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4 Vital Ways Your Friends Make You a Better Spouse

4 Vital Ways Your Friends Make You a Better Spouse

You’ve seen them. The couple who, in the midst of a busy restaurant, are oblivious to life around them. Staring at each other, gooey-eyed and grossing people out at surrounding tables. It can be endearing. They’re in the ‘getting to know all about you’ phase. Right now, they don’t need anyone else in the world, but it won’t stay that way. Or, at least, it shouldn’t, if they want their relationship to thrive.

Don’t tell them, but they actually need other people for the long term health of their couplehood. They need their friends. Here’s why.

1. You Have Different Points of View

Men and women don’t communicate alike. Or for the same purpose. The early, gooey-eyed phase is a case in point. At the start of a relationship, the man is on a recon mission. He’s gathering info about a woman in order to know how to ‘do life’ with her. Once he has enough info, the mission is done. No further deep and focused talk is required. That phase is over. He is now ready to move on to the next phase: Doing life.

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The woman experiences the gooey-eyed phase entirely differently. What the woman is thinking: “I’ve finally found a man who will talk with me. It must be love!” And, trouble can begin just as fast. The trouble is, he is finished with that intense level and type of communication just when she is starting to think she can count on it.

Ladies, I know you want him to, but he probably doesn’t need to talk through life events the way you do. He’s Mr. Fix It, not Mr. Discuss It. Men, she doesn’t want you to fix it. She just wants you to listen to her and, where appropriate, discuss it with her.

If we are going to celebrate our differences – and accept them – this truth needs to be heeded: You each need people of your same gender to talk to. Ladies, you need girlfriends to unload the bulk of your talk on. Your man, likely, has a threshold much lower than your needs. Gentlemen, you need other men to bond with. And, likely, the bond won’t be formed around the words you share. (But you knew that without me having to say it, didn’t you?)

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2. You Need a Second Opinion

Life isn’t Leave It to Beaver. No one grows up perfectly. Our ideas of how life works and why our spouses do what they do could be based on bad examples. This means we need another perspective on, well, everything. You will not always be able to see how you’ve contributed to a conflict. But a good friend will.

Maturing means learning to see for yourself where you’re off the straight and narrow, but the learning process can be slow. Often, our straight lines look more like Celtic knots when we start in a relationship. We need trusted friends (who are unlikely to be perceived as a threat to our marriage, by the way) who know where our line is crooked. And, they need to be bold enough to let us know when we’re messing it up.

3. You Can’t Vent To Your Spouse About Them

This one is for everybody. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a person who doesn’t have anyone to talk to but you, then you’ve heard it. Venting is healthy, to some degree. Unloading emotions in words instead of action can be a far better choice. For example, “I’ll scoop his heart out with a spoon!”, is better said than done.

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But if you’re the only person your spouse confides in then, eventually, they will vent about you. To you. And you won’t like it. Neither do they I’ll bet you can’t listen to how much you’ve put them through for long without buying into it on some level. Or resenting it deeply. Even if you know they’re only venting.

Personally, I have some awesome girlfriends and one incredibly wise mentor who can hear me vent just about anything without passing judgement on me. I’m grateful to have people who understand that arguments are rarely one sided. If your friends are quick to condemn your spouse when you vent, they’re not being friendly. They’re being destructive.

Your relationship is a part of the structure of your life. You want friends who will help shore it up, not be a part of the demolition crew. (Please don’t take this too far. There is such a thing as an unsafe relationship that needs to end or undergo massive change. That’s not what I’m talking about here.).

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4. Everything Does Come to an End Eventually

No one likes thinking about death (of a person or relationship), especially in the middle of life. But the reality is, the two of you are unlikely to pass away on the same day. Plus, we live in a climate of divorce and a culture that practically promotes it. If your partner has been your only true friend in a long life, how would you feel if they passed away before you? You would have two major things to mourn at once. Obviously, you’d mourn your lost partner. But you’d also be in mourning for intimacy and human connection.

Being known by others is a legitimate need. Not only would a true friend or two help you deal with the pain of loss, they would also be able to share the memories that made your partner worth mourning. Divorce would be even worse. The tearing apart that happens to people who divorce can be incredibly painful. Good friends will help you talk through your struggles. Incredible friends will keep you so busy that you can’t even think about them.

These are all compelling reasons to cultivate deep friendships outside your relationship. But will you do it? You’re busy with work. You’re focused on your kids. You want to spend your limited free time on your marriage. And, yes, making new friendships or improving old ones takes effort. But it’s nothing compared to the effort of going through any kind of crisis with only your spouse in your corner.

He or she is only one person and an imperfect one, at that. Sorting through the wrong lessons both of you learned growing up, having only each other to vent to and facing life’s challenges with only one person to help carry the burden is a recipe for disaster. Doing life is simply too big a burden for a couple to carry on their own. If comfort is what you’re going for, you need friends to carry some of the load.

Fill your life with, not only your spouse, but with good friends who will build your relationship up to a level that your grand kids will tell their kids about.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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