Communication

Happiest Marriages

Anonymous Question Series:

Q: What kind of marriage partnerships have you seen are the the happiest? Give some examples of how they work through times of disagreement or misunderstanding.

See also:

How to Train Your Spouse

Marital Myth of Communication

Book: "Real Love"

After I complete my book on sexuality in the Latter-day Saint faith, I will complete the writing of my "marriage" book in which I address this and other questions more thoroughly. Much like our Latter-day Saint cultural approach to sexuality, our couples approach needs a revamping. 

A:

The quick answer: Couples who know how to adore versus accept. These couples learn how to be okay with the "messy" of each other. Those who value and encourage individuality and those who see each other as truly equal, regardless of perceived differences or shortcomings.

Marriage books don't work. Marriage communication skills don't work. No amount of techniques, skills or dating will improve a relationship if the fundamental understanding of love (Atonement) and agency is flawed. The problem is most don't recognize their understanding of love is flawed.

The concept that most of us have a flawed understanding of love is a complex one. However, it's rooted in how we view our relationship with God/Christ and our spouse. For example, you most likely have seen a diagram similar to the following:

Preparing for an Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual, (2003), 51–53 "True Love" 

You'll find a similar diagram in almost every lesson in the church-provided manuals regarding marriage. Its focus seems to be heavily on what marriage is NOT: "infatuation, selfish desire, transitory, domineering, and lust." Although those are important to know, those same lessons tend not to provide good examples of what love IS — that is, other than providing the marriage triangle and sharing some stories about "cleaving" to your spouse. 

Despite teaching the marriage triangle in its traditional context, what I've noticed is couples' emotional understanding of the triangle is actually as depicted below:

Logically, the couple knows that they are two separate people with their own agency. They know each person in the relationship is an individual, but they cannot reconcile the paradox of being "one" in the marriage. Emotionally, they believe "cleaving" means oneness in everything. In some marriages, individuals may even believe oneness is supporting and sustaining the "priesthood" in all things — no matter what. This idea creates a dangerous and toxic environment of dominance and unrighteous dominion, which leads to eliminating individuality in the marriage. This is a deeper concept few seriously weigh out and will need to be explored in depth at another time. But as a result, this is why many wait so long to address their pain, depression, anxiety and the eventual resentment in their marriage.

The concise answer to the question, "What kind of marriage partnerships have you seen are the the happiest?" is those who can truly value each other as equals in their individuality. Those who put aside every survey, research article and pop psychology piece that defines the "perfect couples." Those who understand whether their differences or similarities improve the relationship or how to "compromise," and use good communication. These are all required in a happy marriage, but these ALL pale in significance to one's own ability to adore their partner in ALL their strengths and perceived weaknesses. 

You should never compromise who you are.

That is putting your spouse before your relationship with God. Compromise is a ridiculous pop psychology/business approach that results in resentment and prevents couples from seeing any other option than sucky choice A and sucky choice B. Compromise puts couples at odds with each other; it assumes one is right and the other is wrong. It creates a "balance sheet" type marriage, void of revelation. It's the epitome of what the marriage triangle is not. It also assumes our spouse has perceived weaknesses that we should avoid and makes them inferior to us.

"As a way of honoring my marriage, I try to make sure I don’t ever compromise about anything I really care about. “Compromising” means doing something other than what I know is best, not saying or doing what I really think I should say or do — not, in essence, being who I am. How could doing that be helpful to either my wife or me? About anything before us — any subject we’re discussing, I mean — I’m either right, or I’m wrong. If I’m right, or at least really think I’m right, then it’s my job to (politely, carefully, kindly—which is everything) say why I think I’m right; it’s important that I not compromise my convictions about that matter. It’s then my wife’s job to listen and carefully consider what I’ve said. If, having done that, she concludes that in some relevant way the position I’ve taken is wrong or mistaken, it’s her job to (politely, carefully, kindly) tell me why she thinks that. Then it’s my job to truly listen to her (as opposed to, say, pouting and walking out of the room)."—John Shore, A Great Marriage is About NOT Compromising

Let's consider, for example, an individual who is skilled at budgeting and compare him/her to their spouse who has never taken budgeting seriously. Who is better? Who should take the lead? Does this perceived weakness or difference become a source of contention? Compromise would suggest that one of the two must be less skilled while the other is more skilled and the better one is to take over the budgeting completely and view the other as incapable. Compromise fosters resentment. Compromise is a version of acceptance in a relationship, and acceptance is a form of judgement.

