Part II of the Art of Marital Conversation
Communicating with your spouse: do’s and don’ts
Talk face to face.
Anytime you are in a discussion with your spouse that is beyond the scheduling or surface level, do it face to face. If this is not possible, the phone will work, although this can limit the connection and increase the possibility of misunderstandings. Never try to cover deeper issues via email or text messages. Word of caution: At times face to face conversation CAN be too intense, an alternative to this is side by side. This allows you to be present but lessens some of the body language and facial expression messages. It’s a great approach to tough conversations (more on this in an upcoming post).
Turn off other distractions during the conversation.
If you’re working on the computer, minimize the work or better yet, shut the whole thing off. If you’re watching TV, turn it off. If you are afraid of missing something in the game, get Tivo.
Don’t answer the phone.
If it rings in the middle of the conversation, you have voicemail for a reason. Let it do its job.
Take the time to listen to their point of view.
You are only one part of the relationship. Consider their side of things and ask for clarity if you don’t get what they’re saying. You don’t have to agree with everything said to still love your spouse.
Forget about being right or wrong.
As soon as the discussion turns to who’s right and who’s wrong, you’ve both lost. If you have an insatiable need to always be right when it comes to your spouse, riddle me this: what’s it like to be married to a loser? If you have to always be right, that makes your spouse always wrong. It’s not about right or wrong most of the time.
Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing. ~Rollo May
The art of non-violent communication
Do you think it is possible to connect with what is alive in ourselves and in others from moment-to-moment? Dr. Marshall Rosenberg says yes. His non-violent communication techniques focus on how we express ourselves, how we hear those around us and how to resolve conflict by focusing our consciousness on what we are observing, feeling, needing, and requesting.
In order to connect on a deeper level, we have to check ourselves throughout the conversation. Often, whenever our emotions spike during the discussion, we will change the subject or attack the other person in order to help us feel better about whatever is going on at the moment.
My grandfather once said that when a person involved in a conversation raises their voice, it’s no longer about what best for all involved and the current situation. It’s about their power and their pride.
The art of conversation at a deeper level:
Focus on the intention.
Most marital conversations can be simplified down into one of two categories. A chance to be closer together or a chance to be my own person. Humans vacillate between being too close together or too far apart. Conversations are often used to either bring us closer together or create some space between us. If what you are really wanting is companionship, understanding, compassion, then say so outright. If on the other hand you are wanting some space to chart your own course, speak up. Both connection and separateness are necessary parts of every relationship (for more information on this subject check out this post or this Ebook, The Simple Marriage Matrix).
Seek compassionate connection.
This is done primarily by the conversations not being tied to a particular outcome, like being right or something you’d like the other person to do. Focus on being clear with your side of the conversation and then clearly hearing their side. This may mean you don’t agree. So what. You are two separate individuals. You are not going to see eye to eye on everything.
The conflict or issue may not be resolved, that’s not the point. A mutually satisfying outcome is where both people are heard and understood. Think of your conversations in terms of sex. When both people are satisfied, the connection is much deeper and lasting.
Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much. ~Robert Greenleaf
courtesy of Corey Allan at Simple Marriage