What’s the number one complaint in troubled marriages? If you say poor communication, you’re right.

American family therapist Virginia Satir said, “Once a human being has arrived on this earth, communication is the largest single factor determining what kinds of relationships he makes with others and what happens to him in the world about him.”

CommunicationCommunication is also a critical ingredient in establishing closeness and emotional intimacy in a marriage. Without it, a relationship can never reach its full potential of lifting both partners up to a high level of emotional, spiritual and sexual fulfillment.

And yet, so many couples allow poor communication to stifle their relationship to the point of marriage separation. One of our clients shared the following story with my wife Nancy and me.

“My dad never said much and I guess I’m a lot like him. I grew up thinking that men don’t need to say much. My wife used to complain that I would never talk to her or share stuff that I was experiencing at work. And I honestly didn’t know how to respond to her.

“I would say, ‘That’s just the way I am. Take it or leave it.’ When she finally threatened to leave, I became concerned about stopping my divorce.”

What numerous spouses don’t realize is that they are operating on preconceived assumptions and beliefs about how a husband and wife “should” communicate. This usually happens when a person absorbs the attitudes and behaviors of their parents and grows up to repeat similar patterns.

So what can a couple do to avoid marriage problems? First, be willing to look at yourself and see that whenever you’re saying and doing may not be having your intended effect on your partner. Here, a little humility goes a long way.

Admit when you could have said or done something differently. Remember to hold the quality of your relationship as more important than winning any argument.

In addition, an experienced marriage counselor can provide objective feedback after observing how you communicate with your partner.

And finally, don’t be afraid to say after a fight “I’m sorry for my part.” You’re not saying that you were wrong. You’re only saying that you’re sorry for your part in creating the fight.

Adjusting your mindset with simple tactics like these will go a long way in saving your marriage from a ton of grief.

–By Lee Hefner