Where judgement exists, love and the atonement cannot flourish.

Do not compromise, rather adore. Adore and value your spouse’s differences. See them truly as an equal. When you can learn to fully adore/love your spouse in their differences, you provide a safe and vulnerable love that is only known through the atonement. This type of love can be experienced in the proper marriage triangle. 

Unfortunately, because this concept is unfamiliar to many, some assume that this type of "love" is a justification for abuse to exist in a relationship. Some see that adoring a spouse is equivalent to being blind to harmful behaviors, but it is quite the opposite. When we allow compromise into our relationship, we lose who we are (relationship with self) and our connection with the Lord. In the absence of those two relationships, feelings of insecurity and anxiety develop, causing individuals to feel trapped. They feel they can never "give up" on their spouse or that they just can't abandon the family and leave them like this. This is dangerous thinking. When we don't compromise, we improve our relationship and confidence in our Father above. We allow Him to clearly communicate to us how to proceed in a relationship or to end it.

Here’s an example or something I see frequently. This example is of a wife discovering a husband's porn usage. There is no abuse or adultery in their marriage; the behavior is limited to the husband viewing porn. This couple has a loving relationship and is doing well until one finds out that the other is engaged in pornography.

There are usually two types of responses in these types of situations.

One response is a wife who no longer sees her spouse as an equal, but sees his behavior as a betrayal of adulteress level. She disengages and dictates to him how he is to behave, usually withdrawing sex and other intimate connections during this time. These are those wives who often become anti-porn advocates and use their spouse’s struggles as a soapbox for the dangers of porn. They express they have been traumatized by their spouse’s behavior and have to recover from this betrayal.

In no way am I minimizing or mocking wives (or husbands) who have truly been traumatized. Neither am I condoning pornography. What is important to see in this example is how we view the perceived weakness of our spouse.

A second response is a wife who, rightfully so, is overwhelmed and hurt that he could not divulge his struggles. She decides to continue to view him as an equal in the atonement and joins him emotionally where he is at, without compromising who she is.

Imagine the Savior kneeling down to bring himself eye level with the woman caught in adultery. His thoughts and words are of safety, peace and comfort. He adores her. As the Christ, he does request that she not sin anymore, but that is not our role as the spouse. Those who can join, love and adore in their spouse’s struggles will find profound fulfillment and comfort — even in these difficult issues. Wives (or husbands) who can embrace their spouse in these types of moments are the happiest. However, with the previous example, the couple usually spirals downward and resentment increases.

The natural question is, isn't the wife "compromising" her standards by adoring her spouse? NO. Think back to the example of Christ comforting the woman found in adultry. The Pharisees are more like the first wife, holding to an expectation that was anything but adoring. Meanwhile, Christ did not compromise his standards by adoring and joining the woman, but merely loved her. It is unloving to cast stones and punish our spouse. If the situation becomes abusive, or to a degree that is toxic, the wife's confidence in the Lord will guide her to the best choices. This may mean leaving the relationship before it becomes toxic and dangerous.

This example is a sensitive and difficult issue because of the intimate nature of the struggle. The first woman's response is usually how husbands and wives show "love" to each other. A husband who is skilled at budgeting now becoming annoyed at the wife. So he begins managing every penny and taking her to every Dave Ramsey course available to improve her. He continues by controlling her through apps that notify him of every penny spent and "holding her accountable" for her behavior. You see, this behavior seems acceptable in cases of pornography but outrageous for the case of finances. The truth is that they are the same in level of destructive consequences.

The most successful marriages are those that honor and thrive in individuality, agency and love (Atonement). Without the ability to truly adore your spouse, without losing yourself, no amount of "I statements," communication skills, or improved sex will ever heal and improve the relationship. When adoration exists, communication skills enhance an already loving relationship.

Keep a look out for my book that will include more on this topic and others:

Chapters in forthcoming book:

  1. Not Another Marriage Book

  2. Avoidance and Courage

  3. Embracing our Fears

  4. The Importance of You – Order of Importance

  5. Assuming the Best

  6. The Divorce Equation

  7. It’s Never About Communication

  8. 30 Minutes

  9. Don’t and Be

  10. The Most Important Thing

  11. Daily Adore

  12. Trust Partners Needs

  13. Foster Independence and Individuality

  14. Be Messy, Not Hurtful

  15. No Divorce Equation

  16. No More Parenting Books

  17. Sex is communicating not a reward or punishment

Transparency in All Things

Anonymous Question Series:

Q: If someone has watched pornography or masturbated in the past, do you feel they are obligated to tell their future spouse? Does it depend on how long ago it was?

