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Ten things to talk about before marriage | Week One: Communication | Marriage Manners Monday

It’s easy to get caught up in all the excitement of wedding planning (we’ve been there!) and forget about the bigger picture – you’re entering into a marriage!  Reality is that you’re committing yourselves to each other for the rest of your lives.  It isn’t just about preparing for the wedding day – marriage actually has its own long list of to-do’s, just like the rest of your wedding planning.

A marriage also takes a lot of work – and unfortunately statistics do say that half aren’t successful.

So, to help you get started out on the right foot, we’ve come up with some topics for you and your other half to talk about before you tie the knot!

This week, the first of ten things to talk about before marriage is: communication

Great communication skills are essential in the success of any relationship, whether you’ve been together for three months or 30 years. The way that you talk and express yourselves to each other is the most important thing, and is key to a healthy marriage. If you and your partner are willing to communicate, you will greatly increase the happiness of your relationship.

The majority of happy couples believe their partners are good listeners, and express what they feel openly. Traditionally women are more open to saying what they feel, while men are more closed off when it comes to communication, according to a study by Prepare/Enrich Canada, a premarital and marital survey, automatically customised for any relationship stage.

Already know you’re not a good listener? Don’t like to talk about your feelings? The good news is that the most important communication skills, speaking and listening, can be learned quickly and easily improved upon.  So, always make sure you set aside some time each day just for talking, just like you did when you first met.

Photo : KGOODPHOTO

My husband and I took the Prepare/Enrich course before we got married, and found this list of skills during the course that we think are very helpful to keep in mind during arguments or when you feel like you’re not communicating as well as you’d like:

Communication Skills to Improve Intimacy:

1. Give your full attention to your partner when talking. Turn off your phone, shut off the television and make eye contact.

2. Focus on the good qualities in each other and give compliments to each other often.

3. Be assertive by sharing your thoughts, feelings, and needs. A good way to be assertive without being critical is to use “I” rather than “You” statements. (i.e. “I worry when you don’t let me know you’ll be late” rather than “You are always late”).

4. Avoid criticism.

5. If you must criticise, balance it with at least one positive comment. (i.e.“I appreciate how you take the trash out each week. In the future can you remember to also wheel the trash can back from the end of the driveway?”)

6. Listen to understand, not to judge.

7. Use active listening by summarising your partner’s comments before sharing your own reactions or feelings.

8. Avoid blaming each other and work together for a solution.

9. If you are not able to resolve issues, seek counselling before they become more serious.

Research has shown that most of the time, people listen with the intent to reply rather that to understand what the other person is saying. You may want to get your point across, and in doing so ignore the other person while they are speaking to you. You pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely while you formulate the point that you want to get across, according to Steven R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Be assertive – the ability to express your feelings and ask for what you want is very important. Active listening, which is equally important, is the ability to let your partner know you understand them by restating their message before giving your opinion. This ensures they feel like they’ve been heard, you’ve considered their side, and then you give your opinion. The combination of these two skills in your relationship should help you communicate much more easily and reduce the amount or arguments that you get into.

So next time you make time to talk, think of what your constant issues are and try to approach them with the skills above.

Here’s a quick exercise for you and your partner – Grab a pen and make a wish list of three things you would like more or less of in your relationship. Get your partner to the same, separately. Then, share your lists with each other and discuss how you can work on them.

 

“We’re born with two ears and one mouth. That ought to tell us something.” —Bits and Pieces (1997)

 

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