(Rita) A few weeks ago we came across an article in Redbook magazine titled: 5 Things Good Partners Say to Each Other, written by Randi Gunther, Ph D. In the article she references several basic concepts that are helpful in good communication between spouses. They are things we have learned and practiced through the years and we would like to pass them on to you. An important thing to remember is to talk about the ideas before you need to use them. We have learned that you save a lot of valuable time and energy. Using these phrases results in a deeper relationship with each other by providing a plan for facing what could be uncomfortable moments that might produce disagreements and hurts.
1. (Rita) The first idea of which Dr. Gunther speaks is “We’re in this together.” Little rocks a marriage more than doubts about the commitment we each experience. Through our years of marriage we have spoken about the value of this over and over. No matter what each of us faced in our jobs, in relationships with friends, in our physical intimacy, how we individually parented children, decisions about our home or loss of a family member, to cite a few, I always knew that I had nothing to be concerned about as regarded Bob’s commitment to me and that I wasn’t facing anything alone. For me it is one of the greatest benefits of marriage. While we didn’t/don’t always use the words “we’re in this together,” the immediate reaction through his words, his facial expressions, and the look in his eyes let me know that no matter what I was facing, we were in it together. Bob, on occasion, has said that no matter what we have faced both individually and together, he never worried about whether or not I would be in bed with him the next morning.
2. (Bob) “You’re better at this than I am.” Through the years of our marriage we have learned that each of us is better at some things than the other. Rita is definitely better at listening to people and getting them to confide in her – sometimes to the point that people share their life stories with her on airplanes or in waiting rooms when she would prefer to be alone. When we were both teaching I often tried to create that kind of welcoming atmosphere with my student, but never had the level of success she did. I have learned that that is OK and I acknowledge it. On the other hand I am very good at dealing with computers, cars and anything mechanical or electronic while she is often very frustrated by them. When she admits my capability, I feel good about myself and am motivated to assist her when she needs help.
3. (Rita) A third idea that Dr. Gunther speaks of is to say “I’m angry.” This is a concept that I had to work into in our relationship. Voicing my anger has never come easily to me. I and others would describe me as the peacemaker. What I have learned in our years together is that being a peacemaker doesn’t necessary mean denying the emotion of anger, especially if it is the result of a perceived injustice on my part. We learned to talk about this as we became aware that true peace in our marriage meant we had to both know that we were listening and being listened to. Sometimes just saying “I’m angry” gets the attention of the other and then we can move ahead and talk about the real issue that might have precipitated the anger
4. (Bob) “Please tell me what’s going on.” After 45 years together each of us has a good sense of the mood of the other. We have learned to check in with the other when he or she is quiet or seems down. We tend to use the question: “Are you okay?” – often starting with an observation, e.g. “You seem distracted today, are you okay?” It can open the door to a discussion that clears the air or result in a reassurance. I sometimes respond to Rita’s question with: “I’m fine – just don’t have much to say at the moment.” At other times it opens the door and allows me to start sharing with Rita something that is bothering me. This simple question has led me to feel a sense of openness in our relationship that helps us to keep in touch and is an indication of concern that lets each of us know that we are loved
5. (Rita) The final idea is the value of “Anything you say face-to-face.” As a teacher of teens in the age of social media I was often aware of my students fighting and making up with each other via the internet. In a matter of minutes everything could, in their minds, be erased as well. I’m thankful that we had years together when we did write to each other, but we had daily face time as well. While I cherish the things that Bob has written to me through the years and have tucked away many for future reference and discoveries, nothing brings the same results as living together and spending time together each day. This affords me the opportunity to actually see all the expressions in his eyes and on his face and in the body language he spoke when he said/says, “I’m sorry” and “Will you forgive me?” as well as the innumerable times in our years together that he has said, “I love you.” Without having heard the things with my own ears and seen the expressions in his eyes, reading them would not have had the same affect. There is nothing that compares to real face time.
(Bob) We hope you find these phrases and our comments helpful. You can read the original article here.
Is there a phrase or question you use often in your marriage that is important in keeping your relationship strong? Please leave a comment below.
Bob & Rita’s book: Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime, is available on Amazon.com. Also available for Kindle and Nook. Check out our Marriage Enrichment Programs at readabookpress.com.