Becoming more assertive in marriage is about effective communication; being heard and hearing. These nine communication tips can improve your marriage, help your spouse understand you, and help you understand him.
The more understanding and acceptance there is in your marriage, the better your marriage will be!
“Studies show that assertive communication can help build personal confidence, assist with managing stress and anger, and improve coping skills for emotional health and well-being,” says psychologist Sari Shepphird, author of 100 Questions & Answers About Anorexia Nervosa. “Assertive communication is the perfect midpoint between aggressiveness and passivity — you avoid needlessly hurting others, yet you are sure to see results.”
Many married couples are stuck in the passive-agressive cycle, and it can be hard to break. To learn how to communicate in a healthy and assertive way, read We Can Work It Out: How to Solve Conflicts, Save Your Marriage.
And, here are nine tips for better marriage communication and an assertiveness training “mini-test”, based on information from Dr Shepphird’s book….
Becoming More Assertive in Marriage – 9 Communication Tips
Assertiveness involves speaking up for your feelings and needs. Learning how to be more assertiven in marriage will help you express your thoughts, reactions, wants, and needs to your spouse. These communication tips increase the chances you’ll get what you want and need out of your marriage — without ignoring or railroading your spouse’s wants and needs!
1. Use assertive language. One of the most effective relationship communication tips is to use “I” statements so your spouse knows what you are thinking and feeling. For example, instead of saying, “You are ignoring me!” you could say, “I feel hurt when you watch television when I’m trying to speak to you.”
2. Be clear in asking for what you want. Avoid making your spouse guess what you’re feeling or thinking, or what you want to do. If you’re going to the movies, for example, and your spouse tends to run late, you could say, “I enjoy watching the previews, so could we please be ready to go at 7 o’clock?” Remember that he’s not a mind reader (even about the things that seem obvious to you!).
3. Speak up if you were interrupted. One of my best male friends has a habit of interrupting me — and he doesn’t realize he’s doing it! Becoming more assertive in your marriage (and other relationships) is about pointing out behavior that infringes on your rights and needs. You have both the right and the need to finish your sentences! “Excuse me, Doug, I wasn’t finished speaking yet” works for me.
4. Don’t apologize for your feelings. If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to apologize for. Don’t apologize for your emotions, needs, or hopes! This communication tip is especially important for women (we tend to over-apologize).
5. Don’t take responsibility for someone else’s behavior. Part of becoming more assertive in marriage is learning where “we” ends and “I” begin. What your spouse says and does isn’t your responsibility, so don’t let him assign blame — and don’t blame yourself for his actions.
6. Repeat your request, if you are not satisfied that you have been heard. I’ve said, “Excuse me, Doug, I wasn’t finished speaking yet” more times than I can count! This isn’t the best example of a marriage communication tip because I only see my friend once every few months, but the assertiveness tip is still valid. Sometimes people need to be told things over and over before it sinks in.
7. Express yourself calmly, taking deep breaths if you need to. Becoming more assertive in marriage isn’t about insulting, accusing, or getting angry. It’s about expressing your feelings and asking for what you need. For example, instead of saying, “You are so stubborn, you never listen to me!” you could say, “I feel frustrated when you interrupt me, so please just listen for a moment.”
8. Listen to your spouse’s point of view. Let your spouse speak his mind, and make sure you speak up too! But remember: you don’t have to agree with his opinion or do what he asks. Healthy communication is about respecting different opinions.
9. Offer to compromise, when appropriate. Sometimes you need to speak up and stick to your convictions; other times you need to find a compromise that suits you both. Learning how to solve problems in marriage involves both compromise and assertiveness — and dedication to creating a relationship that meets both your needs.
Becoming more assertive in marriage takes time and practice! If you’re not sure if you’re assertive, here’s a mini-test for assertiveness…
A Test for Assertiveness
Complete the following statements by answering with: (A) Always (B) Frequently (C) Sometimes (D) Rarely (E) Never
1) I stand up for my own needs.
2) I feel I deserve to be heard.
3) I believe I have a right to my own feelings and opinions.
4) I share those feelings and opinions with others.
5) I ask for what I want and need.
6) I am able to say “no” when I do not want to do something.
7) I am afraid it will seem selfish if I express my feelings or opinions.
If you answered C, D, or E to most of questions 1-6, and/or answered A or B to question 7, you might benefit from an assertiveness training workshop or class. Taking an assertiveness course with your spouse is a great way to improve your marriage!
Do you have any thoughts or questions on how to be more assertive in marriage? I welcome your comments below…
If you need help with financial communiction, you might find 5 Ways to Stop Money Fights – Money Management in Marriage helpful.
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The mini-test for assertiveness training and tips for improving communication skills is an adapted excerpt from Dr. Shepphird’s new book, 100 Questions and Answers about Anorexia Nervosa. For more information about Dr. Shepphird, visit DrShepp.com.