So you've taken the big steps – you've fallen in love, said "I do," and moved in with your new bride – now how do you fireproof your marriage to withstand the challenges and struggles that life will inevitably throw your way? By far, the most important thing you can do to create and maintain a caring, supportive relationship s to work on communicating. Following these simple steps for improving your communication with your wife will ensure that your relationship will always be solid, stable, and supportive. Whether you are newly married or counting the decades together, these strategies are sure to improve your relationship.
- Open the lines of communication. The first thing that you need to do to fireproof your marriage is to practice communicating. While it seems like the simplest thing you do as a couple, it's amazing how many couples are unable to effectively communicate with each other, and it is impossible to fix any problems without fully understanding how your wife feels about them. Conversely, it's impossible for her to fix any problems if you don't tell her about them. Being (politely) open and honest about how you feel early in a relationship sets a foundation for good communication in the future.
- Understand that men and women communicate differently. There are always exceptions, of course, but by and large women tend to process their emotions and thoughts aloud, while men tend to do this processing internally before speaking. (Hence the stereotype that women talk too much and men talk too little.) This is an effect of how our brains are wired, and neither way is necessarily better than the other; they're just different techniques for achieving the same ends. Therefore, if it seems like your wife needs to talk all the time, don't feel frustrated – it's what she needs to do. Frequently, it ends up being that she might not even need you to do anything; just listening will be enough.
- Practice active listening. In the 1950's, psychologist Carl Rogers developed the idea of "active listening." What distinguishes active listening is that it asks the listener to understand not only the message of the words they're hearing, but also the speakers intentions and feelings. To do this, you'll need to pay attention to tone of voice and body language. Picking up on these clues will take your communication skills to the next level.
- Understand, then respond. All too often, especially in an argument, we respond before we fully understand what the other person is saying. Active listening helps a lot with this problem, but when communication becomes especially difficult, you need to do more. Therefore the next time you get into an intense discussion or argument, practice the following: before you respond with your point of view, summarize the last thing your partner said and ask if you understand exactly what she is saying. Concentrate on articulating how she if feeling, what she needs, and what (if anything) she is requesting you do. Something like this: "Okay, honey, it sounds like you're feeling frustrated that I didn't do the dishes tonight, and I'm getting the sense that you are also feeling the need for me to do more of the housework right now because your job is so demanding this month. Is that what you're feeling?" The simple act of taking time to fully understand what your partner is saying before you respond shows that you genuinely care about her and that you are seeking the best possible solution, not just trying to win the fight.
Practicing these four steps towards better communication will keep both you and your wife happy for years to come. Of course, these strategies only truly work if both partners practice them, so why don't you call your wife over right now and start talking about how you talk to each other? It may be one of the most valuable conversations you ever have.