There are three concepts in this question that need to be answered: 1) transparency in relationships, 2) stigma/shame of sexual sins/behaviors, 3) masturbation, is it really that bad? 

The main focus in this question is transparency and stigma/shame of sexual sins/behaviors. I will address the third concept in a separate post.

A: 

The quick answer: yes, and if you can't/don't, you should not get married.

Transparency In Relationships

"Where there is respect, there is also transparency, which is a key element of happy marriages. There are no secrets about relevant matters in marriages based on mutual respect and transparency. Husbands and wives make all decisions about finances together and both have access to all information." —Elder L. Whitney Clayton, Marriage: Watch and Learn

I understand the above quote is specifically addressing social media in marriage, which I will address more specifically in my forthcoming post on, "Jealousy and Social Media." Once published, I will put a link to it here.

Nonetheless, this quote is absolutely applicable to premarital relationships, especially if you are engaged. How do you ever expect to be transparent or desire your partner to be transparent if you yourself keep secrets?

The Myth

Let's dispel a myth right now. I have searched all over for a source, a reference, or the origin of one of the most ridiculous myths and traditions in our faith. But I cannot find an original source nor anything that supports it. That is, if you have "repented" of something, you don't need to divulge it to your future spouse (or current spouse). I cannot emphasize how naive, controlling, and dangerous this concept is.

There are women who say, "If it is in the past, I don't want to know about it, I don't need to know about it." For some reason, I've only heard women express this idea, but please realize that this is a rejection of your partner. Not wanting to share and not wanting to know is anything but love. Many excuse it as "true love" and "embracing the atonement" when they don't "dig up the past." These individuals believe it is a rejection of the atonement to bring up the past. When women desire to learn about their loved one, the men often respond defensively, "Why do you keep wanting to know about the things I've repented about?"

This is a huge RED FLAG, and if it wasn't so common, I would tell you to turn and run as fast as you can. Unfortunately, it is far too common of a conversation, which means it's a tradition and myth that good people truly believe. It can be worked through and properly understood, but transparency is an absolute must! Without exception!

Clarity And Perspective

It boggles my mind that we still speak as though pornography is some type of sin of "perdition," unrecoverable and mentally damaging — a sin that turns beautiful, intelligent, amazing individuals into social pariahs. The social and self shame around this topic is unjustified. I assure you, nearly 100% of individuals, male and female have viewed pornography and 80–95% of people have masturbated. In today's information age, it is impossible to not view and even engage in pornography.

Additionally, there is a real problem with even the word "pornography." It's a nonsensical, abstract word. Let me give you a real life example. A wife demands her spouse repent to the bishop because he saw breasts in the movie "Titanic." The bishop, whom the husband will potentially confess to, went on a date with his wife to see "Deadpool." One can argue the bishop and his wife are in serious violation themselves. This is the problem; who gets to define pornography?

Recently, I was interacting with a anti-porn advocate who uses her spouse's "short comings" as a platform for her "trauma." Yet, she has a plethora of highly sensual books and movies on her own Facebook "Likes" page. Some could easily be considered "harlequin"-type material. When that was pointed out, she defended it saying there was no "nudity" in those types of entertainment. That statement wasn't entirely true, but it's an example of the double standard and confusion around the concept of pornography.

"Historically the term 'pornography' has an unreliable history of usefulness as a scientific term. Instead, it is a social construct of the human mind. Its social use is vague, inaccurate and is often co-opted for use as rhetoric by those who use it to further their social or political agendas. Over time the term has taken on negative connotations, and is now, also used as a pejorative term in expressions of disapproval. The term "pornography" is like using the term "lemon" to describe an automobile. It describes a negative quality of an object in the minds of many people.

