Marriage Communication – The Ultimate Complete Guide to Creating a Strong, Long-Lasting Relationship
As a couples therapist, the most common challenge I hear from my clients is that they are having communication issues. If you’re facing similar issues, read on, and I’ll explain everything:
- What communication is
- Why communication is important in relationship
- What you can do to make your communication better
- Common mistakes couples make when communicating
- How great couples communicate
Everything else that can help you become a great communicator so you can have a great long-term relationship
Note: I will be using gender terms loosely. This is not about women vs men. It’s not about heterosexual couples. All relationships, may they be heterosexual or homosexual, monogamous or non-monogamous, in a committed or non-committed relationship, face similar communication issues.
Episode 1 – Marriage Communication Fundamentals
What is Marriage Communication and the Dreaded Filters that Keep Screwing It Up?
figure 1 – taken from A Couples Guide to Communication by John Gottman
The figure above is a simple illustration of communication, as defined by Dr. John Gottman and colleagues in their book, A Couples Guide to Communication. I love this illustration because it’s simple and easy to understand.
On one side, there’s the Speaker and her Intent for the message.
On the other side, there’s the Listener and the Impact the message has on him.
Between them, there are layers of filters.
The speaker is filtering how she’s communicating the message.
The listener is filtering how he’s hearing the message.
We’ll get to the filters later on.
Communication in intimate relationships is made between a speaker and a listener, through a message. The speaker is delivering a message to the listener. The speaker has an intent he wants to deliver through his message. The listener will be impacted by the message.
Good communication is when Intention Equals Impact.
How does good marriage communication work?
Good communication means that the message that’s being delivered has the impact that the speaker intended to have. Both the speaker and the listener are responsible for this.
The speaker tries to clarify his intent, and states what he is thinking, feeling or asking for. It’s best if he does not assume the listener knows what’s going on in his inner world. The listener is not a mind reader.
The listener tries to make sure she understands the message without having to guess what the speaker actually means. If needed she may ask for clarifications. Both partners collaborate in trying to make sure that the intent of the message is the same as its impact.
As we all know, many times it’s not that simple, and Intent does not equal Impact. That happens because the message goes through the speaker’s filter and the listener’s filter.
Filters are affected by the speaker and listener’s state of mind. For example, when I’m hungry I might sound harsh even if that’s not my intent. The filter through which I’m sending my message changes it. When I’m hungry my physiology is under stress, so the tone of my voice sounds stressed. I may ask my wife if she’s seen my bag, and because my physiology is under stress, this simple question may sound like I’m blaming her.
Another reason why Intent doesn’t equal Impact is the listener’s filter, which is affected by her state. Sometimes the listener doesn’t hear the speaker’s intent correctly. For example, when I am angry with my wife and she asks me something, I may not understand her intent, and presume she has a negative intent.
Filters are also affected by a person’s life, especially by his relationship with his family of origin, that created a template for communication. This template includes many unchecked assumptions about himself and others. For example, if he grew up in a family that had a culture of airing discontent as it arises, he might be used to speaking out loud quickly without checking how it feels to the listener.
The listener’s filter is based on her past relationship with her family of origin. She has her own set of assumptions about herself, others, and ways of communication. If she grew up in a family culture that was more reserved, quiet and avoidant of communicating feelings, especially hard ones, she might get overwhelmed when the speaker delivers a message that is much harsher than what she has been used to.
Fillers can affect the wording of the message, the tone of it, and how we understand it.
Aligning Words with Body Language so that Your Partner will Understand Your True Intent
One common communication issue arises because words don’t tell the whole story. The words that I use to send my message are, on average, about 30 percent of the message. 70 percent of the message is body language – how I breathe, how I hold my body, how I gesture, my facial expressions, and the tone of my voice.
So, the state of my body-mind conveys much more than the words I use.
I can say “Babe, have you seen my bag?” in a manner that conveys impatience, because I’m late for work, and she might think I’m upset at her.
Probably, if I say the same words with a softer tone of voice (or explain my state of mind), she will understand it as a simple inquiry and be more willing to help me.
Recently, I was working with a couple in which the wife was accustomed to speaking in an impatient tone. It was a habit of communication that was formed in her childhood; she couldn’t explain why. Her husband was a good guy, who cared a lot about her. He often perceived her intent as criticizing, and felt she was scolding him. Even though he cared a lot about her, he frequently felt threatened, became over-defensive, and all but stopped listening to the content of her words. He was reacting to protect himself from a threat he thought he perceived, which turned out to be misinterpreted body language.
A lot of my work with her was to stop her when she sounded impatient and check in with her on how she was actually feeling. Many times it wasn’t impatience or discontent, and thanks to her checking in, she could speak her message again, in a more calm, relaxed manner. Her softness encouraged her husband to come towards her, and listen to what she was actually asking him to do.
Is Communication Important in Marriage, and the Amazing Outcome of Putting in the Work
Marriage is about relationship and partnership. In order to have a relationship, communication needs to happen constantly. Good communication strengthens the connection. Poor communication weakens it.
