In order to have a successful marriage you have to communicate with your spouse effectively. Effective communication means verbalising needs and listening carefully. If there is no healthy way of expressing our thoughts and emotions to each other, of speaking and being heard, then everything else will ultimately crumble. One of the main reasons couples divorce is because they lost the ability or never had the required skills to communicate with one another. There are ways to communicate effectively so that marital conflicts may be defined, addressed and worked through.

There is a need to understand what your partner is saying on a simple level as well as try to analyse the underlying message or desire. Effective communication has two main elements which are “speaking” and “listening”. It sounds simple and straight forward but actually communication is a skill which takes practice if it is going to be effective.

Good communication skills are the keys to any successful marriage because relationships are emotional and rely on interpersonal verbal and non-verbal exchanges between the two people involved. Now let us come to the vital and probably most neglected aspect of communication; that is hearing our partner. We are often so keen for our partner to hear and understand us that we neglect to listen to them. Listening is an ability or skill that needs to be cultivated and learned. Again there are three aspects of listening: a) Concentration b) Understanding c) Empathy. To communicate, we must make a deliberate and concerted effort to tune in. We call it active listening. Quite obviously, it is not passive. It does not happen by itself. We are not going to hear our spouse unless we concentrate on them and what they have to say. It means focusing to the exclusion of all else. Just like the satellite dish needs to be adjusted to receive the best signal, so we need to focus and give our full attention if we are to hear properly.

Listening is showing respect, honouring the other enough to demonstrate that what they have to say is more important that those other….noises. So if we are to hear them there must be a time when you turn the TV off, or you put the book or newspaper down, or put the household chores aside, or when you came home from work early, or you forgo the hobby, get-together with friends, or sporting activity or you go to bed later so that you can give your spouse your 100 percent attention.

The reason active listening is so important is because it is so easy to misunderstand each other. There are a number of big differences between the partners in any marriage. Firstly we all to some degree marry someone of a different cultural background. Our home backgrounds are different even if we have lived in the same community all our lives (which is not likely these days). The values, norms, standards that we have been taught very often will vary. The view of extended family, etiquette, finance acumen, roles, leisure time, attitude to qualifications and work, bed times, attitude to alcohol, beliefs etc., may be different and can cause misunderstanding unless care is taken. Each partner oftentimes sees their own understanding and background as being normal and/or important. Poor listening ability leads to the breakdown in communication in a marriage, therefore listening must be properly managed between partners to enable effective communication in marriage, foster mutual respect and avoid conflict.