... Now is the time for scientists to break a bad habit of using this socially biased, non-scientific term. As scientists we create problems for ourselves when we adopt unscientific terminology that has culturally evolved, and is loaded with cultural or moralistic bias. We handicap the social effectiveness of our research when we use such terms." —Mark Kim Malan, Ph.D., A New Taxonomy: Scientific Misuse of the Term "Pornography"

As I pointed out in my previous post, problematic sexual behavior is an ambiguous terminology socially defined by white middle class christian males. (See also ARP Fails Women Support Groups)

Fortunately, Elder Oaks has addressed this topic well in an Ensign article October 2015 where he embraced a more scientific and correct view. He said there are four types of pornography use: (1) inadvertent exposure, (2) occasional use, (3) intensive use, and (4) compulsive use (addiction). The Church is making great progress in defining the "problem" and eliminating the shame.

Stigma/Shame Of Sexual Sins/Behaviors

From a "doctrinal" and spiritual perspective. Our culture has traditionally lumped ALL "porn" into the same level of severity and seriousness. In spite of logic and the infinite atonement, we conceptually view — even 5 minutes of pornography — as a sexual "sin next to murder," which is not accurate.

"Corianton’s sin was a composite of several elements, specifically sexual immorality by a priesthood leader that caused him to abandon his ministry and therefore neglect the spiritual needs of his flock, thereby leading them into apostasy. In effect, Corianton metaphorically “murdered” the testimonies of those he was commissioned to bring unto Christ when he was lured away by Isabel (cf. Alma 36:14).

This understanding of Corianton’s particular situation is strengthened by of the fact that in Alma 39:5, Alma speaks of “these things” (plural) being “an abomination in the sight of the Lord.” Apparently, “these things” included not only Corianton committing sexual sin, but purposefully neglecting “the ministry wherewith [he] wast entrusted” (v. 4). Perhaps, then, “the more serious infraction was the resulting spiritual damage inflicted upon others who had witnessed Corianton’s sinful actions.” —Michael R. Ash and B. W. Jorgensen, "Knowhy #147"

Let me be clear, the prevalence of a sin or behavior doesn't make it right (just because everyone is doing it). However, we treat pornography and masturbation with such rejection, that emotionally we loath ourselves and others for engaging in it. In the great words of Elder Uchtdorf, "STOP IT."

Doing it Right

We must stop it; stop being ashamed and own it. The fact that people view it with such seriousness makes this a landmark conversation in the relationship. My suggestion is to go into a relationship with the assumption that the other has engaged in these behaviors. As the relationship matures, it will provide appropriate opportunities to discuss the history and severity of the behaviors.

Every relationship is different and there is no fast and set rule on when to divulge your past. You cannot control your partner’s responses, but you can begin to view yourself in the loving context of the atonement. Their response is a reflection of their spiritual and emotional maturity. In fact, your sharing and their response can be an excellent indicator of their marriage readiness.

Marital Myth Of Communication

Marital Myth of Communication: It’s never about communication.

My hope in this piece is to address a mistaken idea that if an individual (or both) in a relationship will improve their “communication skills” they will save and improve their marriage. It's my belief that this idea has become popular among both therapists and couples because it's easier to focus on words instead of emotional health and core values systems — it’s more tangible. Unfortunately, improving one’s skills in communication doesn't foster connection, trust or empathy. At best, they just become really good at not saying the "wrong" thing or triggering their spouse. It's a form of spousal emotional management. At worst, with these improved communication skills couples become more skilled at hurting and dismissing each other. The hurt and dismissing can be both intentional and unintentional.

What enables this myth is a false-positive that the newfound skills are working. In the beginning phase, couples have reported that they have improved in their communication significantly and are doing "better." However, the false-positive appears to directly correspond with how precisely the one spouse complies with the the other. For example, the spouse who enforces (the "Enforcer") or strongly recommends a solution (usually the Enforcer’s solution is in the the form of a popular method or book they are reading) reports success based on their view of how well the other spouse (the "Mitigator") is complying with the rules of engagement established in that method or book they recommended. The Mitigator, although not completely sold on the method, but out of either a desire to prove their love or mitigate the Enforcer’s disappointment, they comply.

The couple then begins to engage in an interaction of what I call "book speak." One engages in "book speak" when one adopts the specific language and jargon of a book and repeats it with conviction, often claiming disproportionate results and incorporating these claims and jargon it into every conversation. But like the Crossfitveganpaleo, or popular MLM friend (or family member), their passion always seems to outweigh practicality, actual results and sincerity. Unfortunately for some, this passion is blinding, and when the placebo effect wears off, or when others don't report the same level of success, their solution is MORE of what's not working.