In one of our podcast episodes we interviewed Jed Diamond, an international leader on men’s health. Jed is a great guy, very sincere and open, and he vulnerably shares his own challenges with relationships. As a young guy, Jed went through two divorces, two marriages which ended in heartache and despair. He realized he needed to understand what he was doing wrong and went on a journey to learn about relationships. He married his current wife, Carlin, more than 40 years ago(!) and they are proud parents of five grown children and twelve grandchildren.
Jed is living proof that you can learn how to be in a relationship and get better at it, until you become a master of relationships.
10 Common Mistakes in Marriage Communication and How to Avoid Them
1. Voicing More Than One Complaint at a Time
When you are trying to change something that bothers you and you complain about it to your partner, it’s best to focus on one thing at a time. If, instead, you voice many different topics, it will quickly flood your partner with thought and emotion, making it hard for them to listen and respond effectively. This kind of communication works against solving any problem, and you get stuck with a list of unresolved issues.
It sounds like this: “It’s not just that you don’t do your share of the house cleaning. You make my work harder by being careless and sloppy. You don’t put things away. You watch TV all evening. And you never talk to me any more.”
Try instead focusing on one topic: “Honey, it’s really hard for me when you don’t do your share of the house cleaning. It makes me feel frustrated and lonely. I love it when I feel like we’re on the same team. Could you make sure you do the dishes after dinner, like we discussed before?”
2. Correcting Your Partner Too Often
When you feel that you need to correct everything your partner says, and you keep saying “yes, but…”, it sends a message to your partner that they are wrong all the time. Your partner says something, and you reply with a “yes,” but then quickly add the “but,” which denies your partner the feeling that they’ve been heard and understood. Instead of giving an affirmation, it gives a feeling of rejection.
It sounds like: “Yes, but you always say that, and never actually do what you promised.”
Instead, try saying: “I hear you. I appreciate you trying. It’s just that I’m afraid you’ll forget.”
When you start with affirmation, your partner can feel heard, and he lowers his defenses. After giving him the sense of being heard, you can add your concerns. Take a breath and process his message before you do this. If you add your concerns too quickly, he won’t feel heard.
3. Cross Complaining
Cross complaining happens when your partner voices a complaint and you answer with a complaint of your own. It sounds like this:
Your partner says “You left the kitchen dirty again.” You answer “Well, you woke up late and I had to prepare the kids for the day.”
This kind of communication leaves both of you unheard and frustrated.
For effective communication, it’s important to affirm what’s true in what your partner is saying before tacking on a complaint of your own. . Let them feel heard. Deal with one complaint at a time.
4. Mind Reading – Using Assumptions Instead of Feedback
A common mistake couples make is when the listener assumes he understands what the speaker said without really checking.
When you are listening to your partner, and you’re not sure you understood what she said, don’t try to fill in the gaps. Instead, ask for feedback. That’s especially true when you feel attacked or criticized.
Try saying “what I hear you say is ____. Is that what you meant?”
Or “It seems to me like you’re criticizing me, and I’m noticing I’m getting defensive. Can you rephrase it in a softer tone, so I can hear you better?”
5. Interrupting Your Partner in the Middle of the Sentence
Sometimes, especially when you’re triggered, it might get hard for you to be patient and listen to your partner. On this kind of occasion, you might interrupt your partner in the middle of the sentence, assuming you know what he is about to say. That can be very frustrating for your partner and might escalate the conversation into a fight.
When you notice you’re getting flooded with emotion or thoughts and it’s becoming hard for you to listen without interrupting, try some self-soothing techniques like breathing out a few long breaths, talking to yourself (in your head) and reminding yourself you and your partner are on the same side. Or else, use another technique that helps you regulate and listen with curiosity. Of course, if you miss some info while doing this, let your partner know so they can fill you in.
If self-regulation doesn’t help, and you’re still too flooded to listen, you can try co-regulation: letting your partner know what’s happening and asking for their help: “Honey, I’m noticing it’s hard for me to listen to you right now. I’m triggered and my heart is closed. Can you help me feel like we’re a team and that we can solve this together?”
If this doesn’t help either, you should probably take a time out: “Honey, I’m sorry, I’m too triggered to listen to you properly right now. I’m going to take a break to take care of myself, and I’ll get back to you in an hour so we can finish this discussion when I’m calmer and more open to you.”
Sometimes we try to change a behaviour we don’t like in our partner by criticising them. This is common, yet ineffective, and even poisons the relationship in the long run.
Almost everybody does this sometimes, but the truth is that criticism only triggers defensiveness; it doesn’t make your partner come closer to you and understand your point of view.
Usually, under criticism, there is an unmet need. When you notice an impulse to criticise your partner, try to look inside first to see what you actually need.
For example, instead of telling your partner he or she is such a slob, because they left the living room messy last night. Try telling them: “Waking up to a messy living room makes me feel tense. Would you clean up after yourself? It will make me feel cared for and relaxed.”
