Communication is the key to a successful marriage, but it can be difficult to communicate effectively when arguments break out. Here are a few tips you can use to try and make disagreements more constructive.

One of the most important things to understand is that communication should be followed by action – show your spouse that what you're saying is true. Words like “love” and “I apologize” are action words. This means that they should not only be said, but followed by actions that illustrate their meaning. If a picture is worth a thousand words, actions are priceless.

What happens when your spouse walks out on you suddenly? Click here to learn how to deal with it. 

Illustrate your love for one another by taking the time to recognize what each of you brings to the relationship. A marriage is not a one-person show, but a wonderful partnership. You can demonstrate appreciation by bringing your spouse coffee, or even just letting them sleep in. It's the small stuff that really matters here. These ‘small' things are the foundation to a strong marriage – they're actions that follow actionable words.Happy couple

Understanding how to express yourself is just as important as why you should express yourself. When you and your spouse do have a disagreement, always try to keep a calm voice. If you're starting to lose your temper, try to come up with a word that your partner will understand. Use a word like break, pause, stop, or cancel to signify that you need to stop talking and take some time to cool off. This isn't the end of the conversation, but it can only resume once the tempers die down.

Click here for a list of things you should never say to your spouse.

Another important thing to remember is that you should never use words that shift blame. You can illustrate why you are unhappy, but avoid accusatory words that begin by pointing out the other party. Never begin a sentence with anything like “You said…” Instead, try starting with “I am unhappy because I thought we had agreed…” so that your spouse doesn't have to feel defensive.

Further, always try to clarify any doubt. When you need to clarify, do so in a non-accusatory fashion. Avoid putting words into your partner's mouth – you might have misunderstood or gotten it all wrong. Instead of saying “What you said was…,” tell your spouse that you thought you heard something else. This gives your partner a chance to clarify, validate, or explain.

By taking actionable steps to ensure your marriage's success, you can demonstrate your resolve to endure through the bad times so that you can truly enjoy the good ones. The result: a happier marriage for you and your spouse.

Dan Exner, J.D.

Family Law Attorney

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