The key to success in any relationship, but especially in a marriage, is open, honest communication. It is the gift that my bride gave me from the day we were married, and it has made all the difference. This Friday we will celebrate 33 years from the day we committed to each other to be a family. Over that time there have been hundreds of conversations about the values we share and have passed on to our kids.
It was not easy. My wife, Kim, had tremendous patience while I learned the essentials of good communication from her. I have a tendency to react, especially when my temper rises, but rule #1 of communicating is that you have to remove the emotion from it. Stop yelling, stop hating, just talk about whatever it is that you think is bothering you. Often times, in the course of conversation, you’ll find out it is not what you think it is.
Along with no emotion is rule #2, never go to bed angry. Often it was being tired that contributed to my crankiness that lead to the fight. However, the lights did not go out and I was not allowed to go to sleep until we had talked it out, and that was true for our children as well. Once they learned to talk, going to bed in tears was not an option.
Rule #3 – take time to communicate. On occasion, I have delayed going to work so that we can talk, because like you, our schedules can become overly busy. That few minutes to connect makes a huge deposit in the emotional bank account. It’s important to plan blocks of time for in depth discussion, even if it is just coffee on the back porch. When the walls go up, it’s time to get away for a day or a weekend and tear them down again.
For more in depth treatment on communicating, see the chapter in Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People on “Seek to Understand Before Being Understood” Until then, start with Kim’s three rules … and have a great family.