Julie McKay, FCP
SPICE, part 5 (communication)
So far, we've talked about the spiritual, physical, intellectual, and creative elements of SPICE. This week we get to talk about communication! I'm very passionate about this topic. I want to share some tips that my husband and I have received, some of which we have implemented in our relationship and some of which we are still working on incorporating. I have also learned so much from my clients, so I want to share some tips inspired by them as well.
1. Don't be afraid to talk about more difficult or awkward topics. Some couples are afraid to broach some topics like finances and intercourse. We come into marriage with different childhood experiences of money and different ways of approaching personal finance. This can be challenging to navigate. However, a lack of communication in those areas can greatly affect a relationship. Also, avoid talking about things in the moment. If you're having a fight about money, don't try to have a meaningful conversation about your budget right then and there. Take some down to calm down and co-regulate before you sit down for a talk.
It might take some time for the two of you to feel more comfortable talking about these more challenging topics if it's something you haven't done before. That's ok! Start small and keep at it. They're important, so it's worth the investment of time and money. For those who are engaged, start talking about the important things now. What will you use to budget? Excel, google sheets, an app, paper and pen? What are your financial goals at the beginning of marriage? If you want to learn more about personal finance, I highly recommend checking out Wallet Win. My husband and I have greatly benefited from their resources.
2. Set aside time for more serious conversations. My husband and I are still working on this one. It's important to set aside time for those more serious conversations and be intentional about them. But you don't want them to take over your whole relationship. This is especially important when you're in a more challenging season of your marriage or relationship. Don't let the serious topics take over your marriage. Take time to just enjoy being with your spouse and talk about things you both enjoy.
Here are some concrete examples. If you're an engaged couple planning a wedding, plan on spending a certain amount of time talking through those details, but when that time is over, keep that topic off-limits for the rest of your time together. Don't let it eclipse the rest of your relationship. For married couples, have a set time that you meet to talk about financial goals and your budget. When that meeting is over, turn to another topic or just do something you both enjoy.
3. Use "I statements." It can be easy to slip into "you statements" that come off as accusatory even if it is not our intention. This can put the other person on the defensive. Once one or both person's guards are up, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to have meaningful conversation and connection.
If you're confused what I mean by "I statements," here's an example. It's easy to say, "You didn't take out the trash last night. You knew how little sleep I got nursing the baby last night. Why couldn't you have done this one little thing to help me?" Instead, try saying something like, "I was feeling really exhausted and overwhelmed yesterday because I didn't sleep very much last night. I was really hoping you would take out the trash. When you didn't, I felt upset and like you didn't care about my well-being. Would you be willing to take on more of the chores on those days that are harder for me? What is a good way for me to communicate that to you?"
It can feel really vulnerable to share and own our emotions. But it is so important to healthy communication. We are responsible our own emotions and reactions. We can't control anyone else's emotions or reactions, and no one else is responsible for ours. It can be an awkward process to learn how to communicate in a new way. Again, that's ok and very normal. You might find my last tip helpful in acquiring these new skills.
4. Don't be afraid to try couples counseling. God has gifted us with doctors to help us address physical issues that arise. In a similar way, he has given us professionals, counselors and therapists, who can help us with our mental health and relationships. It can be a beautiful gift for your relationship. While a couples therapist can help you during a difficult time in your marriage, you don't have to be experiencing major challenges to seek out a therapist. A therapist can give you tools and help you work on and practice better communication. My husband and I found a therapist even before we got married, and it has been a gift to our relationship. This search tool can be very helpful as can finding a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). I've liked Emotionally Focused Therapy. This search tool allows you to find a therapist trained in EFT.
A couple of tips for therapy: Don't be afraid to try meeting with multiple therapists if the first one isn't a good fit. Don't stick with a therapist just because it can be challenging to find someone new. If you don't click with them, it doesn't make them a bad therapist, and you won't hurt their feelings by seeking out someone new. It's worth the process and effort to find someone who you both feel comfortable with. It can be beautiful to find a therapist who shares your faith, and sometimes that is the best choice for a couple. However, you don't have to share the same faith to have a great relationship with your therapist. We tried meeting with a Christian therapist, but it wasn't a good fit for us. Neither of us felt comfortable during our sessions, and I didn't feel heard. We switched therapists to someone who doesn't offer Christian counseling, and our sessions with her have borne so much fruit. Also, you don't necessarily need to find someone in your immediate area. A more specialized provider can be a better fit depending on your situation. My husband and I meet with our therapist via Zoom. Some therapists will bill your visits so your insurance will cover them. My individual therapist gave me this tip, and it has made couples therapy accessible for us.
Healthy communication is essential in any marriage. Keep working on it day by day, and don't be afraid to reach out for support!