Communication rules are necessary for business, at schools, and in commercial/retail settings, but they may be missing from the most important place in your life: Your marriage. When you know your marriage is in trouble, but don’t want to end it for all the right reasons, your first task is to identify the problems and then set communication rules with your partner. And remember, nonverbal communication can do as much damage as harsh words.
However, communication rules won’t save your marriage – trust and passion require actions, not words – but the discipline of following communication rules can impact how you feel. You may find yourself feeling more positive because the words you use are helpful and curative, not destructive.
Marriage-Saving Communication Rules
Here are some communication rules and tips from various experts and marriage professionals. You may not be able to follow all of them all the time, but using effective communication rules should be your goal, every day.
1. Be willing to accept and work on your faults.
A good communication rule is to verbally acknowledge areas of failure rather than play the blame game and talk about what you (not your partner) can do to save your marriage.
2. Call out nonverbal communication.
Because we are often unaware of our nonverbal signals, we may unwittingly hurt each other. Follow the, “When you do this, I feel…” model. Here’s an example, “When you made that face just now, I felt like I am too needy or dumb. I don’t want to feel that way.” Nonverbal communication includes:
- Body language
- Eye contact, or lack of
- Facial expressions
- Space invasion – Make a rule to remain at arm’s length.
3. Inject positive words into the conversation as often as possible.
Expressing yourself negatively can lead to a habit of negative feelings and thinking. You can actually train your brain to feel better.
4. Look and listen.
One of the oldie but goodies communication rules is to repeat back what you think you heard. You may have misunderstood, and that contributes to marital issues. Nonverbal clues are important too. During your conversations, if you repeatedly check your cell phone for messages – or worse, respond to messages – you’re sending a clear signal that this conversation (and your partner) is not a priority.
5. Timing is important.
You’re both leaving for work, the kids are clamoring for breakfast and backpacks. This is not a good time to talk seriously. It is a good time to schedule a time to talk, later in the day. One of your communication rules should be to make frequent appointments to talk.
6. Control your emotions.
Easier said than done, for sure. But no one wins an argument, ever. One rule; verbal communication can be stopped if one or both of you feel emotions escalating. “We are generally aware of the verbal signals we are sending, although we may be unaware of an extra unnecessary cutting word or two that we added. We are unaware of the non-verbal communication we are expressing, especially when we are in an emotional state,” says marriage site Agape. You can control your emotions by ending the conversation and agreeing to talk again when you feel better able to communicate effectively.
Marriage-Saving ‘Rules:’ Get It in Writing
If you didn’t get a prenuptial agreement, perhaps now is the time to consider one! Yes, you’re already married, but perhaps you’re ready for a new marriage to the same partner. Maybe you want to live together using a different set of communication rules. Consider a formal agreement between the two of you; call it a “postnuptial agreement,” and structure a new beginning with the person you love.
At Ogborne Law, we believe collaboration is the key to a successful marriage and putting your intentions, hopes, and communication rules on a legal document is a good idea. We can help with your prenuptial, postnuptial, and estate planning documents in a stress-free way that can protect and reflect the best interests of you, your partner, and your family. Contact Ogborne Law to schedule a consultation.
Engaging with an attorney to protect your family is never an easy step. Whether you need to protect your family from the unthinkable or restructure your family through collaborative divorce, we’re here to help. When you’re ready to schedule a consultation with Michelle Ogborne, please visit the scheduling page to get started.