Many of the people who write to me about the problems or troubles in their marriages realize that a break down in communication is one of the major issues that they face and need to overcome. As easy as it is to identify that you have these issues, it can be more difficult to actually improve and solve them. Sometimes habits have evolved, and making changes requires real and constant effort.

I often receive comments like: "we used to talk all night and the conversation would just flow so easily and non stop. Today, there are long pauses and sometimes even awkwardness. And, when we have to really sit down and discuss our problems, this sometimes ends in disaster. He takes everything that I say in the wrong way. He says I nag, but to me, he is so defensive that the second I bring up something that he doesn't want to hear, he immediately gets angry and shuts down. It gets to where we avoid everything but small talk anymore and I know this is no way to conduct a marriage. I know that our marriage is going to be in real trouble if we can't learn to how to improve communication. But how do we even start?"

In the following article, I'll be offering some suggestions as to some relatively painless ways to improve the communication in your marriage so that hopefully this leads to improvements in other areas of the marriage as well. If communication is flowing freely and is actually working on a positive level, this can have a very positive effect on other areas of the marriage.

Start Small. Rebuild An Easy Rapport Before You Try To Have Difficult Conversations And Just Create More Awkwardness: Often, as soon as people realize there is a problem communicating in their marriage, they are tempted to do a complete overhaul right away. They feel very pressured and so they will just start attempting to have difficult conversations without laying any groundwork. The risk with this strategy is that often the talks will be awkward and uncomfortable which just reinforces the problem and discourages them from going any further. You want to set yourself up to be successful so that you can build up gradually.

Try To Establish Easy Conversations About Light Hearted Topics To Regain Your Footing: Here's something that so few people understand. If you can establish an open and easy-going relationship and give and take with your spouse on the little things, the big things become so much easier to manage and overcome. And many spouses do attempt small talk but this sometimes consists of the problems within their household or their kids.

So what you might find in these kinds of discussions are talks about the neighbor's dog digging up your garden yet again and the huge costs of your son's new braces. Sure, these conversations need to take place. But if this is what you place most of your focus on (and many of us do whether we realize it or not) then you are setting it up so that you both expect more of the same when you sit down to talk. You don't necessarily look forward to it because you know that its focus will be day-to-day drudgery that doesn't necessarily give you (or your marriage) a lift.

So, it can help to really place your focus on having positive discussions that build up both of you. Remember when the two of you used to talk about your hopes and dreams and giggle deep into the night because you were sharing part of yourself? This is what you are striving for now. You want those conversations to be sacred. You want to have the types of conversations with your spouse that you couldn't have with anyone else. Let's face it. You can talk about your neighbor's dog and your kid's braces with your mom or your best friend. Make the conversation something unique to your spouse.

Don't Make It All About You. Listen To What Your Spouse Is Really Saying. Read Between The Lines And Respond Accordingly: I would estimate that 99% of the time, people immersed in a conversation are thinking about their own agenda and what they themselves are hearing and communicating. This is natural and human nature. It doesn't say anything about your character, but it can have an effect on the conversation.

If your spouse knows that you aren't listening and responding to their perspective, they will shut down. This is counter to what you want or need to happen. They need to know that opening up to and talking with you is going to make the situation better instead of worse. So, if you are going to have a conversation about a tough topic, always take responsibility for what you yourself are feeling and hearing.

For example, instead of saying to your spouse "You never listen to me. I feel like I'm talking to a brick wall. " You might instead want to say "sometimes I feel that you're not really listening to me and this makes me feel isolated and alone. I want to know that you hear me. Do you have a few minutes to give me your undivided attention and listen to me?"

Do you see the difference? You're not creating a situation where you're being accusatory so that your spouse has to feel defensive. You are taking responsibility for how you feel. And you're asking him if it's a good time so that when he does sit down, you are much more likely to have a better experience.

Finally, the most important part of good communication comes down to one simple word - listening. If you are a good listener, most people (and likely your spouse included) will think you are a great communicator. Honestly, people attempt to communicate because they want to feel heard and validated. When this doesn't happen, they shut down and communication begins to be negatively affected.

But if your spouse knows that you will hear them even if you don't always agree, they will be much more open with you and they will likely return the favor and listen to you as you try to communicate with them. If I could pick what I wanted you to most take from this article, it would be that being a good listener and asking thoughtful open-ended questions and feedback truly is the most important part of improving the communication in your marriage.

Communication was a real problem in my own marriage. Unfortunately, I didn't attempt to address it until my marriage was in real trouble. My first attempts at improving this were a disaster but eventually, (though commitment and lots of effort), I was able to not only improve our communication but save the marriage as well. So, it was very much worth the effort. You can read that story on my blog at

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