How to communicate when it matters most

When I first asked my college crush, now wife, to be my girlfriend I made it clear that I wanted to have one thing be at the core of our relationship. Communication. Little did my 21 year old self realize how hard that would be. On the other hand, little did I know how important it would be…

My wife and I have gone through some pretty tough challenges. We’ve gone through being poor college students, merging families (getting to know in-laws), moving multiple times, and we’ve gone through the trial of having a child with a congenital heart disease. You know. The usual.

But let’s be honest, every couple and every parent has their own challenges they encounter.

It is when these challenges occur, that communication is key. Yet, it is often during these challenges that our worst self can show it’s ugly prominent face.

Here are a few things my wife and I learned the hard way… BUT!! Because of them we have built a strong relationship to keep us together.

1. Understand how each person responds to and copes with challenges and stress.

BEFORE a trial even has the opportunity to divide your relationships you need to understand how your spouse/friend reacts to challenges. When my son was born, my wife wanted to be by his side day and night in the hospital throughout the whole process of surgery and recovery. I, on the other hand, had to get out of the hospital. The constant beeping of the machines, “code blue’s”, and nurses constantly rushing in and out of the room drove me insane. They don’t call it the Intensive Care Unit for nothin’.

Although the hospital gave me anxiety, Melanie made sure I would get time away supporting me going back to work or catching a football game on T.V. while she stayed in the ICU. I knew my son was OK with my wife, and she knew I could lower my stress levels to be 100% present when I was by their side in the hospital if I got the space I needed.

Even though we coped in polar opposite ways, we were able to help each other by understanding what each of us needed to survive that challenge.

2. Know when it is appropriate to talk about your differences or challenges

Every person on the planet can be different when it comes to the timing of a “crucial conversation.” If you talk about an issue to soon, you end up speaking more from your emotions. If you wait too long, people may hold grudges and it becomes harder to forgive. For my wife and I, we each need a good 5-10 minutes before we “talk it out.” It’s OK to let the other person know, “Hey, I need a few minutes before I continue this conversation. It will help me clear my head and gather my thoughts.” Doing this will put both people in the right mindset and allow for a constructive conversation rather than an emotional battle.

3. Seek first to Understand, then seek to be understood.

It’s a saying that can save relationships for years to come. When you listen to understand the point of view of someone else, you drop your guard and allow yourself to see the perspective of the other person. That perspective from the other person IS THEIR REALITY. What you think DOESN’T MATTER. When both parties truly see where the other person is coming from, there is a mutual understanding that can be improved upon.

As humans, we have the tendency to listen to the other side with the intent to find a flaw in their argument. When we find the “flaw” we pounce! Rather than using this approach, try listening to the other person with the intent to understand how they feel. Once you’ve done this, then you can try to portray how you feel. When you come to understand them, they will come to understand you.