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6 Steps to Build Positive Communication in Your Marriage

Dr. Yvette Stupart is a clinical counselor and educator. She gives insights on how to experience emotional health and relational well-being.

The success of your marriage depends on how well you and you spouse communicate with each other.

The success of your marriage depends on how well you and you spouse communicate with each other.

A healthy marriage enhances your well-being, and good communication is an essential component of healthy and satisfying relationships. For it is through the communication process that you share information, ideas, and feelings.

The success of your marriage depends to a large degree on how well you communicate with your spouse. Your communication is not just verbal, but also includes nonverbal behaviors such as your facial expressions and body language.

Open and honest communication encourages spouses to express themselves. Such communication patterns assist you to verbalize your hopes, and your expectations of one another. Also, it is through communicating that you can work through the areas of potential conflicts that you identify.

If you read this article on improving communication in your marriage, you will get a better understanding of what communication is and how you can improve your communication patterns. Then you could build trust in your marriage and begin to see positive changes.

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply."

— Roy T. Bennett

What Is Communication?

We use communication as a medium to share information, needs, concerns, and feelings with each other. Communication begins with what the sender wishes to convey, and only the sender knows his or her intentions, and this must be communicated to the listener.

Various factors could affect the communication process including the sender’s mood, or noise in the environment. Thus the person receiving the message must decode what the person is saying. According to relationship expert John Gottman, it creates an interpersonal gap, when the sender’s intentions differ from the effect on the receiver.

What is more, such gaps could result in dissatisfaction in close relationships, such as marriage, and hinder a rewarding partnership from the onset. It is important, then, that you try to reduce these interpersonal gaps and rebuild your marriage relationship.

An Argument-Free Marriage?

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is essential to close relationships such as marriage, and helps to develop intimacy in your relationship. For example, as you and your spouse reveal personal information about yourselves, self-disclosure, the intimacy in your relationship improves.

Miller and Perlman (2008) explains that self-disclosure that fits the situation could lead to liking and contentment in close relationship. They also point out that this reciprocal self- disclosure builds trust in the relationship.

Nonverbal Communication

Along with your spoken words, are a range of nonverbal actions that convey messages. Your nonverbal behavior gives information about your moods and what you mean by what you say. For example, if you are upset with your husband or wife, your facial expression is likely to show it.

Also, your nonverbal behaviors towards your spouse show when you are interested in what he or she is saying, and give cues to continue the conversation. Nonverbal communication consists of many components, such as facial expressions, body movement, and touch. You can tell when your spouse is happy, for example, when they are smiling.

As a couple, you share an intimate relationship, and so you act differently toward each other than you would towards a stranger or one of your acquaintances. Body movement goes with and supports your verbal communication, and helps you to convey what you mean. Also, physical contact with your spouse can have meaning, for example, your touch shows closeness and affection.

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Find time for conversations which involves both you verbal and nonverbal communication.

Find time for conversations which involves both you verbal and nonverbal communication.

6 Steps to Improve Your Communication

If you and your spouse find it difficult to say what you mean to each other, this could have an adverse effect on your marriage. Make your relationship a priority, and practice communicating effectively with your spouse. It doesn't just happen, and so it is going to take effort on the part of both of you.

1. Practice Active Listening

Effective listening is a key ingredient in healthy communication. Set aside uninterrupted time each day to listen to each other. As you actively listen to each other, this increases understanding and rapport between you.

Pay attention when your spouse is speaking, and make a conscious effort to hear the complete message he or she is sending. For example, turn off the television or radio when your spouse is speaking to you.

2. Use "I" Statements to Make Requests

Instead of using “you” statements which could come across to your spouse as demanding or judgmental, try using “I” statements to communicate your needs.

Be sure to communicate your thoughts and feelings clearly and directly. When you do, you are likely to get a more positive response from your spouse.

3. Practice Empathy

Empathy is accurately identifying the feelings and experiences of your spouse. You demonstrate empathy when you communicate an understanding of your partner’s feelings in a particular situation.

Try to understand your spouse’s viewpoint. He or she wants to be heard and understood. When you and your spouse meet these needs, the result is more healthy communication patterns, greater intimacy, and a higher level of marital satisfaction.

Learn Skills to Improve Your Communication

4. Show Respect and Affirm Your Spouse

It is important to express appreciation for your spouse’s strengths and always remember the qualities that attracted you to him or her earlier in your relationship. For example, relationship expert John Gottman, and his colleague, Nan Silver, in their book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, encourage couples to select one hour a week to talk about their relationship. Couples should begin by talking about the things which went right and express appreciation in specific ways.

Be careful what you say, and use the right tone to convey your message. Use thoughtful words and affirm your spouse, and give him or her the respect he or she deserves. It is important that you accept your spouse, and don’t try to change him or her. Of course, this will be reflected in how you speak with your partner.

