It’s no secret that communication is vital in marriage. When our lives revolve around long work hours, training schedules and deployments it’s easy for our connection with our spouses to get lost in translation. For military families, it’s not only the separations that complicate things, but the constant changing and evolution of our lives and careers. I’m convinced that having great communication can keep our relationships connected and excellent. Who wants a subpar relationship anyway? At the end of the day, for us, in this life, we have to choose quality over quantity. Let’s talk about ways to…well…talk!
- Be honest. You have to have the hard conversations. There really isn’t a way around this one. Family, distance, loneliness, stress, finances, depression and neglect can become issues quickly. When they surface, you can’t let them linger. To this day, Dave still jokes about the time on our anniversary date when I regurgitated every negative thing I was feeling about our relationship and he didn’t even know anything was wrong! This happens all the time in relationships; someone is hurt and doesn’t speak up and lets the problem grow and grow in secret, until one day it explodes and seems to come out of nowhere. The remedy is honesty. You don’t have to have a big “talk” every time you have to pick up dirty PT jackets on the floor, but you can’t let the issues that dwell in your heart grow in silence.
- Intentionally carve out time to talk. Conversing through the chaos of everyday life just doesn’t cut it. For us, the week seems to fly by littered with kids’ activities, homework, unit functions and late work nights. At the end of the day when there is time to talk, there really isn’t any energy left. Setting up a routine time, preferably weekly, can alleviate a lot of potential miscommunication. This is an excellent opportunity to bring up things that have been on your mind. Having the weekly meeting also gives time to process things that might need addressing and gives you ample time to find a good approach to hard conversations.
- Don’t speak out of anger. We all know this, but it is seriously tempting to not heed it. Once you are in the habit of speaking with anger, it is so hard to break it. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment. We’ve all been there. Speaking out of anger usually results in hurtful words that can’t be taken back. And nothing will destroy your marriage quicker than words you can never take back. You have to remember how much you love your spouse in those moments. You have to love them more than the urge to make yourself feel better for an instant. Patience is a virtue, right? If you need time to calm down, take it. There is more than one way to structure a sentence. Make sure your sentences are structured around kindness, even if they contain hard truths.
- Be creative. We’ve all had times when our spouses are out training, deployed or in a school that makes our communication routines impractical. There are times when their jobs take too much out of them. It’s important to stay flexible and empathetic during these times. Even though interaction can be scarce, it is still important to set up a system to stay connected. There are copious amounts of communication apps and social media channels we can use nowadays to stay in contact with our spouse. Be committed and stay connected creatively. Also, it never hurts to mix it up when we do get stuck in a routine. An unexpected text, a note tucked into a cap, or even a surprise lunch dropped off can ripple through and energize periods of stagnant conversation.
Whether newly married, caught in a routine, or well-seasoned in marriage, we can all benefit from brushing up on our communication skills. Military life sometimes makes it easier to be comfortable with our old habits, but resiliency in marriage requires intention. Having a great marriage is worth fighting for.