So, change is possible but it can be hard to get started. It can also be hard to keep going. However if you are motivated to making things work with your spouse, you’ll be able to do it! Dr. John Van Epp has talked about a way to continue strengthening your marriage in his book, “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind.”
Van Epp says that deepening your communication with your spouse will do wonders. You are probably already aware that communication is key, especially since you and your spouse are different people. He said, “The key is to accurately and extensively get to know the person you are dating, delving deeper in your communication as your relationship grows.” Learning more about your spouse is something that you need to keep up with for the rest of your lives because of the growth that comes from it.
He went on to say that there are four layers that help communication and conversations get better and become more meaningful. They start ranging from “shallow to deep,” which is what we need and should desire. He has created an acronym called OPEN to help you remember these levels.
The first level is Observations and Facts. Van Epp says that this means, “these refer to the type of communication where you relay current events, established facts, and things you’ve heard and seen.” An example of this would be, “Gray is my favorite color.” You are just stating the obvious, facts about yourself, and things you have noticed.
The second level is Perspectives and Opinions. His definition is, “they describe the type of communication where you add interpretations and opinion to your facts. An example would be, “My favorite color is gray, which is the best color there is.” When you talk about something that has happened and discuss what you think about it or how it affected is you demonstrating the second level.
The third level is Experiences and Emotions. Van Epp explains that this means, “They convey more of the subjective, personal and emotional content about your facts and opinions. An example is, “Gray isn’t a sad color for me. I find it brings me happiness when I see it.” This is probably one of the more used ones while talking to your spouse, especially during a time of trouble or a fluctuation in moods.
And lastly, the fourth level is Needs and Relationship Responses. Van Epp says, “this deepest level of communication occurs when you put your deepest feelings into words. Both refer to a here-and-now experience where you convey feelings you’re having at that time about either something very personal or some way you feel toward the person you are with. An example would be, “Although gray can remind most people of rain clouds and being sad, I think about the silver lining on those clouds, like when we struggle.” This level gets to the very bottom of how you feel right now about where you are at, what situation you’re in, and the feelings you have towards your spouse.
Obviously these examples included were light and airy, but hopefully they got the point across enough to help you understand.
Have you and your spouse ever talked about something a few times over the course of a few months? If you have it’s because your communication is deepening. Van Epp explained that, “As a relationship grows and communications “deepens,” the same topics are revisited time and time again but with greater depth. For instance you can talk to someone about your experience within your family of origin with minimal depth. However, as time goes on and more is shared a greater depth of openness occurs. There are many depictions for the different depths of openness.” The longer you know and are around your spouse, the deeper your conversations are going to be. It’s normal, natural, and just what you want!
Being open in your marriage is what it needs to thrive. Learn about your spouse and your bond will grow with them. You two will be strengthened because of honesty and trust you give to one another. Here’s one more thing that Van Epp said, “Healthy relationships continue to cycle through the same topic areas from the situational and relationship domains, yet with more meaning and depth each time.” Hopefully this can help you with sharing more with your spouse. Build that strong and healthy relationship with them. Share thoughts and feelings openly, but don’t hurt your spouse. Communication is key to making your marriage work!