1. Watch Your Wording
It’s no secret that words are powerful. Words can make or break someone’s day, so be careful of the words you use around your spouse. When you need to approach a topic or discuss something, take a few minutes to consider the best way to phrase what you are about to say. Two different phrases that mean the same thing can produce very different reactions in your spouse. Try to always be as positive as possible while speaking to your spouse. For example, if your spouse has a nasty habit of forgetting to clean out the sink after brushing his teeth, don’t say, “Do you think you could clean out the sink for once? It’s totally disgusting that your toothpaste and spit is in there.” Instead, say, “Hey sweetie, I know you probably don’t realize you’re doing this, but could you rinse out the sink after brushing your teeth? Sometimes the toothpaste is more difficult to clean out once it’s dried.” Here we have two very different sentences that ask the same question, yet one is worded with love.
2. Listen to What Your Spouse Says, and What He Doesn’t
Most people don’t know how to truly listen well. Most of us have some basic knowledge in how to communicate with people, but to us, that just means expressing ourselves. A very important part of marital discourse is to learn to read and understand what your spouse is saying with both his words and his body language. Sometimes a spouse who is angry, upset, or overtired may say something that comes off as harsh, but isn’t meant to. Observe your spouse’s body language and tone of voice to further distinguish what she is feeling. If your spouse says, “I’m fine,” but is crying, obviously something is wrong. Remember that the problem may not always be you. Sometimes your spouse may say she is fine because she wants to be alone, but sometimes that “I’m fine” is really a cry for a hug or a gentle listening ear.
When you sit down to discuss something about your relationship or a concern your spouse has, try to remain as optimistic and open minded as possible. Sometimes a spouse offers up information that we perceive to be untrue or unfair, but sometimes our spouse may be right on the mark. For example, if your spouse comes home from work and says, “You never have dinner ready when I get home,” don’t get upset or respond with a series of excuses, such as “That’s not true,” “Never is a long time,” or “Well, maybe if you were home once in a while it would be easier for me to get a chance to cook.” Instead, listen to what your spouse is really saying: “I’m hungry, and I would love to have something tasty to eat when I get home from work.” Try to work out a solution with your spouse that satisfies both of your needs. If it’s not physically possible for dinner to be ready when your spouse arrives, try to have a few low calorie, healthy snacks available so she has something to munch on upon arriving home.
3. Play Nice
Don’t bring up the past in an argument. When your spouse confides in you, or you go through a difficult period in your relationship, remember the love that you share, and to be kind to one another. Many things hurt a relationship, but none are quite so unforgiving as drudging up the past. When you and your spouse have a disagreement, avoid bringing up your spouse’s past mistakes or broken promises. Instead, focus on what is happening in the current argument, and nothing else. Forgiveness always pays off, and your spouse will be more likely to be open if he knows you aren’t going to cling to a past wronging.