Effective Communication in Marriages and Families
In order to have loving and successful relationships, it is important to
learn how to openly converse and discuss. It is especially important to have effective communication in marriages
Many couples fail to create a positive model for discussion and therefore marriages fail or children don’t
receive the proper example to assist them in their future relationships, therefore perpetuating an unhealthy
In order to set forth a terrific framework for marital and family discussions, it is important to remember the
Listening Physically and Emotionally
Being able to not only hear and repeat what is being said but to emotionally listen is a key component to
successful communication. Every individual chooses words which may or may not clearly define their meaning.
For example, a child who is not as quick or sure about how to communicate their emotions will “act out” in order
to express themselves. They may throw a temper tantrum or do things they know will get them into trouble. In
essence, this behavior is simply a calling out for attention.
A parent who is in tune to their child and listening to their emotional state will be able to address the root
of the problem rather than get angry or punish a child for their behavior. While throwing a temper tantrum isn’t
something which should be condoned, neither is ignoring the child’s obvious need for connection.
Another example is a husband may say, “We don’t have the money for that!” and the statement may cause his wife
to be defensive and say, “You are always so cheap!” Both partners are not connecting in any degree. The husband was
trying to express his stress of a financial situation and the wife rather than understand, was quick to jump on the
The husband could have said, “Well, we have to pay the mortgage this week so that puts us in a tight spot but
when I receive my bonus next month, let’s do it then.” Or the woman could have responded by saying, “I understand
we have to budget ourselves, when do you think a good time will be?” Both statements are open for discussion and
don’t shut the other person down, burst their bubble or make them feel uncared for.
Many people have expectations that by now, their partner should be able to know what they mean and intuit their
needs. This isn’t always the case, although it is great when it happens. For example, a woman may grouchily tell
her husband, “Your laundry is on the bed and I’m tired!”
When what she wanted to say perhaps is, “I work really hard around here today and am feeling the need to be
appreciated right now.” Most likely he would have responded with, “Don’t snap at me!” or “What’s your problem?”
When he should have simply said, “Are you okay? What can I do to help?” In either negative case both partners feel
misunderstood and expect something unfairly.
The same goes for children in the house. If a child is doing something obnoxious, a parent’s reaction is
annoyance and perhaps to reprimand them rather than understand the reasons behind their actions. A child doesn’t
know mommy or daddy had a bad day or are tired and want to be left alone for awhile.
Parents should find better ways to let their children understand what is going on so they can make positive
choices. “I know you want to play sweetie but I just got home from work and need a few minutes to rest because I am
tired okay? Once I’m ready I will come and play with you” would be a proper response. Of course the important thing
is to follow through.
During conflicts at home it is especially important to have effective communication in marriages and
families. How disputes are handled, negotiated and resolved will ultimately create a roadmap not only for the peace
within the home but the way in which children will handle conflicts outside the home.
If yelling, name calling and throwing things is the general pattern within the home, you can be certain the
children will follow suit and soon be out of control as they express what they are being taught. Setting an example
will allow your children to navigate through the challenges in their life with a better coping technique when
In order to resolve conflict, these steps must be followed with each individual within the household:
1. Listen carefully to the speaker addressing the conflict.
2. Repeat what was said and formulate your understanding of what they said.
3. Express first your openness to solve the problem and then discuss your thoughts on the matter.
4. Allow the other person to elaborate on the conflict and/or release frustration.
5. Empathize with the person with whom you are speaking by relating and acknowledging what they are FEELING
and not what they are SAYING. Ask them to clarify anything you may not understand.
6. Find a loving solution or compromise.
Here is an example of these steps in play. Susie is upset with Gerald because he works all the time and doesn’t
spend quality time with her.
Susie says, “I am feel disconnected from you and we never spend any time together!”
Gerald says, “So you are upset because you feel neglected because I have been working a lot?”
Gerald says, “Well, I love you so much and never want you to feel lonely or without me. Unfortunately, we have
been a bit behind on the bills and so I have been trying to play catch up by getting in some extra hours.
Susie says, “I know but there is always a reason why you have to work more, sometimes it seems it doesn’t matter
to you if we are together or not.”
Gerald says, “Gosh, I didn’t realize it was affecting you so much and thought you wanted me to bring in more
money. I always want to be with you. Would you like me to cut back on my hours?”
Susie says, “Well if we could at least plan one special day together a week that would be nice, we don’t have to
do anything fancy.”
Gerald ends, “Okay, how about if I make sure not to work on Thursday evenings so we can be together – just the
two of us?”
This method works well and both parties have calmly discussed a conflict which if left unresolved could lead to
major issues in the marriage.
When it comes to families, it is helpful to use an item like a salt shaker to pass back and forth if necessary.
Only the person holding the item is entitled to speak and this insures each side is heard fairly.
Also, it is important for communication to come from a loving, problem solving place rather than a negative,
problem creating one. Conflicts should always be addressed to solve
rather than to determine who is right or wrong. If everyone in the family is taught to be open and considerate of
the feelings of others, more often than naught, issues solve themselves fairly quickly and easily.
Having effective communication in marriages and families will insure the success of all relationships. It isn’t
always easy to break the habits of negative patterns but with practice and patience it will come. By incorporating
these tools into your home you will find a more positive and loving household overall.
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