7 Tips To Improving Communication In Marriage And How PACT Therapy Helps
It’s three-thirty in the morning. The house is dark; moonlight streams through a gap in the curtains, casting shadows over sleeping faces. Total, peaceful quiet reigns.
Then suddenly there comes a hiss from inside the wall. One of the wires inside has sparked, and a smell of smoke fills the air as the little flame, as yet invisible inside the insulation, travels from room to room. The smoke alarm shatters the silence; you awaken in a panic and immediately realize that something is not right.
Would you hesitate to call the fire department? I really hope not. But research shows that in a similar situation, there are many people who might take that route.
What do I mean? Studies from as early as the eighties show that divorcing couples, whose relationships are in flames, may only seek help about 25% of the time, and even those couples who do go to counseling will usually only “resort” to it after at least six years. That’s six years of unchecked destruction and unnecessary suffering. Six years of watching problems fester and balloon to much more difficult proportions.
What makes us behave this way is another discussion. For now, let’s talk about the best way to avoid avoidance, which is today’s buzzword: communication.
Communication in marriage isn’t a hidden secret. With extra effort and help from PACT therapy, you’ll find that your communication gets better at a rapid pace.
Uncertain how to begin this new journey of better communication? Keep reading!
7 tips To Improving Communication In Marriage:
1. Start and End Every Day With Each Other
We all have busy lives filled with different stresses and obligations. That’s why it’s extra important to set aside a specific time to spend with the person you love.
While you’ll often spend plenty of time with one another throughout the day, always make a specific effort in the morning and night. By following PACT therapy, you’ll incorporate this practice in your life.
Waking up and falling asleep with each other is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s comforting and safe and gives you a chance to indulge in how you’re feeling or talk about problems. Use this time to speak to one another about anything and everything you don’t have time to say during your busy days.
It reaffirms your closeness to fall asleep and wake up next to each other every day. This connection will help you improving communication in marriage.
2. Wait For the Correct Timing
Tackling your problems as soon as possible is another part of PACT therapy. You never want personal injuries to have time to fester into something monstrous.
Even with the need to correct these problems without delay, there’s a time and place for certain conversations.
If you’re both trying to get to work, it’s not a good time to have a serious conversation. Instead of rushing through the problem, tell your partner you wish to talk the next time you’re both free. This way, you’re setting aside a proper time where you both can give the problem the attention it deserves.
Whenever either of you needs time to talk, make sure you agree on a time that works for both of you. Be mindful that you’re not trying to avoid the conversation with this method, but you are wanting to find a time to improve communication in marriage.
Dr. Tatkin suggests “leading with relief.” When your partner expresses pain over something you said or did, your first instinct may be to deflect, deny, or disagree with the “charges.” However, Dr. Tatkin observes, this method doesn’t usually lead to a productive discussion. Instead, relieve your partner of his or her burden by demonstrating empathy and responsibility.
Acknowledge your role and communicate your concern for them. You’re much more likely to get a say in the coming conversation if you show that you can respect what your partner has to say, too.
3. Look For Non-Verbal Clues
Good communication doesn’t always mean speaking and listening. Watching is another important part of learning how to communicate with your partner.
Some important nonverbal cues include frowning, smiling, toe-tapping, hand-wrenching, hair-twirling, and avoiding eye contact. By looking out for these clues, you can gain a lot of insight into your partner’s emotions.
PACT therapy teaches that protecting your partner is one of the best ways to improve your marriage. This includes both private and public places.
One way to facilitate a feeling of security for your partner is to create a safe space for them to communicate with you. In order to do this, Dr. Tatkin recommends sitting about three feet from and facing each other. Studies have shown that fights are much more likely to occur between couples who communicate by texting or otherwise don’t discuss problems face-to-face.
Why is the face-to-face aspect so important? When you’re right there, you can pick up on many clues that you wouldn’t necessarily find in your partner’s texts or voice on the phone. By being right there, you will know exactly when your partner becomes uncomfortable with the conversation and will then be able to help out.
