Although it would appear divorce rates worldwide are generally declining, the numbers are still alarmingly high.
Statistics published in 2008 show that 40% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce with many other countries offering similarly high figures.
Again, according to statistics, one of the most common reasons cited for divorce is communication breakdown.
Many couples are aware that this is happening long before divorce rears its head but have no idea how to improve communications with their spouse and so stop the rot.
All couples are different; they have different ways of relating to each other and different priorities within their relationship. However, there are some general tools for keeping communication lines open that may prove helpful.
Here they are.
Listening is an art. Learn to listen to your husband, as in truly listen and not just hear the words he is saying.
Learn when to be silent and allow him to air something that needs saying. Learn when to ask questions that show you are fully engaged and encourage him to continue speaking.
If your husband is pouring out his heart and you are half watching the television he will feel undervalued and unwanted.
2. Don’t let resentments build up
We have probably all experienced this. What starts out as something that hardly registers on the annoyance scale ends up being enough to make you want to scream and throw things.
The way to combat this is to address these issues before they have a chance to turn into something bigger and less manageable.
It is important how you approach this. Don’t bring up these subjects when you are angry.
State your case calmly and explain how you feel when a particular thing happens. Don’t apportion blame or seek to win points.
Always remember, this is about an agreed resolution not a competition as to who will triumph.
3. Make time to talk
21st century living places greater and greater demands on us as we struggle to juggle work, family and leisure commitments. So often it is the spouse that seems to be left until last in the assumption that ‘they’ll understand’.
If this continues problems will arise even in the most stable relationships.
Therefore, make time in your day or at least in your week that is time for just you and your partner.
This could be something as simple as sitting down together with a cup of tea for half an hour before dinner and discussing your day or could be something more elaborate if budgets allow such as eating out.
The important thing is to make this a regular occurrence. Don’t just snatch times as and when or the days, weeks and sometimes months will drift by without any proper communication at all.
4. What do we talk about?
Many couples believe that after all these years of marriage there is nothing left to talk about but that is absolutely untrue. Conversation doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful; it is about sharing, listening and having space to vent.
When my husband and I spend months and months traveling together, often in very confined spaces and without breaks we have to invent ways to keep conversation going.
One of the things we will do is to take it in turns to tell each other a story about some-one in our past. This will often start slow but eventually become a torrent as we learn things about each other that we never knew, even after all these years.
Individuals will often assume that what they have to say is too banal, too boring and will not hold the other’s interest but as a couple it is important that you share often very tiny details of your day.
5. Try and keep angry dialogues to a minimum
Most couples will have a real humdinger of a row occasionally and this isn’t always harmful depending on the individuals involved. However, be very aware that what you say in anger may come back to haunt you again and again.
The saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me’ is unfortunately not true.
Words can do enormous, irreparable damage and can’t be un-said once they are out. We all remember words that have been said to us in the past that hurt deeply and still sting now often many years on.
By bringing up problems as they arise instead of after they have festered and burst is much more constructive.
Everyone gets angry from time to time, just try and keep dialogue to a minimum at such times and approach your partner again once you have both calmed down.
For me this is the single most important thing in keeping communication alive and healthy. Adults stop remembering how to play and either feel awkward or embarrassed. They are fine if children are involved and they have an ‘excuse’ but adults seldom play together without children present.
It will take practice to learn to play properly again but once you do you’ll wonder why you ever left it behind. Play doesn’t have to be boisterous and charging round like you did when you were five.
It can be anything that engages you and your spouse in activities that are light hearted and make you laugh, the great medicine of all ills.
How about playing a board game together or even better a get to know each other card game like ‘Our Moments’. This fun little card game that has 100 thought provoking questions that can lead to some deep conversations.
Improving and/or maintaining communication with your partner will not happen without effort and time. If things are a little rocky in your marriage or partnership it may take a while before your efforts start to show.
Learn to listen, address the little niggles as they occur calmly and at times when it is appropriate, make time for each other and learn to play again. If it is worth it to you then work for it.