Communication Habit #2: Be honest with your spouse—but always in a kind way.
In our research, when we asked couples for marriage advice, we frequently heard “it is so important to be able to be brutally honest with each other.”
Here’s the thing: we never heard that phrase from the happiest couples. Not once. The happiest couples are indeed honest and share what needs to be said—but they are never brutal. Instead, they make a purposeful effort to speak kindly to their spouse. Especially when something might be hard to hear.
As time goes by in a new marriage, as kids come along and job stresses increase, it can be easy to take our spouse for granted and begin to speak to them in a way we would never speak to even a close friend. Yet in our research for The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, we found that among the happiest couples, the vast majority (75%) tried to be at least as considerate with their spouse as they would be with a friend—where among the so-so or struggling couples only 46% did so.
A good marriage requires being able to share what we are actually thinking and feeling—especially if there is a concern that needs to be raised. And kindness is what allows those open lines of communication to grow. I recently asked some of my readers for their top marriage advice, and one respondent who had been married for 45 years said this was his most crucial counsel: “Be a generous and kind communicator. Don’t hold back on what you want to say for a ‘better time’. If you are kind with your communication, you can speak your mind. If you can develop a space of safety in all you say, then you can be transparent and honest.”