7. Shutting Down
According to research, one of the most common protective strategies for men, when they get flooded by feelings, is to shut down – close up internally, avoid eye contact, become quiet, sometimes go to a different room, or go to their smartphones.
While this is a common strategy, it is also a very ineffective one. The reason most men do it is because they want to avoid escalation. Unfortunately, their withdrawal usually just makes the problem worse, and doesn’t really help to down-regulate the fight.
Rather, this behavior usually triggers the despair and helplessness of wives even more, which often makes them more angry, critical, and blaming. One partner becomes quiet, the other becomes loud. Which makes the first partner shut down even more, which makes the other partner even louder… a vicious cycle of Pursuer – Distancer.
The way out of this cycle is communication. If you’re in a heated discussion, and you’re noticing you’re getting flooded, and you know you’re going to close up soon, try communicating that. Tell your partner: “I’m sorry, this discussion is getting too intense for me. I’d like to take a break and take care of myself. Can we continue talking about it in an hour?”
While taking the break from the discussion, try to do something that helps you relax – take a walk, do some gardening, do some breathing exercises, even surf the web, but make sure not to keep on fighting with your partner in your head.
Also, make sure to come back and finish the discussion. Do not use this as an excuse to avoid your partner. Avoiding them will not get you closer. It will just hurt your relationship and your chance of getting the peace and quiet you long for.
The number one predictor of divorce is contempt. Contempt is like poison to relationships. It conveys disgust and superiority. Contempt says, “I’m better than you. And you are lesser than me.” It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with them and that you’re acting as their condescending superior.
Contempt is when someone uses hostile humor, name-calling, mimicking, or body language such as eye-rolling and sneering.
If you notice you have contempt in your relationship you should probably seek professional help, which will help you learn how to communicate your needs and feelings in a non-violent way. If you don’t seek professional help, the chances are high that you will divorce.
When people feel under attack, it’s natural they will defend themselves. But in a marriage we want to seek win-win solutions. We want to feel felt. We want to know we’re understood.
Over-defensiveness doesn’t make your partner feel seen. It makes your partner feel rejected. He or she probably bears some responsibility for your reaction. Perhaps they really did attack you. Even so, on a good day, you might be able to hear a complaint and not defend yourself in a way that deflects your partner’s needs.
In any complaint there is some truth. Ineffective communication is when we focus on what’s not true in our partner’s complaint. Effective communication is when we focus on what IS true in our partner’s complaint.
Always try to remember that your partner is on your team. Even when what your partner is saying is unpleasant to you, try to hear what’s true in the message. Affirm that truth first, and only later correct the part that is inaccurate to you.
For example, if your partner is complaining that “You never do the dishes,” you can answer “You’re right, I didn’t do the dishes last night, even though it was my responsibility. I’m sorry about that. And, I want you to know I found it hurtful that you said I NEVER do the dishes. I take care of them often, as you know. It would feel good to me if you acknowledge that, even though you’re mad.”
Having to be right is a form of defensiveness. When it happens too often, it leads to trouble. If you’re always right, your partner is always wrong whenever you disagree.
Righteousness often comes up in response to feeling criticized. The problem with righteousness is that it feels like blame to your partner. Your partner is critical to you, and you answer with righteousness. Which makes them feel blamed and misunderstood, and often leads to more criticism or blame. Another vicious cycle.
The antidote to having to be right, and generally to over-defensiveness, is taking responsibility for your role in the situation, even just for part of the conflict. Yes, it’s more vulnerable: you’ll need to get your guard down and admit some fault, so it can be scary to do. But when you dare to be vulnerable, often the result is more closeness, less conflict. More sex, less rage. Worth it, don’t you think?
Episode 2 – How to Improve Marriage Communication
Effective Marriage Communication that Enables Falling in Love Again Every Single Day
Effective marriage communication helps both partners feel heard and understood.
The speaker’s responsibility is to use tone of voice, body language and words that align with the intent he is trying to convey with the message.
The listener’s responsibility is to make sure they understand what the speaker is trying to say. If the listener is not sure they understood the message, they should ask for clarification.
A good basic assumption in a marriage is that both partners want the best for each other. So, if the listener believes what she heard was overly-critical, for example, she should probably give the speaker feedback and ask for the message to be repeated in a different way, to clarify.
10 Tips on Getting Through Hard Conversations Safely – Like the Masters of Relationships Do
In intimate relationships, we have to get through hard conversations sometimes. Conversations may seem difficult because the topic is important to both partners, and it appears that what they want are opposite things, creating a conflict. The goal of such a conversation is to make both partners feel heard and understood, and to find a collaborative, creative, win-win solution, that makes both partners feel nourished and satisfied.
