Every couple begins their marriage with big hopes and dreams for their life together - envisioning a strong relationship built on trust, love and respect. However, over time, spouses can get weighed down by the hectic pace of life and laundry list of responsibilities, and lose sight of their marriage goals. The erosion of a marriage rarely happens overnight; instead, it can most often be attributed to the gradual breakdown of communication between spouses. Here are three ways you can protect your marriage.
Share Your Expectations
Everyone steps into marriage with their own set of expectations and assumptions, and these are often built on experiences from one's family. Have you ever found yourself examining your spouse's actions and inwardly saying, "that's not the way my parents did it". Often, we expect our partner to behave a certain way, and when their actions don't match our expectations, resentment begins to build. It's important to realize that conflict and miscommunication occur in every healthy marriage; the cracks in a relationship only begin to appear when we do not openly share our expectations.
Take the time and effort to identify the small and big issues that are causing a rift in your marriage. Often, the communication breakdown in a marriage begins with small disagreements that are brushed aside, and left unsettled, escalate into significant issues over parenting styles, financial matters and the like. Openly discussing even the smallest disagreements, leads to healthier and transparent communication with your spouse in the long run.
Let's face it - even couples with thriving marriages have disagreements regularly. The key to a successful marriage is learning to have a fair fight, where husband and wife can openly share their thoughts and feelings in a respectful way. These are some tips to having healthy conflict.
Avoid "you" statements. Using phrases like "you never" and "you always" is counter-productive. Your spouse will feel like you are blaming them for the situation, and become even more guarded and defensive in their communication with you. Try positive statements that begin with "I feel", such as "I feel extremely tired having to come home after work and still do the housework". This gives your spouse the opportunity to empathize with you, and you can both work together to find a constructive solution.
Make a 'critique sandwich'. Relationship experts advocate this method as a way to clearly communicate your thoughts, without being too harsh on your spouse. Begin and end your conversation with positive comments, with your critique included in the middle. With this, your spouse is assured that you do appreciate them and will be more open to hearing what you have to say as well.
For some couples struggling to communicate with each other, counseling can provide some much needed help. Opting to seek guidance and advice from a qualified expert is a good sign. While your relationship might currently be in a crisis, you are both willing to work through your problems, and are likely to emerge with a stronger marriage than before. Do not be discouraged if you do not see instant results when you begin marriage counselling - it can be a long process, but you will see changes in the long term as you work together with your spouse to find healing and resolution.
If you find yourself far away from the marriage and relationship you first envisioned with your spouse - take small steps to repair and rebuild your relationship. Using the communication tips and tools suggested, seek to connect with your spouse on a consistent basis. Over time, you will find that both of you will be better communicators and have a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other.
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