This shows your partner that you’re looking out for them. It also gives them a sense of security that simple words don’t always convey.
4. Drop All Assumptions
By assuming that you know everything your partner will say or think, you stop listening. But listening is a vital part of improving communication in marriage.
PACT therapy focuses on teaching you how to stop making assumptions that harm both you and your partner. These assumptions are not an easy thing to stop. It’s a learned skill we have to practice to perfect.
The extra effort of clearing your mind of all assumptions lets you get into any conversation with an openness and a willingness to listen. That alone makes a huge difference in any conversation. In addition, you can check-in with your partner when you think they might be thinking or feeling a certain way and make sure you are correct.
The human brain is trained from a young age to imagine worst-case scenarios. Considering this tendency, it makes sense that those of us in relationships often catch ourselves assuming the worst about our partners. We’re on a constant alert for indicators of deception, negativity and (the irony!) distrust. And we’re especially at risk of this in low moments, such as when we are feeling depressed, anxious or otherwise vulnerable. (For example, you may find yourself especially prone to seeking out the worst in your partner right after you’ve had an argument with him/her.)
Seeing “signs” like this can bring out the worst in us. We may feel threatened and stop viewing the relationship as a unity, prioritizing ourselves instead. At this juncture, it is easy to fall into a vicious cycle of feeling victimized and identifying more “signs.” And so it is extremely important to nip this in the bud by working hard not to make assumptions in the first place.
5. Never Use Insults
This is a tip that’s often hard to remember when things get heated in an argument. Insults have no place in a relationship. Instead, there should be mutual understanding, respect and security for both people.
The use of insults damages this sense of security. It makes both parties feel like they need to go on the defensive. It only escalates the situation until it blows up into something uncontrollable.
Always think about what you’re saying before you say it. Taking an extra second or two helps stop you from saying harmful words that you don’t mean, improving communication in marriage.
For example, you could use that time to consider the possible ramifications of what you’d like to say. You might be surprised by what you find! What seemed like a perfectly reasonable statement in the heat of your anger may turn out, on closer examination, to be more likely to ignite a feud than end one.
Not every case is so clear-cut, though. Sometimes, even with time to consider more carefully, it can still be difficult to know what to say. It’s a good idea, here, to categorize your statement into one of two categories: pro-self or pro-relationship. You’ll know a pro-self statement by its earmark: a hurt reaction from your partner.
In order to avoid this and other unwanted reactions, you will find it helpful to ask yourself a simple question: How can I say what I want to say in a way that takes care of both my partner and me as well as our relationship?
6. Remember to Think about the Other Side
A marriage is a two-sided coin. You’ll never have one side without the other and it’s important to remember that. Even in the most heated of arguments, you and your partner need to remember the other side of the conversation.
PACT therapy helps with this kind of unspoken connection. You’ll learn to understand how your partner feels or what they mean without prejudices and negative assumptions getting in the way.
Try to think about your partner’s point of view within every conversation. This practice opens up the door for better communication for both of you.
Also, remember to communicate your side for your partner so that they can listen in return.
7. Finish With Appreciation
No matter how big the argument or how serious the conversation, end each one with positivity. PACT therapy teaches you how to build a connected relationship full of trust and love. By finishing every argument with kindness, you’re strengthening your relationship.
Even showing simple gratitude for each other’s willingness to listen is enough to build a stronger bond.
No matter how you show your appreciation and love of one another, make sure to put in the effort. A few simple but sincere words make a huge difference.
Communication in Marriage Starts With a Desire to Improve
All of the tips and PACT therapy in the world won’t help any communication in marriage unless there’s a desire to change.
Improving communication in marriage is the best start you can have to create a secure relationship. But it’ll continue to take work to follow through with the new changes in your life. With the desire to get better together, as a team, anything is possible.
Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing:
Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a licensed counselor in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Vermont and Florida. She also works with international couples and expats. With her support, you can learn how to reduce stress and conflict in your relationship through an intensive marriage retreat or couples counseling. Reach out to Lisa for a 30-minute free private consultation today.
Updated: April 28, 2021