The role of communication in marital satisfaction.

Most of the couples I work with have a desire to work on their communication. They often share with me that their communication is unhealthy or non-existent. I admired their willingness to work on their communication, as communication is crucial in a romantic relationship. As many might know, a wrong communication style leads to the conflict being heightened. A failure to communicate well has also been linked to marital dissatisfaction. In other words, good communication is vital for the health of a relationship as it leads to marital satisfaction.

It makes sense as positive communication allows the couple to work through their relationship, build resilience, and develop a united front against relational vulnerabilities. There are six dimensions of marital communication1.

  1. Feelings, emotions, and dislikes. (i.e., disclosing feelings to each other and exploring them together). 
  2. Extended family (i.e., information about each other’s family and how family has influence them in the present and or past).
  3. Sexuality (i.e., information on sexual satisfaction, discomfort, and practices). 
  4. Marital Relationship (i.e., information on time spent with each other, couple’s interactions such as affection, time, and emotional intimacy). 
  5. Work (i.e., information on partner’s work outside of the house). 
  6. Children (i.e., information regarding children, rules, responsibilities, and interaction).

Secondly, most couples communicate; however, they tend to communicate in ways that hinder the relationship. Couples tend to share in one of these four styles1.

  1. Positive: In this style of communication, each individual is open to listening to one another; they share information, expressed themselves, and thoughts are shared in a respectful, amicable, and affectionate way.
  2. Negative: In this style of communication, conversations are conflictive, liable, silted, and unclear. The opposite of the positive style of communication. 
  3. Reserved: In this style of communication, there is little self-expression, which creates a barrier between partners, a passive role is assumed by one of the partners, and it debilitates the ability to communicate in the relationship. Partner will come across as cold, aloof, and distant. 
  4. Violent: In this style of communication, the communication feels hostile; partners become verbal and or physically aggressive, affecting the relationship and creating a gap between the couple.

Communication is essential, and it leads to marital satisfaction. One researcher wanted to identify which dimensions of communication of the mention above and which communication styles would lead to a higher level of marital satisfaction in couples2.

It found that women’s marital satisfaction increased when their partner and they talked about Marital Relationship, work, and sex, along with a perception of her partner’s communication styles as Positive. Marital satisfaction would decrease when they perceived their partner’s communication as violent and negative, and they were also violent and negative in their communication style towards their spouse2.

It found that for men’s marital satisfaction increased when their partner and them would talk about the marital relationship and work and his communication style and that of his partner was positive toward each other. Marital satisfaction would decrease when they spoke mostly about the children and his communication style toward partner was mainly reserved and negative, and his perceptions of his partner’s communication style toward his were mainly reserved and violent2.

Communication is a critical component of marital satisfaction. It also seems what couples talk about is equally important. Here are my suggestions for you all to consider.

  1. Consider spending 15-20 minutes every night to check in with your partner. Spend time talking about maritalrelationshipsexual intimacy, and work—Check-in with each other and ask open-ended questions as a way to probe more in-depth conversation.
  2. Reflect on your style of communication. Do you have a positive style of communication? Are you open to listening to your partner? Do you practice respect, humility, and affection in your conversations?
  3. Seek professional counseling if your marital satisfaction has decreased and gain tools to better communicate with your partner.

Lastly, don’t forget that there is hope. We can gain skills to grow in our communication with our partner and increase marital satisfaction.  

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