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Articles from January 2016

January 31, 2016

How Important is Communication to a Great Marriage?

Couples with great marriages usually communicate quite well. Those with angry marriages or who share a home but not much more usually communicate rather poorly.

But does this mean better communication creates a better marriage? I don't think it does. With a counselor guiding the conversation, it might get a marriage from combative to sort of peaceful, but I've never seen a couple talk their way back to the sort of love they felt for each other when they chose to marry.

On the other hand, I've seen couples with terrible communications skills fall madly in love. And once they're in love, they just keep trying one thing after another to convey their love and what they want from each other. When there's a misunderstanding, they dust themselves off and try again. Many of them laugh at their differences and long to understand each other better.

Feeling in love leads to more communication and to more inspired communication.

And if we think back to how things were when we were feeling in love, we can find our way back there.

Everything was new. Pleasant surprises make us feel in love. We can plan some of them, but others come from refilling our own tanks: learning new things, exploring new places, finding new courage, taking on new leadership roles, meeting new people, expanding our range of creativity, finding new reasons to be grateful or hopeful or kind.

We were open-minded and open-hearted. We did not expect this new person to be like our mother or father or our first girlfriend or our ex-husband. Instead, we got to know him or her without prejudging. Over time, we start to predict our spouse's behavior based on our story of why he or she does things. If you spend any time with newly divorced people, you learn just how wrong our stories usually are and just how deadening our negative predictions become. All we have to do is begin the exploration again, observing choices and offering new ones.

We made more time for love. We savored the best moments. We took time to look into each other's eyes, to listen to each other's breathing. We memorized the sound of our loved one's car and footsteps and the sound of the split-second before speaking on the phone. And we let these sounds trigger happy thoughts and the anticipation of love.

And we experimented constantly, aiming for that flicker of respect in her eyes, that caring gesture from him, that smile when our surprise was well-received, that relaxation into each other, that gasp of delight. As soon as we became know-it-alls, that stopped. It's a great reason to forget what we think we know, because people change and asking for something new without sounding like we no longer want the old, too, takes even more risk than offering something new.

We can't debate our way back to those days. But we can stop obsessing about what's wrong with our marriage and instead once again Expect Love. Because the truth is, most of us, even our spouses, have a great time being loving with anyone open to letting us love them.

And people in love do just fine at communicating.

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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