When my husband and I first got married, the biggest piece of advice we were given, was to NEVER and I mean NEVER go to bed angry…
Well, let me tell you something, that is a load of nonsense. There have been times that we have not spoken for days. There have been times when we have slept in separate rooms. Our marriage is far from perfect, but one thing I am sure of is to never speak in a moment of anger. (Although that has happened in our marriage) but once those angry words come out, they can never be taken back. And for me, that is far worse than going to bed angry.
While the advice to never go to bed angry is well-intentioned, and meant to help couples deal with conflict which is inevitable, it is only one way of managing conflict… some time apart is another way (as long as both partners are committed to not staying apart, of course). The rub of it comes down to learning how to communicate.
Why is communication so important in marriage?
Communication lifts the lid on our emotions, both to ourselves and to our partners. When we are not communicating effectively we are in danger of allowing that jar to stay shut, to build pressure, and to eventually explode like a plastic coke bottle with some mentos chucked in. That only spoils the coke!
When we are not communicating, we are not facing our true feelings. And the fact is that much of our hurt, or resentment, or disappointment (or whatever else we are feeling), is driven by the real-life situations we are confronted with… and these won’t disappear unless we are open and honest about them. in fact, they will only deepen, and so will our resentment and anger.
Learning the art of effective communication will help us feel heard and validated. It will draw us closer to our spouses, increasing emotional and physical intimacy, and cultivate much stronger partnerships.
How do we achieve this?
1.TIME IT CAREFULLY.
This point relates to my introductory note about never going to bed angry. Sometimes life is chaotic, you might be dealing with a million things all at once. Your day might have gone in every direction except the one you chose. The children could be driving you balmy, maybe you had a fight with a friend, or you bumped a toe. Whatever it is, if you know that you need to have a conversation about something, make sure you time it right.
You don’t want to be opening up about your feelings when there are other things that might be pushing those feelings over the cliff. Prepare yourself for the conversation, put everything else out of mind and dive into an honest and open chat about your feelings.
It also means knowing when your partner is ready to talk about it… if he or she has had a crappy day at work, it’s probably not the best time to start talking about how they drive you nuts!
2. JUST ASK!
How many times in our marriages do we assume we know what our spouse is thinking? If we are having an argument, never assume. Just ask.
It may not be what we want to hear, but it is probably a lot better than what we were thinking. Which leads me to my next point.
3. LEARNING TO ACCEPT WHAT WE MIGHT NOT WANT TO HEAR.
There comes a time when difficult things need to be said, and heard.
It’s no easy feat hearing your partner say something to you that you might, firstly, disagree with, secondly, find hard to take in and thirdly, know about deep down but are not able to accept or process.
I didn’t have an easy life growing up, I became a very hard yet emotional person. I chose to close myself up to the world around me. Showing everyone just how strong I was when in actual fact I was incredibly insecure. This, sadly, filtered into my marriage and took its toll on our communication as a couple. I was continuously defensive (sometimes I still am). My husband chose to have a heart to heart with me one day. It wasn’t easy to hear, but deep down I knew that what he was trying to say was true.
I had two choices, I could either fight and disregard what he was saying, or I could choose to have some serious introspection and grow. Thankfully I chose the latter. It opened up a new dimension in our marriage where we felt the freedom to be openly honest about our thoughts and feelings, in a kind and respectful way. Our communication after that day grew in leaps and bounds.
4. KNOWING WHEN TO SAY SORRY
Boy, this is a hard one for me! I’m quite a stubborn and opinionated person at the best of times. I don’t like hearing that I’m wrong :) It’s taken years of communication and introspection to realise that even if I don’t agree or dislike what my husband has to say, I need to respect it, and yes, sometimes apologise.
It’s not easy accepting when we are wrong, but by having strength (and I say strength because I find it hard) to say the words “I am sorry” we are essentially opening ourselves up to becoming vulnerable with our partners.
Letting them see that we are hearing them and willing to verbalise our apologies is paramount to effective communication.
5. NEVER THROW IT IN THEIR FACE
Once a conversation or heated argument is over, that’s it, it’s over. I don’t believe in bringing up old fights when faced with a new and tricky situation. The reality is, if you’re bringing it up again, it wasn’t dealt with in the first place.
6. KISS AND MAKE UP
We all know that this is the best part! Open honesty, communication and vulnerability can lead to a deeper sense of connection, yes, in the bedroom (or wherever) as well. Enjoy it, relish in it, and allow yourself to be truly enveloped by it.