All of us are unique. Therefore, every couple is different. And so are our relationships.

Communication is about sending and receiving information. In our marriages, the sharing of information also includes ideas and emotions, with the latter being expressed either verbally or non-verbally. But it goes even further; it is creating or allowing a safe space in which we can freely talk about very personal matters, being able to be vulnerable without being judged or devalued. Marital communication helps us to connect with each other emotionally.

Talking is an integral part of communication. Yet, when my partner says “I want to talk to you” I may often be inclined to react by a need to defend. I would catch myself thinking “what’s wrong this time?” and inadvertently my ability to listen is compromised.

Perhaps we should turn this around. “I want to listen to you” may provoke a much better reaction.

When I ask people to rate their listening skills on a scale of 1 to 10, most respond with a 6 or 7 with the lowest a modest 5. Most of the respondents happen to be male. We are inclined to perceive ourselves as good listeners. But when checking this with the partners it does not seem to be so. Both the husband and wife can be good listeners and communicators (check their courting days), but this seems to decline with time. We as men who (naturally) want to solve problems and address issues, too often forget that all our partner may want is a listening ear.

But listen to understand, do not listen to react. Listening involves our hearts. Listening is the key to a happy relationship. Learn to allow time before responding. We do not have to feel exposed or offended in a marriage. If we do, is it because of us and not our partner? Even, when we disagree – remember different is different. Different does not mean or imply right or wrong. Unless I always want to be right, and my partner becomes my opponent.

But talking is equally important in marriages. My partner is not a mind-reader, so I must convey my message clearly. It is also my responsibility to check if he or she receives what I send. Some of us may be “detail” persons while others are so-called “bigger picture” persons. This requires of me to be patient in understanding what is said.

And once we manage our talking and listening there is the element of timing. Choosing the time to communicate serious matters can be essential in having our partner truly hear what we communicate. H.A.L.T. from trying to talk about anything important or that could cause conflict when either of you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired.

We may want to communicate a serious matter at the end of a day, before dinner, and/or after sitting alone in our home office after a bad night’s sleep. We know what will happen … Yet, this is what we do. We usually avoid difficult conversations when we feel good, but when we are stressed or tired, we deliberately or unintentionally let slip what is deep inside because we can’t keep it in.

And no, we do not have to agree on everything. We are different individuals and will all have disagreements at times. Question is, can we respect the point of view of our partner and even have a sense of humor over the points of contention?

In summary, we have two ears and one mouth. This is no coincidence.