John and I have been together almost 4 years now, and two of those years we’ve spent married. We’ve had mostly ups out of our ups and downs, had to figure out how eachother processes and understands things, and we’ve allowed ourselves to become more and more vulnerable as our relationship has progressed.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are countless things that you can do for your marriage to make it stronger! These include taking marriage enrichment classes, joining a married’s small group through church, reading marriage-related books together, knowing each other’s love languages……..but there’s one major thing you need to do well in order to see those other things happen. Scroll down to read how to start to perfect this crucial aspect of your marriage. ❤
the key to a successful, solid marriage: communication
Here’s four ways you can start today to improve your marriage for the better through effective and intentional communication:
1. ask and listen
Before you can even start to effectively communicate with your person, you need to be able to listen to them and receive what they say without overreacting, interrupting, or misinterpreting. Asking them to explain why they’re feeling a certain way (and telling them if they need to, to tell you on their own time) will allow them room to gather their thoughts to share — and want to share. Another good method is to ask where (insert issue here) is stemming from. This start will allow you to navigate overcoming issues much easier. They key to good communication is first knowing how to be a good listener.
2. do a “love tank check” regularly
This is something that came from the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In it, he discusses what the five love languages are in depth and why it’s SO so important to understand your spouse’s love language for a successful, healthy and happy marriage. About a year ago in our young married’s small group, we all went through this book and had weekly challenges to do love tank check-ins with our spouse. We’d simply ask “how’s your love tank?” throughout the week, and the other would give an answer from 1-10. If our love tank was running low (think of it as your car’s gas tank, from full to empty), we’d say which number we were then explain why (not enough quality time together that week, or maybe we got in an argument, etc). If it was great, we would also say why (usually it would be because one of us did something for the other that spoke their love language – in my case for example, it would’ve been because John helped me clean around the house or took care of izzy so I could have some me time). This is so helpful for communication because it a) forces you to talk about your feelings (harder for guys to do this than gals) and b) opens the floor for honest discussion about your relationship.
A “love language” is a method in which you receive love/appreciation, feel understood, and stay happy throughout your relationship. Knowing your other person’s love language(s) will totally help you to effectively communicate with them in a way they receive and resonate with. If you haven’t yet, take this short quiz to find out what your love languages are. Afterward, you and your spouse can share what top two love languages you got and in turn start to fill each other’s “love tanks” regularly 🙂
3. address issues immediately
No one likes to believe that everything’s fine in their relationship only to come home to find their significant person in a sour mood or acting distant over something that happened three days (or weeks, or months) ago. I cannot stress this enough: TALK ABOUT IT RIGHT AS IT HAPPENS! Or, after a few minutes of brooding. But don’t wait several hours or days or even longer to address the issue.
In the 8 week long premarital class called “To Become One” that John and I took when we were engaged, we learned about several topics that come up in marriage: Finances, Family of Origin, Conflict & Communication, and Sex & Intimacy to name a few major ones. In this class we learned how to talk about and address issues that may stem from these topics, and why it is so crucial to talk about them in order to have a happy and thriving marriage together. So if you have not yet already, bring it up. Sit your person down and say “hey, for the betterment of our marriage and because I love you, I would like to address (insert the hard thing here).” You don’t have to solve it right then and there. Start small, take baby steps and come to an agreement on how you both will eventually solve/overcome the issue(s).
4. show up and own up
Be present in your marriage, and own up to your role in it. Don’t decide to check out or glaze over if everything’s not coming up roses…because hard times will happen, and your marriage will be put through the ringer in numerous ways. But the key to keeping your head above the water when this happens is to show up every day ready to take on the world (and your relationship) together — to face your issues together, to talk it out together, to always choose to be and do life together. There have been times where I just didn’t feel like talking, I didn’t feel like putting in effort, I didn’t want to be the one to apologize first, and I sure didn’t want to have to own up to my flaws or mistakes. And I know John has felt the same way too. But, setting aside your pride and pouting takes a lot of effort and a choice to own up — with the mindset that you want to make it work.
Just making the CHOICE to talk it out is huge! It shows your desire to be close, to mend what’s hurting, to stick it out, and work it out. John and I haven’t gotten into a domestic (our term for when couples argue) in a really long time, and it’s because we’ve really put a lot of effort into how we communicate and check in on eachother in our marriage. We’re not perfect, but we sure as heck show up every day and say “I’m in it to win it” no matter what.
By following these steps, your marriage will be on the right track to withstand the storms and come out stronger, with more love and trust than when you started. ❤