1. Start Softly
When you know you want to talk about a topic that might get your partner upset, it’s good to start the conversation with a soft tone of voice. You want to help your partner feel safe, not criticised or under attack. Starting the conversation gently, with your partner’s nickname (“honey,” “babe,” or “Johnny,” instead of “John”…), will probably help your partner to feel safe, and encourage them to stay open.
2. Go Meta
If you’re worried about starting the conversation because you’re afraid your partner will get triggered, start by going up one level, and expressing your worry.
Add a request at the end: “Honey, there’s something I’d like to talk to you about, but I’m worried you’ll get triggered or offended. Is it ok if I bring it up slowly? Could you try listening to me without getting triggered?”
3. Ask for Permission
Timing is very important. It’s good to ask your partner if they are available right now for such a conversation: “Honey, there’s something I’d like to talk to you about. Are you available right now to listen to me?”
If your partner is not available right now, ask them when would be a good time to talk.
4. Avoid Flooding Your Partner
The risk in a hard conversation is that your partner might get flooded with feelings and withdraw, or get defensive. In order to have an effective conversation, try to help your partner to stay relaxed and focused by going slow, talking about one topic at a time, and reminding your partner you are both on the same team and the goal is to find a win-win solution.
5. Slow Down
When we get flooded because we’re afraid our needs won’t be met, we might shift into a fighting stance, a power struggle, that hurts our ability to have an effective, intimate conversation. In order to help your partner (and yourself) stay regulated and not get flooded, talk slowly about the topic. Talking slowly helps you be mindful of what you’re saying and how it may sound to your partner, and helps your partner stay receptive.
6. One Topic at a Time
One of the ways conversations get sidetracked, is when we bring up one topic, and then add to it other topics. Try to stick to one topic at a time. If your partner answers with another topic, tell them you do want to discuss the other topic as well, but that you prefer to finish processing the one you brought up first, and then moving to the topic they brought up later.
Conversations escalate into a fight when one or both people get flooded and shift into fight-or-flight mode. Take care of yourself to make sure you don’t lose your temper. When you notice you’re getting angry, defensive, or shut-down, it means you’re getting flooded. Breathe deeply and slowly a few times. Remind yourself you’re talking to your partner, and that he or she wants the best for you. Remind yourself you want the best for them as well.
If your attempts at self-regulation aren’t enough, and you’re still struggling to stay present and open, ask for a time-out.
8. Use Timeouts
When you notice you can’t control your temper and stay in your mature self, call for a time-out. You can say “time-out” or use the hands gesture of the letter T. What that means is that YOU need to process how YOU are feeling. This is not about your partner. This is about you knowing that you are too triggered, too flooded, to be able to talk in a constructive way, and YOU need to take a break to down-regulate, and come back to your senses.
The challenge with a time-out is to do it responsibly. This is not a punishment to your partner. A responsible time-out lets your partner know why you need a pause, and that you will be back.
“I need a time-out because I’m too triggered to talk. I understand this is an important topic for us. I want to keep discussing it, but not like this. I will come back when I’m in better shape so we can process it further”.
When you go for a time-out, take your mind off the fight. Do something soothing – take a walk around the block, do some gardening – whatever helps you calm down.
9. Use “I” Statements
Part of effective communication is using wording that is easier for your partner to hear. Most people get defensive when their partner talks about them and their behaviour. People are more responsive when you are able to talk about yourself, using “I” statements.
“I” statements are a style of communication that focus on the feelings or beliefs of the speaker rather than the thoughts and characteristics that the speaker attributes to the listener.
For example, saying “you are so annoying when you come back home late” would surely get your partner defensive and annoyed.
Talking about yourself will have a better chance of getting you what you want: “I get annoyed when you come back home late. I feel abandoned because I don’t know where you are. Can you let me know when you’ll be late so I don’t get so worried?”
10. Use Requests rather than Demands
Conversations can be hard when it seems like your needs and wants are in conflict with your partner’s needs and wants. Negotiating needs can go a long way towards resolving hairy issues. Remember, this is your intimate partner you’re negotiating with, not some hard-headed business associate or an oppressive government official.
When talking about needs with your partner, you should ask for what you need. Make sure you don’t demand what you need. People don’t like being ordered around; it puts their egos on the defensive. Requests, on the other hand, are easier to accommodate.
Every request is legit, but your partner doesn’t have to agree to your request. Actually, most of the time in effective intimate negotiation, one partner will ask for something, and the other partner will agree but ask for support.
For example: “I need you to look after the kids instead of going to the gym tonight, because I have an important meeting at work” might make your partner feel resentful and resistant.
Try: “Honey, I have an important meeting at work tonight. Can you help me find a solution for the kids? Is there a chance you can give up going to the gym?” This kind of phrasing might invite your partner to be more cooperative.
He may answer: “Sorry, Dear, it’s really important to me to go to the gym tonight. But I can ask the babysitter to come and put the kids to sleep. Can you remind me to call her when you’re on your lunch break?”
