Effective communication is vital to a successful relationship. Here are 10 steps to assist in your success.

1) Value- Determine if the topic/subject or situation is 1-10. 1=small stuff & unnecessary to communicate; 10=urgent and MUST communicate; 5=you could handle independently or it could snowball into something worse so WATCH CAREFULLY. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No one wants to be labeled as a nagging wife or a judgmental husband. Everyone wants to feel loved and accepted for who they are. Over communicating can cause your spouse to feel criticized and shut down communication altogether. Choose when to communicate wisely. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

2) Transparency- We must be willing to share our depth of feelings and emotions without FEAR of rejection. As difficult as it is to let your guard down, it is essential in building a bond to last a lifetime. The marital relationship is the one place where you and your spouse should feel safety. Create a spousal communication culture that is free of judgment/criticism and open to vulnerability.

3) Honesty- Be honest with yourself recognizing that you only have one perspective; be honest in your evaluation of the situation and the circumstances surrounding it; be honest with your spouse by truthfully sharing your needs and be honest by taking responsibility for the role you played in the current state of the relationship.

4) Timing- There’s no perfect time but there is bad timing for difficult conversations. Think it through before approaching your spouse with a difficult conversation. Anger has no place in solution oriented resolutions. I would even suggest setting an agreed upon place and time, therefore giving both parties an opportunity to collect their thoughts and prepare for the upcoming conversation.

5) Active Listening- Listen to understand versus to defend. Easy to intellectualize but difficult to execute. All things worth achieving require work. Practice being an active listener until you achieve it. I have found I am most successful when I write down the points my spouse is trying to make. It frees me from trying to memorize his points and from trying to think of my response. It deactivates the analytical part of my brain and allows me to absorb the information being shared.

6) Reiteration- Repeating what you heard for clarity, understanding and unity (being on the same page). Oftentimes what we hear our spouse say is different than what they were trying to communicate. Simply say, “What I heard you say is… Is that correct?” This simple statement decreases the probability of misunderstandings and mishaps due to incorrect interpretation of what was communicated.

7) Facts- Be fact driven. Don’t let emotions cloud the situation. Sometimes you may have to collectively jot down the facts in order to stay on topic or point. However, don’t let facts discount feelings. Feelings are important and should be validated.

8) Validation- Agreement isn’t necessary to validate your spouses feelings or emotional reaction to a situation. Sometimes validation of feelings is all your spouse needs to recover from an uncomfortable experience. Facts are important, however the way you communicate them or even the timing of your communication can be inappropriate and cause unnecessary stress on your relationship.

9) Follow up- Some conversations require a follow up to ensure follow through. Agree on a day and time for further discussion. It shows commitment to resolve.

10) Politeness/Positivity- DO NOT use harsh, negative words when describing or discussing a situation, your spouse or your spouses behavior. Being rude only causes your spouse to become more emotional which further clouds the discussion. Name calling breeds resentment and contempt which can become detrimental to a marital relationship.