5. Pay Attention to Your Nonverbal Behavior

Make sure that your facial expressions, body language, and the tone of your voice reflect what you are saying. Research conducted by Professor Albert Mehrabian indicates that people communicate through tone of voice and body language more than they do through words.

As you develop an awareness of the signs and symbols of body language, you can better understand your spouse, and communicate more effectively with him or her. At the same time, your body language reveals your feelings and meanings to your spouse.

6. Spend Quality Time Together

Spend time together, as quality time is important to nurture your relationship. For example, when you have shared hobbies, this gives you more time together. So take interest in what your spouse does, and take the opportunity to spend enjoyable time together.

On another level, you also need time to discuss issues or problems in the relationship. But this should not be a time for blaming, but to find common solutions to enhance your marriage. relationships.

John Gottman Answers Questions on Making Relationships Work

Summary of Steps to Build Positive Communication Patterns

  • Practice active listening
  • Focus on your spouse, avoid distraction
  • Use "I' messages
  • Show compassion
  • Demonstrate respect and affirm your spouse
  • Give empathetic responses
  • Recognize nonverbal messages
  • Practice attending skills
  • Avoid the blame game
  • Be willing to say, "I'm sorry,"
  • Spend time together

Final Thoughts

Communication is an essential ingredient to happy marriages. It improves the intimacy which holds your marriage through good and challenging times. Effective communication skills do not come naturally, and so you will need to take steps to develop them.

While couples communicate with each other differently, there are some important features of healthy communication that includes active listening, empathy, and even humor. What is important is that you and your spouse are committed to improve your communication as your marriage progresses through different stages and phases.

If you want to share your love for a lifetime, then healthy communication is an essential ingredient.

References and Further Reading

Federal Occupational Health (2004). Life Care Guide: Tips to a healthy marriage. Accessed July 13, 2013.

Miller, R.S. & Perlman, D. (2008) Intimate relationships (5th ed.). New YorK, NY: MacGraw-Hill.

Saisan, J., Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2013). Relationship help. Accessed November 5, 2013

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Yvette Stupart PhD


Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on June 06, 2014:

Thanks for you comment Jeannie. When we include past problems in present conflict, this makes it more difficult to resolve.

Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on June 05, 2014:

Communication in any relationship can be very difficult. I have a bad habit of saving my best comebacks and things that annoy me until one really big fight, and then bringing it all up. That is probably not the best way to communicate. I am working on that.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on April 02, 2014:

Thanks dis-cover. I'm happy you found the suggestions on improving communication in marriage helpful.

Nikolic Predrag from Serbia, Belgrade on April 02, 2014:

Thank you Yvette for sharing this great suggestions with us. Communication builds stronger connections. Great advices at one place. Voted up!!!

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on March 26, 2014:

Thanks DDE, I'm happy that you found the suggestions helpful. I agree, communication is a critical ingredient in marriage relationships, and all other aspects of marriage are dependent on it.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 26, 2014:

Communication is the key to all relationships without communication the relationship you have in a marriage can go the wrong way. Great suggestions.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on February 16, 2014:

Thank you CrisSp for visiting my hub and for your positive comments.

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on February 15, 2014:

Keys to remember: Active listening, empathy and humor. I couldn't agree more on that.

Very well presented article and lots of good advice to improve communication in marriage. I had a good read.

Thank you.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on February 13, 2014:

Thanks WriterJanis. Our non-verbal communication including body language is sometimes overlooked. But it is an important ingredient in promoting effective communications patterns in our relationships.

Janis from California on February 13, 2014:

Good advice, particularly about the body language.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on January 22, 2014:

Thanks Sheri Faye. Effective communication is critical in any relationship. For marriage relationship to bloom and intimacy to improve, couples must take steps to build communication.

Sheri Dusseault from Chemainus. BC, Canada on January 22, 2014:

Great advice for marriage and any relationship really! Thanks.....good reminder!

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on November 11, 2013:

Thanks Pamela99, I'm happy you found my article on communication in marriage helpful.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 10, 2013:

I agree that healthy communication in a marriage is essential. I really like your explanations and the list was very thorough. Voted up.

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on November 09, 2013:

Thanks MsDora, communication is so important in every the stage of marriage.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 08, 2013:

Very wise counsel for married couples. Your suggestions are very practical, and I am sure will be very helpful. Voted Up!

Yvette Stupart PhD (author) from Jamaica on November 07, 2013:

Denise I agree, effective communication takes effort. While it might be easier to communicate during the honeymoon period, as marriages progress it will take the commitment of spouses to improve their communication patterns. Thanks for sharing your valuable insights.

Thanks FlourishAny, I'm happy you found the tips helpful.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 07, 2013:

Sensible and practical suggestions for improving communication. Very well done.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on November 07, 2013:

Healthy communication in marriage is vital to its success and these tips are right on! We have found, in our marriage, that it is something that doesn't just happen automatically. It takes time and effort, and a focus on the other person's happiness. We let them know how important they are to us when we take the time to communicate.

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