The Six Levels of Communication in Marriage
We fall in love through talking—and communication is how we stay in love, too.
Communication is the most crucial issue in marriage. It’s the most important thing a husband and wife can do together because communication transcends everything. Every cause of stress in marriage—kids, money, sex, etc.—can be addressed with honest, open communication.
That’s how you overcome conflicts: You talk through them. Talk about money. Talk about sex. Talk about parenting issues. One study showed that 86 percent of divorced couples admitted they had communication problems in their marriages.
A lack of communication precedes almost every problem that arises in a marriage, and that was definitely true for Karen and me. We were terrible at communication during the first few years of our marriage. The process of learning how to talk to one another was one of the methods God used to heal us.
As often as I speak about communication, some couples hear that word and immediately think about long, deep conversations about intimate things. Of course, those kinds of talks are wonderful! But living up to that ideal can be stressful. All it takes is a kid or two to make an hour of interrupted conversation seem like a luxury.
With that in mind, I want to challenge you to go through the day paying attention to the different ways you and your spouse talk to each other. Communication is not one monolithic thing. It occurs throughout the day at a variety of levels.
Here are six types of communication in marriage. You’ll notice that they start with simple interaction and gradually become more intimate.
1. Basic Information
These are the day-to-day ways a husband and wife convey details to each other, like “Dinner is ready” or “My parents left on their vacation this morning.” While this is obviously an important type of conversation, it’s mostly related to facts.
Because a husband and wife are partners, they share needs. They share responsibilities, children, finances and more. Communicating about these shared actions is vital. This includes talking about money or parenting. Partnership is central to a healthy marriage.
3. Conflict Resolution
I hear fairly often from couples who like to brag that they never fight. This always gives me pause, because even good marriages have conflict. People have disagreements! It’s not a big deal if you fight—as long as you fight fair. Be kind. Listen. Seek understanding. The goal of your marriage is not to avoid fights but to resolve conflict.
One thing I’ve noticed is that children of divorce tend to avoid conflict as adults—especially within their marriage. They worry it’s going to end the relationship. Communication during times of conflict is the way to ensure that it doesn’t. In fact, conflict often happens during times of growth.
This is huge in marriage. In a healthy relationship, it’s easy to connect with one another. You can do it through eye contact, through physical affection, and through the words you say to one another. As humans, we are designed to seek connection.
One study showed that, during an average meal, a couple will have 100 points of connection. It should be easy. But in bad marriages, even this connection over a shared meal is difficult.
5. Personal Revelation
This is another critically important type of communication because it involves truly sharing with each other. You tell your spouse about your feelings. You open up your emotions. You share your opinion about something. This type of communication lets your spouse into your world.
One of the healthiest things a couple can do together is process negative feelings together. This might involve letting off steam after a bad day at work or it might require processing anger related to the relationship. Don’t let anger or frustration fester. Let it out. Share what is bothering you. Share what hurt your feelings. Instead of dwelling on them, work through them with your spouse.
6. Intimate Communication
These are exactly what you think: expressions of love, words of affection, whispers of “I love you.” These are statements that no one else will say to your spouse. These words bind your hearts together and build the kind of closeness that keeps a marriage strong.
All six of these types of communication are part of a healthy marriage. In a growing, thriving relationship, you should be able to do all six.
Unfortunately, many couples start their marriage strong and communicate at each of these levels. But before long, they find themselves only communicating basic information. They might talk about the kids or paying the next bill. They get to a point where their communication stops at conflict resolution and never goes deeper.
Take a look at the way you and your spouse communicate today. Are the last three, deeper types of communication part of your marriage? Are you connecting? Are you sharing your innermost thoughts and emotions? Are you communicating intimate feelings and affection?
Prioritize every type of communication in your marriage. It can be a challenge, but we have to be able to talk to one another on multiple levels. We fall in love through talking—and communication is how we stay in love, too.