The Power of Positive Communication in Marriage

Think of your words as bricks. Each time you say something encouraging, you can add a brick. But each time you criticize, you have to take a brick away. If you had to build a house based on your current level of communication in your marriage, how long would it take?

Hopefully that illustration offers a glimpse of just how important positive communication in marriage is. We already know that validating and reinforcing positive behavior works to help develop children’s brains and promotes happiness. Why would that stop as adults? While our brains are like sponges as children, even as adults we are constantly learning and readjusting based on our experiences. If they are positive, then we react and build a positive life. If all we hear or experience is negative, while we can be pretty resilient for a while, eventually the bricks tumble.

So you know that being a positive person and speaking positively to your spouse are good things for your marriage. But what exactly does positive communication look like on a daily basis? Here are some practical applications and how much power they can have in your marriage. Practice them often until they become second nature, and the impact on your marriage will be amazing.

Say “I love you” often.

Maybe you think your spouse knows you love them; and surely they probably do. But hearing it really solidifies that feeling. It’s not easy for most people to say the words, so when you reach outside of your comfort zone and declare them whole heartedly to your spouse, it means the world. It makes them smile and melts their heart, and they realize that faults and all, they are the one for you. That’s powerful.

Greet each other excitedly.

When you come together after being apart, even if it’s just at the end of the day when coming home from work, greet each other with enthusiasm. It’s really more in the tone than in the exact wording you choose. But make it a point to hug, kiss, say hello, and ask about their day right when you see them. It gives them a sense of belonging and makes them feel wanted. A person who feels like their spouse cares can get through any other negative issue they just left at work because they have full support at home.

Offer a listening ear and give advice only when asked.

Many times we listen in order to formulate our own response; we want to appear smart and be noticed. But that’s not the point of those times our spouse comes to us with a problem or concern. Most of the time, they just need a listening ear, and they need validation that what they are feeling is more or less normal. So offer a listening ear without thinking of a reply. Simple look into your spouse’s eyes and nod and react appropriately. Only offer advice if your spouse specifically asks for it. But even then ask questions to help your spouse formulate their own answer. Most of the time they already know what they should do, they just need your encouragement to go through with it. Listening is a powerful tool in marriage communication, so use it often.

Refrain from interrupting or raising your voice.

There will be times when you don’t agree with your spouse—that much is certain. But how you handle it can lead to a negative outcome or a positive one. Let’s say you’re at the dinner table, and one of the children has acted out harshly. The two of you aren’t in agreement with how to punish your child. Rather than raising your voice or interrupting the other, listen carefully and see if you can negotiate a compromise. Better yet, take the discussion to another room so you can have a chance to think about it and come together away from your child. Don’t resort to negative behaviors to get your way; your way isn’t necessarily “right.” It’s more important to treat your spouse with respect. Your spouse will appreciate your kindness and the tone of your house will be so much more positive. That, in turn, will affect how your family treats others. Talk about powerful.

Give encouragement and praise.

Remember the days when your mom would tell you how awesome your art project was, even though it didn’t quite rival Picasso? What if as spouses we could offer the same sort of praise or encouragement? Of course, we need to be realistic and not offer false hope; but we must tell our spouse how much we admire and love what they do. “You work so hard, honey. I bet you are the best manager they’ve seen in a while,” or “Thanks for dinner. It was sure delicious!” are just a few examples of ways we can praise and encourage each other in the everyday things. As a result, our spouse will feel good and continue on the path of behavior in that avenue. You can bet that spouse will work even harder at his job and be a positive influence on his co-workers, and you can bet that home chef will continue to look for great recipes to feed the family. A win-win for everyone, all thanks to positive communication in marriage.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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