask, “What do you need from me that would be helpful?” or “Is there something I can do for you?” as a way to implement this communication skill. Too often people assume what the other person needs rather than checking in with him/her by applying this rule.

Remember, the goal is to practice these strategies often enough so they become a natural part of your communication toolbox. And don’t give up if you don’t see any immediate benefits–persistence and patience are key when it comes to building a healthy marriage/relationship.

Wishing you and your relationship all the best,

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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