This way, you find a collaborative, creative, win-win solution, so neither of you needs to compromise, and both of you can feel supported and nourished.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) – the Counter Intuitive Tool to Show Vulnerability and Overcome Fights (Big or Small)
A popular and effective way of communicating is NVC, which was founded by Marshall Rosenberg in the late 1960s and is now used in over 65 countries around the globe.
The NVC model has 4 components of expression: Observation, Feeling, Need, and Request.
- “Observation” messages should be free of our judgments, labels, diagnoses, or opinions. It starts with “When I see/hear/notice…”
- “Feeling” messages should be free of thought – “I feel…”
- “Need” messages refer to universal human needs, and must be free of strategies and manipulations.
- “Request” messages should be free of demand. Your partner doesn’t have to fulfil your request. It would be great if they listened to it and acknowledged hearing it, even if they can’t (or decide not to) fulfil it.
When you and your partner can express your observations, feelings, needs and/or requests, you can negotiate and problem-solve in intimacy, looking for creative, collaborative, win-win solutions that will make both of you feel satisfied and closer to each other.
For example, “When I see you playing on your phone while I’m talking, I feel frustrated because I want to be fully heard. Would you be willing to put away your phone for 5 minutes and listen to my idea?”
It’s highly recommended for couples to look deeply into NVC and practice this valuable mode of communication. There are a lot of good, free resources on the web. Here is one: a video of Marshal Rosenberg himself facilitating an introductory workshop on NVC.
Examples of Using Nonviolent Communication to Resolve Marriage Conflict
Many couples have differences in the way they handle time and value punctuality. For example, sometimes for one partner, it’s very important to arrive on time to social events, while the other partner cares more about showing up stress-free.
On a bad day, one partner might tell the other: “Hurry up, we’re always late because of you,” which would probably bring a defensive response. “Get off my back,” The other may reply. “You’re stressing me out. You’re such a drama queen.” This will obviously not bring closeness and cooperation. Both will be stressed and hurt by the time they reach their destination and it won’t matter so much whether they’re late or not, because their evening will probably be ruined.
Instead, they could have used the NVC model.
“Honey, it’s 6:30pm and I’m worried we will be late. It’s important to me to be respectful of other people’s time. Would you make an effort to help us to be there on time?”
To which the partner might answer: “Yes, Dear, I can see you’re stressed. When you get stressed, I get stressed and lose my focus. I need a moment of quiet to finish up. Could you wait in the living room for five minutes, and then we’ll go?”
From here, they can find a solution that will, at least, keep them on the same team, and at best, get them there both on time and stress-free.
Many couples fight about the cleanliness of their house. Sometimes, one partner wakes up in the morning, sees the mess the other partner has left in the kitchen the night before, and gets angry.
On a bad day, that partner might say: “You are such a slob, you never clean up after yourself. You don’t care about anyone.”
Which will probably cause a defensive reply or some other sort of avoidance.
On a good day, the angry partner could use NVC and say:
“Honey, when I wake up to a messy kitchen I get a headache and I get angry. It makes me feel hurt because I need to feel like you care about me and what’s important to me. Would you please make sure you clean up after you finish your midnight snack?”
To which the other partner might reply: “Of course dear, I’m sorry, I know it’s important to you, but I was too tired to take care of it. I thought I would wake up before you did and clean it then.”
Or if they disagreed they could say “Dear, I hear you. I understand you need the kitchen to be cleaner. But for me it’s the cleanest I could get it to be. Can you show me what’s important to you? I’ll do my best to do it.”
From here they could negotiate further. Perhaps the level of cleanliness of one partner is too high for the other partner. But they could make each other feel heard and find another solution. One partner will make a better effort to learn what’s important to the other, and the other might agree to lower their standards on some things but not on others.
Episode 3 – How to Repair Communication That Has Been Broken
Relationships get stronger when they’re repaired after a rupture. Much like muscle fibers that get damaged in a workout, and then rebuild stronger, so do relationships – they strengthen with each conflict and reconnection.
When you and your partner fight, it causes a rip in your connection. When you reach back to each other, reconnect, and recreate emotional intimacy, the rupture repairs.
Through this process of ruptures and repairs, you learn about yourself, your needs, your sensitivities, and what’s important to you. You also learn about your partner’s triggers, needs and wishes. This knowledge deepens your connection and helps you and your partner feel closer to each other and to yourselves.
The cycle of rupture and repair also strengthens your trust in each other and reminds you that your partner will not leave because of a conflict.
How to Stop a Fight
It’s important to learn how to fight and how to stop a fight.
Before a fight, there’s usually an escalation – a disagreement becomes an argument, which turns to a heated argument, which escalates to a fight. Stop the fight before you’re too triggered to be respectful to your partner.
Tell your partner “I want to talk to you about this, but not in this manner. Let’s take a time out. I’m going to take a walk around the block, and we can talk about it in half an hour, when I’m calm and able to regulate my emotions.”
In this example, you show your partner good will. You show your partner s/he is important to you and you want to talk to her/him about the subject. You explain you’re taking the time out to soothe yourself so you can continue the dialogue better.