Sometimes that’s learning about “love languages,” grammar/word choice, "Emotional Intelligence," what "color" you are, the ridiculously oversold Myers-Briggs personality test (MBTI) designed by a non-scientist (Carl Jung, I am sure is turning in his grave), or any one of the many other methods out there. Although, there is value in understanding and discovering our own differences in communication and personalities, it is a distraction from the real issue(s).

Conversely, while the Enforcer measures success in precision, the Mitigator measures success based on the decrease in reactivity of the Enforcer (and usually increased sexual encounters). Are you seeing how this is spousal emotional management, not improvement?

But after the novelty wears off, the Enforcer often expresses they “feel” just as distant, if not more distant than before. Even though the Mitigator uses the “right” words and phrases are said, he/she still feels empty. The Enforcer (and sometimes the Mitigator) see their partner as “not really meaning” what they say. They are just saying what they learned. If they really loved them, it would be more natural and they would “feel” the difference. The Mitigator will often continue to "book speak" and engage in this new skill because the Enforcer's reactivity is still decreased. But the moment the Enforcers behavior returns, the Mitigator will also return to old habits, to, well, you know, mitigate their spouses reactivity, pain, hurt or disappointment.

Sometimes the Enforcer will acknowledge how well the Mitigator is doing in adapting to the improved communication skills, but only to reconcile the cognitive dissonance between the improved skills and continued emotional disconnect. The Enforcer will escalate the expectation of the skill and express disappointment because the Mitigator didn’t say the right things, correctly, at precisely the right time, or quick enough. Some Enforcers will become what I call, "serial communicators," rotating through every communication style and method. During this, the Mitigator becomes lost in which method to apply when and is seen by the Enforcer as not "caring enough" to make it a priority.

Before you think these are individuals who failed to understand the concept or are exceptions of these various communication skills, I should tell you that these are impressive individuals and well educated: doctors, lawyers, CEOs, engineers, professors, mothers, fathers and even other therapists. Interestingly, whether it was the engineer with multiple Ph.D.s or the high school dropout, these individuals and couples were all experiencing the same thing. These are well educated individuals with a firm grasp on language and communication. It wasn’t a matter of not doing it correctly or consistently or understanding the concepts and applying it in precisely the right moment. Something else was happening.

What I believe is happening at its core is an individual's loss of identity. What seems to be consistent in relationships that struggle with communication — and specifically see communication as the problem — is the individual’s ability to clearly identify with themselves. They have either lost themselves in their career, in parenting, in life or in how they believe God sees them — to the point that they no longer (or never have) known themselves. The fear of not knowing oneself is not only scary, but claustrophobic and reactive. It prevents one from giving and receiving real love. This fear clouds their ability to look past words and experience real connection.

This lack of confidence and insecurity, places an unpredictable burden on loved ones to manage expectations and feelings of the individual’s uncertainty — which is impossible, since they don't know how to manage their own expectations and feelings.  Assuming the best about their spouse is frightfully difficult when they can't assume the best of themselves. As a result, they begin to show signs of projection and assume that their spouse meant to hurt them because they would have if the roles were reversed.

From the pragmatic to the emotional, I have heard each say “words have meaning.” They do have meaning, but until we master that skill, we would do well to first assume the best in our spouses.

In the October 2003 Ensign, Elder Holland urges us to do exactly this:

“The second segment of this scriptural sermon on love in Moroni 7:45 [Moro. 7:45] says that true charity—real love—'is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity.' Think of how many arguments could be avoided, how many hurt feelings could be spared, and, in a worst-case scenario, how many breakups and divorces could be avoided if we were not so easily provoked, if we thought no evil of one another, and if we not only did not rejoice in iniquity but didn’t rejoice even in little mistakes.Think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love. Assume the good and doubt the bad.” ―Elder Jeffery R. Holland, How Do I Love Thee?

Interestingly, just a few years earlier, at a 2000 BYU address, he gave the same talk but used slightly different wording, which I believe emphasis this point:

"The second segment of this scriptural sermon on love in Moroni 7:45 says that true charity—real love—'is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity.' Think of how many arguments could be avoided, how many hurt feelings could be spared, how many cold shoulders and silent treatments could be ended, and, in a worst-case scenario, how many breakups and divorces could be avoided if we were not so easily provoked, if we thought no evil of one another, and if we not only did not rejoice in iniquity but didn’t rejoice even in little mistakes.

