So after my last post about open communication in marriage got such positive reviews, I thought I’d follow it up with a post inviting discussion on some of the finer points.
First, how open do you need to be? Some people really are more private about things than others. For example, early in our marriage my husband and I agreed that we need the bathroom to be off limits. In nearly six years together I’ve never seen my husband pee. Some people find this astounding, but I really don’t think it’s a detriment to our marriage. However, other things probably shouldn’t be secret. I know some couples who read each other’s journals and email conversations. Some don’t. What about monitoring internet activity? The problem that can arise from that is that one spouse can come to feel like the other is spying on them or policing their actions unnecessarily. How do you negotiate openness while still respecting the need for separateness in your relationship?
Another issue that we have is timing. With two small children we have a narrow window opportunity for real, adult conversation. And usually by that time of day we’re both exhausted. I know the problem doesn’t change as a marriage matures. But it’s interesting to remember the times during our engagement when we’d spend hours just hanging out and talking to each other. Also, sometimes one person is tired or hungry or just not ready to talk about things. How do you find the right time to talk? In several marriage classes I’ve attended they’ve suggested having a regular time set aside, but that always feels kind of corny to me.
Speaking of corny, what about communication strategies? Do you do things like “I statements” (I feel X when you do Y)? Also, what should we be talking about? On another blog I read, a woman confessed that she was experience intense feelings of attraction towards a man in her ward. She was wondering if she should share this with her husband. Most of the commenters said she should, because openness in marriage is good. Others were reluctant, because the knowledge might drive this woman and her husband further apart. I was one of the reluctant ones, but I changed my mind as I realized that how she discussed this issue with her husband, and how he responded was really more important than the content itself. If it was presented as a problem for them to solve together, with compassionate listening and understanding, then I could see it being an opportunity to grow together. If the issue becomes a threat to either of them, it could potentially become a wedge to divide them. What have you found to be effective ways to really communicate with others that have strengthened your relationships?
I guess I’m just looking for some specific examples of what works and what doesn’t. What does open communication look like in a relationship? What has happened as you have started to be more open with others?