It’s also great to promise when you’ll talk about it again. It doesn’t have to be in half an hour, it can be any other time, only make sure you follow through on that promise.
What to Avoid
Avoid criticizing your partner’s character. It’s ok to complain about something they did (let’s say, the mess they left in the living room). It’s completely different to say that what they did (or didn’t do) means they are lazy or insensitive (or infer any other character judgment).
For example, it’s ok to say “I’m in a bad mood this morning, because I woke up to the mess in the living room. I get a headache from the mess. Could you please clean up after yourself before you go to sleep?”
It’s way too harsh to say “The mess you left in the living room makes me so angry. You are so lazy. You know I hate it, why don’t you ever think of me?”
Most important is to avoid contempt. Contempt is poisonous for the relationship. According to research, it’s the number 1 predictor of divorce.
Contempt is when we communicate to our partner that we feel we are better than them. We can say it with words that express their inferiority to us, and we can show it in our body language. By rolling our eyes, a one-sided mouth raise, or looking dismissively at our partner, we shame them. There should be an agreement from both partners to avoid those words and body language.
Become a Repair Artist
Most important in this process of ruptures and repairs, is to learn how to let go of your defenses, give your ego a rest, give up wanting to be right, and dare to be vulnerable. Dare to reconnect, even if you’re hurt.
Repairing is an art.
It starts with reconnecting. Slowly. A short look in your partner’s eyes. A quick touch on your partner’s hand. Offering tea, or a sandwich. Any gesture towards your partner that shows you’re trying to reconnect.
It continues with saying “I’m sorry” for the harsh words that you said. With taking responsibility for your side in the fight. Explaining what got you so triggered.
Full Apology Includes:
Acknowledging your partner’s pain
Taking ownership on your side of the fight
Saying you’re sorry
Explaining why it happened, and
Describing what you learned from it, so it won’t happen again.
Apologies don’t have to include the full list every time. But if you think you apologized and you notice there’s still resentment, you don’t feel close to each other yet, that probably means one of the components is missing.
You can feel when you’ve fully repaired the rupture.
Your heart opens. Your chest widens. There’s an impulse to get closer to your partner. To touch, hug, kiss. You exchange loving words. Emotional intimacy is recreated.
Episode 4 – What if You Need Some Help (More Resources – Podcasts, Books, Courses, How to Find an Effective Couples Therapist
13 Podcast Episodes You Must Listen to With Your Spouse (on Your Way to Your Weekly Date Night)
If you enjoy podcasts, we highly recommend you check out our own Generous Marriage Podcast.
In the first season we talked about real couples, what helped them through their struggles and what science says about their issues.
In the second season we interviewed experts about relationship issues.
And in the third season we focused on men, and what they can do the better their relationships.
Here are a few great episodes you should probably check out. Listening to them with your spouse can be a lot of fun, and can facilitate meaningful conversations, that can make your relationship more generous.
- Season 1 Episode 1 – Love Languages – In this episode we tell the story of a couple who were feeling unloved and underappreciated even though they loved each other, and how understanding the simple concept of love languages helped them understand how they keep missing each other. Using the correct love language with each other made their efforts much more effective, making a huge impact on their level of satisfaction from their relationship.
- Season 1 Episode 7 – The Power of Vulnerability – In this episode we tell the story of Emily and Charlie, who were fighting a lot about chores and who’s doing more around the house. In these fights they were shaming each other, and this shame held them back from connecting – emotionally or sexually – so they didn’t have sex for 6 months.Emily and Charlie had to learn the antidote to shame – being vulnerable with each other – so they can share the deeper needs and feelings behind their positions about the house chores. They learned to negotiate needs in intimacy.The emotional intimacy they cultivated soon led to re-establishing and even deepening their sexual connection.
- Season 1 Episode 9 – Small Moments of Generosity – In this episode we tell he story of Lily and John who felt like they couldn’t say anything to each other without it becoming a fight, and how making small acts of generosity with each other helped them recover their emotional bank account and remember their love and friendship.
- Season 1 Episode 10 – Healthy Erotic Tension – In this episode we talk about the Core Erotic Theme , a concept developed by Jack Morin, a sex therapist from San Francisco who studied more than 1000 stories of peak sexual experiences he gathered from Sexual Excitement Survey. Core Erotic Theme is the internal blueprint for arousal we have that can transform old childhood and adolescent wounds and conflicts into excitation.
- Season 2 Episode 2 – Your Hottest Sexual Movie – In this episode of the Generous Marriage Podcast we talk with Celeste Hirschman and Danielle Hare, the founders of Somatica Method for Sex and Relationship Coaching, about the differences between men and women on what they want to get out of sex, and how to get what you want in sex.
- Season 2 Episode 1 – No More Fighting – In this episode of the Generous Marriage Podcast we talk with Alicia Muñoz, LPC, the author of No More Fighting: 20 Minutes a Week to a stronger Relationship; about The benefits of working on your relationship; How a committed relationship can be an opportunity to heal childhood wounds; and why taking ownership on your part in the relationship is key for a generous relationship.