Temper tantrums are not cute even in children; they are despicable in adults, especially adults who are supposed to love each other. We are too easily provoked; we are too inclined to think that our partner meant to hurt us—meant to do us evil, so to speak; and in defensive or jealous response we too often rejoice when we see them make a mistake and find them in a fault. Let’s show some discipline on this one. Act a little more maturely. Bite your tongue if you have to. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32). At least one difference between a tolerable marriage and a great one may be that willingness in the latter to allow some things to pass without comment, without response." ―Elder Jeffery R. Holland, How Do I Love Thee?

Again, let me be very clear. Unfortunately, some will interpret the concept of "assuming the best" as justification for abuse — ironically because of the same fear, which stems from a fear of "giving up" on their loved ones. As such, some will dismiss their spouse’s verbal, emotional, spiritual and physical abuse because they assume the best in their spouse, or they believe they have to have "hope" in their eternal marriage. There is NO scripture, doctrine or prophetic council that says that our loving Heavenly Father believes we should tolerate, endure, allow or continue in any way with an abusive relationship.

For additional reading on abuse:

The Invisible Heartbreaker By Judy C. Olsen

Stop Using Words That Hurt By J. Thomas Cearley Director, LDS Family Services, Louisiana Agency

Building Trust Through Assuming The Best

For most of us, assuming the best is logical but counter-intuitive. How does one assume the best when there is a history of so much hurt and undesirable words exchanged? How does one move past that? How does one assume the best, especially if your spouse isn't assuming the best in you?

Remember, it’s not about your spouse; it’s about you.

1. Build yourself

There is another profound misconception I will address in another post — that is, the order of importance one places on their own worth and development. Ideally, our priority should be God, self, spouse, children. When you remove yourself from second on the list, you do so because of fear. To the degree we prioritize fear on the list, we lose ourself. Additionally, if we are not second on the list of priority, I can assure you God is not first. Assuming the best includes yourself too.

2. Adoring the dumb

Yes, I mean it. Adore the dumb in your spouse AND in yourself. My wife and I have a saying: “Everyone is stupid but us.” This isn't said in a tone of conceit, but, rather irony. My dumb isn't your dumb and your dumb isn't my dumb, but there is one thing that is common, we are both doing our loving best.

I say dumb things a lot. Sometimes intentionally, most of the time unintentionally. I say the wrong things. I am dyslexic with my words (thoughts) and am not always as sensitive with my words. Sometimes, I think I am being brilliantly funny and it comes out insulting unfortunately. I already know this; I don't have to have it pointed out every time. That creates resentment and hyper-awareness and usually causes individuals to fluctuate between diligent carefulness to a screw it mentality.

However, because of my spouse’s ability to assume the best in me, this burden is lifted. I never fear of hurting my wife or drawing distant from her because of something I said. I never feel like I have to prove, defend or convince her of my intentions. I can be the real me. I can be absolutely vulnerable with her. Thus, reducing the fear that "being me" hurts her.

3. Be vulnerable

Confidence and love can only grow if we are vulnerable.

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damages the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.”1 ―Brené Brown

4. Encourage your spouse to be unfiltered in their communication. 

You want to end the 2-8 hour-long conversations that go until 4 a.m.? Encourage your spouse to say exactly what is on their mind, and don’t take any offense. Most conversations endure endlessly and painfully because you are constantly managing the other person's emotions, in addition to your own.

5. Stop trying to understand

No, you don't need to understand or ensure the other understands. It's a form of controlling behavior to demand understanding. You can't understand. There is no way I can ever understand everything my wife feels and experiences. One of the most comforting and loving things my wife has said to me is, "I don't understand but I love you." It caught me off guard. I stopped talking and felt a closeness I wasn't expecting to feel. It was a trusting and loving response. I also felt safe and adored.

Often, we try to get the other person to understand us so we don't have to explain anymore, so they will do what we want them to do. We should trust our spouse's needs, convictions and desires.

6. Improve communication

Communication IS important; it's just not the reason. We would do well to constantly strive to improve in our communication, finding more healthy and meaningful ways to express and receive love. Because I am confident in myself, I know who I am. My wife can have a bad day, yell, get upset, feel disappointment, need time alone, and I am not negatively affected. Having this self-worth and not being negatively affected allows me to speak her language, naturally and sincerely.