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The wedding is the fun part. But what comes after the white dress, the cake, and the glorious honeymoon? I would like to argue that that’s when the real fun begins, but if we are going to be honest, there will be changes. Relationships do take work, and nothing is as easy to map out as those table assignments were. (I know, I know — those weren’t too easy, either).
An expert I much admire, Michelle Skeen, PsyD, has recently put out a new book that I can’t put down. Josh caught me reading it in lieu of the stack of breastfeeding and natural delivery books I have sitting next to the couch these days, but he didn’t scoff. Keeping our marriage on track with the right advice on communication and strategy is never a bad idea. And one lucky BTBAB reader will win a copy, too. Read on for some tips from Michelle finely tuned for newlyweds, and comment below or email me privately to enter to win yours!
Michelle says, “Communication is the key to creating and maintaining healthy relationships. It is easy to fall into communication patterns that slowly create barriers to true intimacy in relationships.” Here are some key points she addresses in the book.
1. Listening – A variety of listening blocks (comparing, judging, filtering, rehearsing and mind-reading) that prevent you from hearing what your partner has to say. [You can list the ones that I identify in the book with short descriptions if you want]. It is important to bring awareness to what is getting in the way of truly understanding what is being communicated to you.
2. Need expression – Expressing your needs is a skill that is more challenging to master than it may appear. While need expression will not always result in your needs being met, the following guidelines will increase you chances. Your need should not blame or assign fault to the other person; it should not be pejorative or judgmental; it should be tangible; and it should not ask for too much at one time.
3. Validation – Validation confirms to your partner that you are listening and understanding them. It’s an important communication skill for you to learn because it creates a healthy cycle of verbal exchange. Additionally, validation increases self-disclosure. You should validate emotions, wants and desires, beliefs and opinions, actions and suffering.
4. Empathy — Empathy is essential to building deeper and lasting relationships. The key is to learn how to connect with your partner’s experience. You may not agree with his attempts at dealing with his pain, but you probably have the capacity to understand his experience. Understanding does not mean agreeing. It means connecting with another person’s experience — feeling what he must be feeling.
5. The Apology – Many people never learn how to apologize. An apology can be a powerful tool to ease the other person’s pain; it can also make him feel like you are connected to his experience. It’s important that you make him feel like you understand that what you said or did hurt his feelings. “I’m sorry that your feelings are hurt” (not taking responsibility for what you said or did) is very different than “I’m sorry that I said something that hurt your feelings” (taking responsibility).
I found all of the above and so much more information inside the book really helpful in creating a strategic action plan for how to overcome drama and work through hard times together. In the end, marriage isn’t just about love — it’s about sharing a life with someone. When that gets tough, you’ve got to do the work, and the talking, to get through it. Good luck to all of you gorgeous brides, and may you stock your shelves with helpful reads like this one to make the marriage even sweeter.
Read it on borntobeabride.com