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Saying What You Feel — And Getting Results

A little communication goes a long way in strengthening a marriage — here's why.
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Though you love each other, you can't assume that your husband will know what's on your mind or in your heart. What's more, bottling up your emotions can be damaging to your marriage. Making a point to calmly and clearly express your feelings about something a spouse does (or doesn't do) will promote better communication and will ease the stress of keeping your emotions under wraps. Try this exercise as a reality check to shatter false assumptions and foster honest communication.

First, try to see the world through your spouse's point of view. Answer the following two questions separately:

1. List three things you suspect your partner wants, needs, or feels that he or she is not telling you. For instance, you may assume that your husband wants, as you do, to put your tax return toward renovating the basement. Or that he is secretly ticked off when you nag him about cleaning the garage.

2. Now list three assumptions you believe your partner may be making about you. You assume, for instance, that your husband thinks because you have always celebrated the holidays at your in-laws, you will continue to do so even after having your first child. Or, that because you always complain about not having enough money, that he assumes he shouldn't splurge on your birthday.

Now, compare your answers — and perspectives. Ask yourselves: Are these assumptions correct? Totally wrong? Partly wrong? Take the issue of a tax refund: By talking with your husband you may find out that he wants to put the tax refund money directly into your child's college fund — not into home renovation. After discussing it you could both agree that his suggestion makes sense for this year, but next year, if the economy picks up, you'll put the money into the basement renovation. Or, for the holidays, you might discover that your husband would also like to start a new tradition and host the holiday in your home. If you hadn't discussed your desire to change holiday plans, your spouse may have assumed you were perfectly content, and you could have wound up upset at your husband or in-laws, and both enjoying the holiday less. After you've talked openly about each other's assumptions, you should be able to communicate more clearly about what you expect and need from each other.

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