Marriage Communication

Your Quick Guide to Relationship Success
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Your Quick Guide to Relationship Success
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There are many ways to approach the topic of marriage communication. One of the key things to remember is that many people have different ways to converse. In your everyday life, these different styles probably don’t impact you much. However, in a marriage, communication can fall apart quickly if the different styles aren’t recognized and accommodated.

Steven M Cohn, PhD, LMFT
The Portland Couples Counseling Center
1940 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon  97232

Couple sharing an ice cream

Relationship communication generally falls into one of four styles: emotive, supportive, directive, and reflective. Emotive communicators are people who are interested in both dominance and sociability. Supportive communicators are more interested in sociability than in dominance. People who use the directive style are exactly the opposite – more interested in dominance than sociability. Finally, communicators who are reflective are not terribly interested in sociability or in dominance.

What does this have to do with marriage? Communication styles determine how you will talk to each other. For example, an emotive person wants to be the center of attention and spends most of his time talking. A reflective person, on the other hand, is quieter and spends her time in thought rather than conversation. Either could be immensely annoying to the other person. Conversely, they might consider themselves perfectly matched because the emotive person can talk without interruption and the reflective person can think her thoughts while the talker doesn’t care if he gets a response.

Another dynamic at play in marriage communication is the level of interaction. The four levels are: Dialog, Discussion, Debate, or Argument.

As stress is introduced into a relationship, the conversation deteriorates toward the argument end of the spectrum. Under stress, the logical portion of the brain shuts down while your body focuses on survival. Without calm logic, it is impossible to have effective marriage communication.

Even before the marriage ceremony, communication must start. What should you talk about? Marriage communications according to the Wisdom Journal, includes the most important topics to discuss before the wedding: children, finances, in-laws, religion, where to live, traditions, and apologies. Properly preparing for post-marriage communication is also important. A recent study looked specifically at the communication necessary around child rearing. One study has found that participating in a premarital program that teaches effective communication and conflict management skills results in higher levels of positive communication skills and lower levels of marital violence.(1)

It is important to get relationship counseling if you feel you need to work on marriage communication. Research has shown that couples who suppress their anger actually die sooner than those who talk about it.(2) If that’s too extreme to get your mind around, consider that communication skills are a major predictor of sexual satisfaction during the first year of marriage.(3) Communication even plays a role in marital commitment.(4)

As you can see, marriage communication is a vast topic. We have just scratched the surface here. If you are considering getting married or even if you have been married for years, you owe it to yourself to learn how to communicate more effectively.

Consulting a relationship counselor may make a huge difference in your marriage. Communication is such an important issue, you can’t afford to take it for granted.


(1) Markman, Howard J.; Renick, Mari Jo; Floyd, Frank J.; Stanley, Scott M.; Clements, Mari PREVENTING MARITAL DISTRESS THROUGH COMMUNICATION AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT TRAINING: A 4- AND 5-YEAR FOLLOW-UP. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 1993 Feb Vol 61(1) 70-77.

(2) Harburg, Ernest; Kaciroti, Niko; Gleiberman, Lillian; Julius, Mara; Schork, M. Anthony. MARITAL PAIR ANGER-COPING TYPES MAY ACT AS AN ENTITY TO AFFECT MORTALITY: PRELIMINARY FINDINGS FROM A PROSPECTIVE STUDY (TECUMSEH, MICHIGAN, 1971-1988) . Journal of Family Communication, Volume 8, Issue 1 January 2008 , pages 44 – 61.

(3) Larson, Jeffry H.; Anderson, Shannon M.; Holman, Thomas B.; Niemann, Brand K. A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF THE EFFECTS OF PREMARITAL COMMUNICATION, RELATIONSHIP STABILITY, AND SELF-ESTEEM ON SEXUAL SATISFACTION IN THE FIRST YEAR OF MARRIAGE. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, Volume 24, Issue 3 July 1998 , pages 193 – 206.

(4) Weigel, Daniel J. A COMMUNICATION APPROACH TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF COMMITMENT IN THE EARLY YEARS OF MARRIAGE: A QUALITATIVE STUDY. Journal of Family Communication, Volume 3, Issue 1 January 2003 , pages 1 – 19.

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