Healthy Communication in Marriage

Your kids learn about love in two ways: how you treat them and how you treat your spouse. We show kids that we love them by using the 80-20 Rule in daily communication (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for full instructions as to how to use this rule in parenting to establish love and healthy discipline). We show our spouse that we love him or her by  following the 95-5 Rule. Our kids learn that this is how love looks, sounds and feels in grownup relationships. Select your actions from the categories below in the suggested ratios. Your marriage will immediately improve. Your children will relax and do better in every aspect of their functioning in the short-term and for the rest of their lives.

Living the 95-5 Rule
How much negativity to you want from your spouse each day? Most people say “zero.” That’s the 100-0 Rule: all good-feeling communication and no bad-feeling communication. However, we do have to say things that feel (slightly) bad sometimes, like instructions, directions, requests and so on. Mild bad-feeling communications like these knock out 20 of your good-feeling investments. Truly bad-feeling communications (see below) can knock out hundreds, thousands or millions of your good-feeling investments. Too many truly bad-feeling communications destroy a relationship.

Even when if you feel resentful, hurt, displeased, dissatisfied , angry or otherwise negative toward your spouse today, you can use the 95-5 Rule (96% of your communication must come from the “feels good” category and 5% can come from the “feels bad” category). You don’t have to feel any love right now in order to use this rule. However, if you use the rule consistency, not only will you begin to feel more loving, but everyone in the family will become more loving too.

Communication That Feels Good: (use these for 95% of your communication with your partner)

  • Smiling
  • Using a pleasant tone of voice
  • Joking
  • Listening (attentively)
  • Showing appreciation (“Thank you!”)
  • Showing interest  (“What happened at your meeting today?”)
  • Offering sympathy or understanding ( “Oh, that’s too bad.”)
  • Naming feelings (“I guess you felt upset when he said that.”)
  • Nurturing (“Would you like a nice hot cup of tea?”)
  • Acts of kindness (“I cleaned your dish for you.”)
  • Giving positive feedback (compliments, praise, acknowledgement)
  • Using positive labels (“You’re so thoughtful.”)
  • Using positive words (“The weather is fantastic.”)
  • Being in your own good, up-beat mood
  • Agreeing
  • Using affectionate terms (endearments, pet names, words of love)
  • Affectionate touch (when it is wanted)
  • Physical intimacy (when it is wanted)
  • Giving gifts, treats
  • Offering help, assistance or advice
  • Giving unsolicited, assistance or advice help (when it is wanted)
  • “News, weather and sports” (small talk about the events of the day or interesting topics)
  • Greetings and salutations (“Have a nice day.”)
  • Forgiving (“I know you didn’t mean to break my favourite dish…”)
  • Compromising, being flexible

Communication That Feels Bad: (many of these should never be used; the remainder cased for up to 5% of your communication with your partner)

  • Frowning, looking unpleasant
  • Unpleasant tone of voice, snarling, mumbling
  • Showing lack of interest
  • Disagreeing
  • Your own bad mood or poorly managed stress
  • Making requests
  • Giving instructions (unless requested)
  • Making negative comments (“This house is falling apart.”)
  • Using negative labels (“You are being rude.”)
  • Verbal abuse (Insults, put-downs, sarcasm, , mocking, swearing)
  • Giving negative feedback (criticism, correction, complaints, judgment, lectures)
  • Any show of anger or displeasure (raised voice, slammed door, hanging up phone, walking out)
  • Threats
  • Ignoring (withdrawal, stonewalling, sulking, lack of attention, neglecting)
  • Acts of unkindness
  • Interrogating
  • Challenging
  • Embarrassing or humiliating spouse
  • Rigidity, inflexibility
  • Directing, insisting, controlling, forcing, steamrolling

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