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Most, if not all of us, have been there at one point or another… arguing with our partner and frustrated because they don’t seem to get where you’re coming from. Good communication is arguably the most important aspect of a strong military marriage. It is also frequently the hardest thing to develop. Here are some tips to improve communication in your relationship:

Take a Deep Breath

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Next time you feel frustrated, misunderstood, or just totally pissed off… take a deep breathe and count to 5 or even 10 before you respond. By taking a breath (or even a small break), you are able to calm down and better express your feelings.

Try Not To Use “You” Statements.

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When you’re upset with your partner it’s easy to throw out “you” statements, such as:

I can’t believe you did that…“, “You always…“, “You never…” or “You SUCK” (OK, maybe not that last one… but maybe yeah). In any event, when you begin a sentence with “YOU,” it sounds accusatory and puts your partner on the defense right off the bat; making them less likely to truly hear you. Instead try talking about how something made you feel. For instance, instead of saying “I hate when you do that,” try saying “When you do that, I feel…” You’ll better communicate your point if you talk more about how something affects you and less about how your partner “sucks.”

Remember it’s Not About Winning.

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There are three people in a marriage: you, your spouse and the marriage itself. The marriage is the only thing that should ever win in an argument. Keep this in mind when you’re trying to communicate your point. It’s not about you winning or either one of you being right or wrong, it’s about trying to understand each other’s view-point. If you’re both ticked off, take another breather (see step 1 above.)

More is More.

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Try to tell your spouse more than just the bare details to prevent miscommunication in the first place. If you’re going out with friends and plan to be back at 5 but think there’s a possibility it will run late, tell your spouse that ahead of time. If things change, keep them updated. A lot of communication issues are caused by lack details, which is a simple fix.

Think About What’s Actually Bothering You.

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Next time you’re having trouble getting your point across, think about what’s really bothering you and why. Then make sure to communicate why you’re actually upset. Too often we just communicate that we are upset at a situation without communicating the real underlying reason we’re upset. That’s where the whole “passive aggressive” thing gets started, and you do NOT want to go there.

Express Your Needs

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To go one step further on preventing communication issues, start by expressing what you need in the first place. Do you need more time to yourself or more time with them? TELL THEM. Seriously, they aren’t a psychic and no, they shouldn’t “just know.” If you’re looking for a way to ask for something you need without actually asking, flip the script and ask them if there’s anything THEY need, and maybe your spouse will ask the same. But honestly: JUST TELL THEM.

Keep an Open Mind

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Try to keep an open mind when your spouse is talking about something that bothers them. Do your best to really hear what they’re saying and try to understand where it’s coming from. We all have our own perspectives and no one is completely right or wrong.

Don’t Forget to Communicate the Good Things.

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As important as it is to communicate when you’re upset, it’s just as important to communicate how much you love and appreciate your spouse. Don’t forget to take the time to tell them how much they mean to you so they know you’re always on their team, even when you’re trying to communicate the tough things.

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