On Valentine’s Day, you can’t beat the perfect card for saying how you feel. (What did you expect us to suggest?) But communication is much more than an annual message—it’s an ongoing dialogue. It’s saying what you mean, listening as well as speaking, and sharing how you feel about the big things as well as the small ones.
Keep emotion out of it
“Part of us both being educators means there’s an ability to talk about how something makes me feel, but then we can turn that part off and talk about it rationally. We can deal with an issue without getting emotionally invested in the outcome any more so than necessary.” —Leslie C. (with Maggie C. for 37 years and married for two years)
More than words can say
“Listen before you talk. After 40 years, I’m still working on this one.” —Bill G. (with Carolyn G. for 41 years and married for 40 years)
Know how someone communicates
“Communication isn’t always necessarily a verbal thing. It’s knowing what the other person appreciates and doing those things. Everybody communicates their love style a certain way.” —Jodi W. (with David W. for 39 years and married for 33 years)
Know how to go
“‘Don’t go to bed mad’ is a good rule of thumb, but it’s not always going to happen that way. It’s not so much don’t go to bed mad, but don’t go to work mad. Don’t leave the house mad. I would never want the last conversation we ever had to be an argument.” —Dayton W. (with Michi W. for 36 years and married for 30 years)
Don’t give up
“Apart from any other part of the relationship, she’s my best friend. I don’t want to lose my best friend. If we’ve got an issue, we’re going to deal with it. We’re going to deal with it together, we’re going to be honest about it, and we’re going to figure it out the best way we can.” —Maggie C. (with Leslie C. for 37 years and married for two years)
Learn better ways
“Our level of communication increased dramatically when we took a self-awareness program that gave us a shared communication. I think there are a lot of programs out there that allow people to communicate more efficiently and be true to themselves.” —Jennifer J. (with Tim J. for 27 years and married for 25 years)
Understanding is key
“I was constantly on him to tell me what you were feeling, but I wanted to make sure we didn’t end up arguing over stupid stuff all the time. I didn’t want to end up like that. I wanted us to end up on the same page. As I got older, I realized that you don’t have to end up on the same page; you just have to understand where the other person is coming from.” —Tami S. (with Jay S. for 39 years and married for 37 years)
Family plays a role
“When we first were married, he once asked, ‘Do we have any ice cream?’ I replied yes and left the room. We later discovered that in his world, that meant ‘Do we have any ice cream and go get me some.’ In my family, if you want something, you go and get it yourself. We really had to start looking not just at us but how are families communicate, and what are you really saying when you’re speaking.” —Sandy W. (with Kurt W. for 40 years and married for 35 years)
- Express simple courtesies and appreciation, especially for the little things.
- Listen to fully understand what the other is communicating—In conversations big and small—rather than thinking about what they’ll say next.
- Learn to apologize sincerely.
- If you need it, get outside help. Many successful couples have learned there’s no shame in counselling.