The quality of a couple’s communication plays a significant role in how much mutual respect, understanding and physical closeness a couple will experience. According to a study published in the April 2010 issue of the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology," conversations that routinely contained validation, empathy and caring were essential components for couples in developing intimacy. For couples struggling with communication, new patterns of interaction can be learned and can increase relationship satisfaction.
Take a Quiz
In “The Marriage and Families Activities Workbook,” authors Dr. Ron Hammond and Barbara Bearnson present numerous quizzes designed to spark conversation across a broad range of relationship topics. The workbook also contains nearly one hundred self-assessments that poses questions each partner can answer on such subjects as family heritage and parenting styles. Couples can share and compare these self-assessments and relationship quizzes to gain new insight into their own and their partner's behavioral patterns and communication styles, helping to foster a sense of commitment and closeness.
Beginning a conversation is often difficult. An awkward beginning to a conversation -- especially for couples with communication difficulties -- has the potential to turn into misunderstandings or arguments. Changing marital conversation patterns is easier with a starting point. In their book “101 Conversation Starters for Couples,” Dr. Gary Chapman and Ramon Presson present conversation templates designed to help couples begin conversations in a positive way, as well as explore new conversational subjects like this one: “What do you remember about learning to drive?”
For one week, try to reframe every negative thought about your partner into something positive. Far too often a spouse only hears what is wrong, and in the absence of affectionate words, such a stream of negativity can take its toll on a marriage. Dr. Shruti Poulsen at Purdue University suggests that married couples make it a habit to share one positive thought about the other partner every day. This simple activity can foster closeness and trust, which in turn will improve communication.
Reflective listening is a tool couples use to gain a more complete understanding of their partner's feelings or frustrations. It's a technique that is particularly helpful for couples in conflict. Reflective listening requires the listener to "reflect back" what their partner says by asking“let me see if I am understanding you" and then paraphrase what the speaker has tried to communicate. If the listener has misunderstood, the speaker has the opportunity to clarify, and the technique minimizes the tendency to offer advice or interrupt each other. In addition, this activity helps the listener pay attention, and helps the spouse feels genuinely heard and understood. Like any other skill, reflective listening requires practice, but it can go a long way in improving communication between spouses.
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Social Support, Problem Solving, and The Longitudinal Course of Newlywed Marriage
- Family Relations: Understanding The One You Love: A Longitudinal Assessment of An Empathy Training Program for Couples in Romantic Relationships
- The Marriage and Families Activities Workbook; Ron Hammond, Ph.D. and Barbara Bearnson, M.S.
- 101 Conversation Starters for Couples; Gary Chapman, Ph.D. and Ramon Presson
- Purdue University: Relationships: Increasing the Positives in Your Relationship
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Listening--With Your Heart As Well As Your Ears
- Free online courses from Utah State University on “Communication, Conflict & Commitment”
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Self-Expansion and Flow in Couples' Momentary Experiences: An Experience Sampling Study
- Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy: Marital Satisfaction and Communication Behaviors During Sexual and Nonsexual Conflict Discussions in Newlywed Couples: A Pilot Study
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