Happy Marriage Tips

Ways to Communicate Effectively


Communication is not a war where one spouse tries to overcome or barrage the other until one wins and the other loses. Communication is mutual understanding and affirmation. You can keep your communication at an effective level of communication through LUVR: Listen, Understand, Validate, and Respond. Plan to do this unilaterally since your husband may not yet be open to positive communication. You are establishing the flow of communication and the rules for fighting.

  • Listen. By listening to him you communicate that he is a person of worth and what he says is important.
  • Understand. You may have to paraphrase back to him what you hear him saying so that you clearly understand what he has said: “What I just heard you say was…”
  • Validate. Then he can verify or correct until he is saying and you are hearing exactly what he means. You can affirm him by understanding what is communicated and validating the communication.
  • Respond. At this point, you can decide how to respond to what your husband has said.

Also remember that much of communication is nonverbal. It’s not what you say, but how you say it: facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. The end result of communication has to be win-win in which both of you feel understood and accepted even if there is disagreement over differing opinions.

If you have difficulty communicating with each other, you may need to try ways other than face-to-face communication. Drive-through listening helps you stay focused and targeted in your communication. It’s a quick back-and-forth method much like the drive-through at a fast-food place. Picture yourself ordering at a McDonald’s drive-through window.

As you look over the menu, a voice from the speaker box says, “May I take your order?”

“I’ll have a cheeseburger, fries, and a large Coke,” you confidently say.

After a short moment of silence, the voice repeats, “You want a burger, fries, and a large Diet Coke?”

“NO!” you shout in the direction of the speaker box. “A Cheeseburger, fries, and a large Coke!”

“Sorry,” the box responds, “You want a cheeseburger, fries, and a large coke. Will that be all?

“Yes,” you confirm.

“That will be $2.99. Have a nice day.”

This is a good example of effective communication that should take place in a marriage. When you want your mate to clearly and accurately understand your “order” you should use the drive-through listening method.  One of you becomes the customer and the other becomes the employee.  As the customer, you first explain your feelings or needs by using “I feel” statements – as opposed to “You make me feel” remarks. “I feel” messages enable you to take 100 percent responsibility for your feelings and statements. It’s also helpful to use short sentences so your husband can repeat back precisely what you are communicating.

Once you are finished sharing, trade places. Your husband becomes the customer and you get to be the employee. He then places his order by explaining his feelings and needs. Your job is to repeat back what you hear him communicating until he is satisfied. This sequence continues until everyone feels heard and understood. The beauty of this method is that it allows LUVR to take place – Listening, Understanding, Validating, and Responding. Here is why. In order to accurately repeat what you are hearing someone say, you have to listen closely. Listening and repeating lead a person into understanding the other person. This in turn, is the essence of validation. You validate someone by letting them know that you hear and understand them.  Validation does not mean you “agree” with what the other person is saying. Instead, validation sends the message, “From your point of view I can see how you would feel or think that way.”

During this technique, it’s important to remember that the focus is not on creating solutions. Instead, the object is to understand the other’s feelings and needs. You can work on solutions after all “ordering” is completed or at a later time.

Sarah and Larry found themselves talking about the ways they fail to affirm one another in conversation. At first, they blamed the other person for feeling hurt.  Sarah would say, “You make me angry when you don’t spend time talking with me.” Larry would respond, “You frustrate me when you dump all your anger on me and never listen to what I say.” Notice how both partners were projecting blame and not taking responsibility for their own feelings and actions. Let’s replay this exchange with drive-through listening.

“When we don’t spend time together, I feel angry and hurt,” Sarah states.

Larry repeats the essence of what he heard Sarah say: “I hear you telling me that you feel angry and hurt because we don’t spend time together.” Then Sarah has the opportunity to correct any miscommunication. “That’s right,” she confirms. They would go on like this until Sarah expressed all her needs and feelings regarding this subject to Larry. Stick to one subject at a time.

During Larry’s turn as the “customer” he might say, I enjoy spending time talking with you when we focus on positive things.” In turn, Sarah repeats, “I hear you saying that when we focus on positives, you enjoy talking to me.”  Larry acknowledges that she heard him “exactly”. Sarah does not defend herself, add to, or belittle what Larry said. The “listener” simply repeats back, attempting to truly understand the other person.

Notice that in this dialogue, each person used “I” messages, instead of “You” messages which tend to project blame. Both shared facts about themselves without judging the other person’s feelings and behaviors. They treated one another with honor and respect. This is drive-through listening.

You need to assume full responsibility for drive-through listening. You are stating what you feel and asking for understanding, not agreement or discussion. It’s bottom-line communication that directly conveys facts without additional baggage.


Dr. Greg Smalley serves as executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and is passionate to equip premarital and married couples with the knowledge, skills and insights necessary to enjoy a lifetime together.



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