Communicating More Effectively with Your Spouse

Troy Todd, Ph.D., BCN

A deep, personal relationship, as sought in marriage, is often seen as the most desirable aspect of human existence. High expectations often predispose disappointment. However, with the development of good communication skills, this highly desired relationship can be realized.

The most reliable way for your spouse to know your needs is for you to tell them consistently, directly, and succinctly. In order to do this, you must know what your needs are and how to describe them in a way your spouse will understand.

To improve your understanding of your own needs, attempt to catalogue your needs in real time. As you go through the day, ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” and “What do I need to be content right now?” Write your answers down and notice that you begin to understand you needs more accurately. You may even discover you will be able to fulfill more of your needs yourself through simple modification of your behaviors.

Next, you will want to practice verbalizing your needs to others. The easier place to practice this will be with your friends or family of origin (mother, father, siblings), because you will naturally have less expectation in these relationships. Look for opportunities in normal interactions with these people to be more expressive to them about your needs. This should help you hone your ability to quickly and naturally express your needs to others.

While you are practicing your expression in more relaxed situations, you can work on modifying your method of expression to be better understood by your spouse. Observe your spouse expressing their needs; again, it is likely they will do this more easily with friends and members of their family of origin. It will also be easier for you to understand how they express themselves through observation instead of interacting with them because you will not need to be concerned with your response. Notice things like their word choice, intonation, body language, eye contact, and even the types of needs they tend to discuss.

When you notice an opportunity to express your needs to your spouse, prepare yourself by determining which needs are most important to convey at that time and recall the verbal and nonverbal methods they will best comprehend. Approach them at a time they seem most relaxed, maybe while doing something enjoyable to both of you. If you are expressing your needs and your spouse gets agitated, stop expressing yourself and disengage. Reengage as soon as possible, continuing this pattern with them to demonstrate you want their experience of understanding you to be pleasant for both of you.

As you become more comfortable expressing your needs to your spouse, try to increase the frequency of your communication. Begin sharing feelings and experiences you have had throughout the day with them. As you are working on things together, share with them your thought processes, so they can better learn how you see the world. This will also help them better express their needs to you. Following these steps will help you increase your confidence and the positive experience with your spouse, drawing you closer to the deep, personal relationship you both want.