- Season 2 Episode 6 – Mindfulness in the Bedroom – In this episode we are interviewing Dr. Cheryl Fraser, a clinical psychologist, sex therapist, couples therapist and a Buddhist Dharma teacher. Very impressive woman! Dr. Cheryl Fraser published Buddha’s Bedroom – The Mindful Loving Path to Sexual Passion & Lifelong Intimacy, a great book that applies Buddhist teachings to sexuality, passion and intimacy. It’s packed with practical wisdom, and fun exercises you can do on your own or with your partner to rekindle the flames of passion in your relationship.
- Season 2 Episode 11 – Feeling Felt – In this episode we are interviewing Gal Szekely, a relationship expert, a senior couples therapist, and the founder of The Couples Center in San Francisco. These are some of the topics we covered in the interview: Does a relationship depend on communication? (surprising answer: no!); What do people want from their partners?; How do you help your partner feel felt?
- Season 2 Episode 15 – Turning Talk into Conversation – In this episode we talk with Tina Tessina a.k.a Dr. Romance (TM). Tina is a therapist from Los Angeles, with over 30 years experience, who’s written 15 books on people, life and love. We really loved talking to her, she’s fun, wise and overflowing with creative, practical wisdom. Tina gave us some great communication tips.
- Season 3 Episode 1 – Rules For Good Men – Our guest on this episode is Jed Diamond, an elder in the men evolution movement. He is the founder of MenAlive, a health program that helps men live long and well. Jed talks with us on what makes a good man, and how men can have better, more fulfilling marriage life.
- Season 3 Episode 6 – Investing in Your Marriage is Easy – In this episode we talk to Zach Brittle, a couples therapist from Seattle. He is a certified Gottman therapist and has worked closely with John Gottman, the famous couples researcher. Zack explains many of Dr. Gottman’s ideas regarding relationships. This episode is packed with small things you can do daily to improve your relationship.
- Season 3 Episode 9 – Making Your Spouse Your Best Friend – In this episode we talk to Dr. Kim Kimberling, an American author, Christian Counselor, and President and founder of Awesome Marriage, a nonprofit ministry aiding marriages. He has been a marriage counselor for over 30 years and married for over 40 years. There’s a lot to learn from Dr. Kim’s vast knowledge about relationships.
- Season 3 Episode 15 – Sizzling Sex in Long Term Relationships – In this episode we talk to Michael Castleman, a journalist and author of best-selling books on sexuality and health. He recently published a comprehensive book about sexuality Sizzling Sex For Life. We had an exciting talk with Michael, packed with jams about sexuality you can use today in your relationship.
These 5 Books (and a Blog) Might Make Your Marriage the Most Fun Relationship in the Universe
- The Queen’s Code – Alison Armstrong is one of our favorite teachers about men, women and relationships. The Queen’s Code is one of her most popular books, in which she teaches women how to understand men, and relate better to them.
- The Way of the Superior Man – David Deida is one of the most insightful and provocative spiritual teachers of our time, best-selling author David Deida continues to revolutionize the way that men and women grow spiritually and sexually. His teachings and writings on a radically practical spirituality for our time have been hailed as among the most original and authentic contributions to personal and spiritual growth currently available. In The Way of the Superior Man Deida offers a practical spiritual guide on mastering the challenges of women, work and sexual desire.
- 12 Rules for Good Men – Jed Diamond celebrates the gift of maleness and offers twelve actions men can take to improve their lives.
- Jordan Grey’s Blog – Jordan Grey is a relationship coach that gives tons of great practical, fun-to-read advice on his blog. Check it out. You won’t be able to stop reading.
- How to be a Couple and Still Be Free – Tina Tessina aka Dr. Romance(™) is a therapist from Los Angeles, with over 30 years experience, who’s written 15 books on people, life and love. This book is one of our favourites.
- No More Fighting: 20 Minutes a Week to a stronger Relationship – by Alicia Muñoz, LPC. We love this book because it’s packed with practical exercises that you could do with your partner to help you gain more closeness, understanding and generosity.
6 Online Courses That Will Make You Into a Relationship Jedi
- Reset Your Marriage – a course for men that need to invest in their relationship and are not sure what to do. 21 short videos that give you easy to implement ideas that will make your wife happy, and your relationship more satisfying.
- Generous Marriage Foundations – Trust – many couples suffer from corroded trust, which makes it hard for them to feel safe with each other, be close to each other, and enjoy healthy, nourishing sexuality. That’s why we developed the Trust course and the Trust Game within it. In this course you will find a way to reverse the corrosion and enhance trust in the relationship. This course can be done individually or as a couple, and will get you amazing results after applying the principles for 21 days.
- Love Made Simple – a couples workshop by Gal Szekely and Liron Cohen, founders of The Couples Center in San Francisco. In this online workshop Gal and Liron will teach you the theory and tools to: Stop the fighting, Communicate better, Feel understood and appreciated, Fall in love again, Make your relationship extraordinary.
- The Orgasmic Woman Course: Pleasure as a Way of Life – a great online course by Michal Maayan Don. In which she explains about feminine sexuality, and how to own it and become an empowered woman.
- Intimate Freedom – an online course for women by Belah Rose. If you’ve struggled with having desire for your husband, this is the program for you! How to create a culture that causes you to desire him. Create a place where you would actually want intimacy and want to make him feel so loved through intimacy.
- Supercharge Your Sex Life – an onilne course for men by Jordan Grey. As a man, the quality of sex you’re having affects every aspect of your life. Your physical health. Your career. And of course, your love life. When you are turned on and powerful in the bedroom, you become powerful in every other area of life. The world FEELS it from you. Take this course to learn how.
Episode 5 – Making Your Relationship Generous
7 Marriage Game Changers
In this guide we present 7 practices you could do to transform your relationship and make it a more generous, loving, and empowering one.
- Weekly Date Nights
- Love Dates
- Non-Violent Communication
- Daily Venting Conversations
- Becoming a Repair Artist
- Daring to Be Vulnerable
Gratitude is a great way to strengthen your relationship, create a cycle of generosity between you and your partner and boost your satisfaction from your connection.
We made a podcast episode about gratitude, and with it a quick guide with some of our favorite ways to practice gratitude, like Gratitude Post-it Notes, Gratitude Jar and other fun ways to see what’s good in your partner. You can download the Gratitude Practices guide at the bottom of the page.
One of the challenges for marriages in our times is dealing with outside stress. Sometimes stress affects the relationship and we need to have tools to manage that stress together so our connection can be a resource for dealing with the stress. When work gets too busy, or we need to deal with health issues of a loved one, or a pandemic, or any other big stressor that we might be facing, stress can become overwhelming.
A healthy venting conversation at the end of the day can be relieving and de-stressing. Taking time to connect and share with each other struggles and successes is a great way to reduce stress, reconnect, and strengthen the feeling of partnership.
We prepared a guide with some recommendations that can help you develop this healthy habit.
What Makes You Feel Loved Conversation
People tend to give love in the ways they enjoy receiving love. A person that feels good when he receives compliments, will tend to give a lot of compliments to his loved ones.
In long term relationships, it could be problematic if we show love in a way that doesn’t work for our partner. It is much more effective to express love in gestures that make your partner feel loved, right?
So we made a quick guide on how to conduct a conversation about the ways that both of you feel loved.
High ROI gifts
Giving gifts can be so stressful sometimes. Whether it’s the Holidays, Valentines, or your partner’s birthday, many people report stressing out over giving gifts.
In this guide we compiled some ideas for great gifts that don’t cost much, and deliver a meaningful message – “I see you, I know you, I care for you”.
How to Stop a Fight, and How to Repair After the Fight
It’s important and healthy to fight in a long term relationship.
This statement is true only when you know how to repair after the fight. The art of repairing, of recreating intimacy is a super-power in relationships.
This topic is so important we made a podcast episode about it https://www.generousmarriage.com/episode-3-fighting-is-important/
In this episode we tell a story of a couple who tried to maintain a fairytale relationship, fighting-free, and how they learned the hard way that it’s good to fight, when you know how to repair.
We also prepared a bonus guide with information on
- Why fighting is important
- How to stop a fight
- What to avoid when fighting
- Becoming a repair artist
- The healing power of an apology
- Reaching full repair – recreating intimacy
Using Non VIolent Communication to Manage Conflict
Dr. John Gottman’s research finds that 69% of a couple’s conflicts will never be resolved. He emphasizes the idea that couples need to learn to manage conflict rather than try to solve it.
In episode 5 of the Generous Marriage Podcast we told the story of a loving couple who had hard time managing conflicts, and how learning basic nonviolent communication (NVC) skills transformed their relationship.
The process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) was developed by Marshall Rosenberg. it offers a simple model of managing conflict in a nonviolent way which, at its best, helps couples negotiate needs in intimacy and find win-win solutions that make both partners feel satisfied and nourished.
As a free bonus for the episode, we prepared a guide with tips on how to manage conflict using NVC.
Find Your Core Erotic Theme
Jack Morin, a sex therapist from San Francisco, surveyed hundreds of people for their favorite fantasies and the most intense point of excitement they had had, using the Sexual Excitement Survey. He received more than 1000 stories of peak sexual experiences, which he uses in his book The Erotic Mind, to present a theory on how eroticism works.
Jack Morin developed a concept called Core Erotic Theme, which is the internal blueprint for arousal we all have, which can transform old childhood and adolescent wounds and conflicts into excitation.
We made a podcast episode about maintaining Healthy Erotic Tension, and we give away a free bonus Guide on How to Find Your Core Erotic Theme at the bottom of the podcast page