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Have Millennials Mastered the Art of Communication in Relationships?

Despite the criticisms leveled at millennials, a recent study shows that members of Generation Y know more about how to make a relationship last.
by Michael Benninger | Jun 21 2019

You don’t need to look far these days to find that millennials are being condemned for killing many aspects of modern culture. Indeed, older Americans are quick to point their fingers at today’s twenty- and thirty-somethings, blaming them for the demise of everything from breakfast cereal to breastaurants. Yet there is one age-old institution that’s thriving thanks to millennials: long-lasting marriages.

While it’s true that millennials are marrying far less frequently compared to older generations — and even those who do choose to walk down the aisle are waiting longer to do so — a recent report from the University of Maryland found an 18 percent decline in the national divorce rate from 2008 to 2016. The research suggests this is partially because younger Americans want to be more educated, economically stable, and advanced in their careers before taking the plunge, but perhaps there’s more to the story.

Although millennials aren’t saying “I do” as often as their forebears did, those who are getting hitched are statistically more likely to remain together than their parents or grandparents. Could these couples be staying married for the sake of family, finances, or the convenience of a shared Netflix account? Or could it be that today’s young adults merely more skilled at the art of communication in marriage?

The Undeniable Importance of Communication in Marriage

An integral aspect of any romantic relationship is clear communication. Yet when a couple evolves beyond dating and the relationship becomes more serious, the way partners speak to one another isn’t only important — it’s essential to maintaining a healthy, lifelong commitment. But perhaps more important than how a couple communicates is what they communicate about, especially when wedding bells are ringing. That’s the main takeaway from 8 Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by John Gottman Ph. D., Julie Schwartz Gottman Ph.D., Doug Abrams, and Rachel Carlton Abrams MD.

In the book, which was published in February, the authors detail eight topics that every serious couple should discuss prior to taking the next step in their relationship. These intentional conversations can establish a solid foundation for a couple’s future, allowing them to thrive for decades beyond their nuptials. The themes of these conversations include:

  • Trust and commitment
  • Conflict resolution
  • Physical intimacy
  • Finances and housework
  • Procreation and parenthood
  • Recreation and adventure
  • Personal and spiritual growth
  • Goals for the future

Although 8 Dates can be an invaluable read for couples on the brink of betrothal, it might not provide much guidance for those who have already verbalized their vows. Fortunately, individuals already in lifelong commitments can find marriage-saving insights in several other equally enlightening books.

Tips on How to Make a Relationship Last

A commitment to compromise and a dedication to avoiding divorce can go a long way toward keeping a couple together. But is that enough to keep a marriage alive for the long haul? Quality communication in relationships is the best way to cultivate and sustain a happy and healthy marriage that lasts till death do you part.

With that in mind, here are some key tips from today’s top-selling books about love and marriage.

Realize that communication in relationships isn’t always spoken

In The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, author Gary Chapman explains how communication consists of more than mere words, and that different people perceive and demonstrate love in different ways. Body language, tone of voice, and other forms of expression can be just as important — if not more so — than the words your partner audibly utters.

Furthermore, Chapman explains how the feeling of falling in love eventually fades away, and to survive such tough times, it’s essential for spouses to communicate in their partner’s love language. In order to work through differences and fulfill each other’s emotional needs, partners need to understand that authentic love is a choice that means adopting a different attitude and an alternate way of thinking.

Be Constructive, Not Critical

In another of Chapman’s books, Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away: Real Help for Desperate Hearts in Difficult Marriages, the author underscores the importance of constructive rather than critical communication, especially during instances when your spouse fails to live up to your expectations. When such situations arise, it’s easy to become hypercritical of your partner, although that approach rarely leads to a happy ending. Constructive communication, on the other hand, is key to finding a satisfying resolution.

Along those same lines, it’s important to note that sometimes the only way to get through to your partner is by shocking them with a bold, unexpected action that conveys your frustration about an issue. Chapman explains that when words fall short, framing a problem in a stark, shocking manner can clearly communicate the challenges in your relationship. And once your partner truly grasps the fact that there is a problem, they’re more likely to do something about it.

Avoid Taking Everyday Interactions for Granted

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, co-authors John M. Gottman and Nan Silver note that by taking brief pauses throughout your day to give your partner some added attention (and affection), you can reinforce the foundation of your marriage and maintain romance far longer than many other couples.

Romance endures when you let your spouse know you value them more than the doldrums of daily life, and seemingly insignificant instances of “turning toward” your partner can make a dramatic difference in the stability of your relationship. Make a habit of sharing such considerate moments, and always express gratitude for the attention your partner gives you. Strive to find pleasure in idle conversation rather than dismissing it as quotidian chitchat.

Make Sure the Time You Spend Together Is Meaningful

In The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work, Eli J. Finkel explains that a happy marriage isn’t merely about spending time together; it’s about sincerely paying attention to your partner and making an effort to understand what they are going through. Although you may spend hours next to each other each evening, if your smartphone is sucking up all your attention, that time together isn’t going to bring closeness or understanding into your relationship.

Devoting attention to each other crucial for the health of any marriage, and the authors note that couples who engage in the same leisure activities are far less likely to split up. Such active engagement with your spouse is especially important following the birth of a first child or after a relationship has experienced a period of considerable stress.

Aim for Quality Communication in Relationships

As elder millennials approach their 40s, will the nation’s divorce rate continue to drop? It’s tough to say how the future will unfold, but one this is certain: effective communication in relationships is critical to cultivating a climate of authentic love that lasts for a lifetime. And by being aware of your own communication style — as well as your partner’s preferred method of expression — together you can develop a better understand each other and fall in love time and time again.

A communication breakdown is among the most common causes of relationship problems, but such obstacles aren’t necessarily inevitable. If you’re eager to learn more about how to have a healthy relationship, Blinkist has a broad selection of titles to help you thrive during every stage of romance. So whether you’re a millennial or the grandparent of one, don’t waste any time learning how to master your love life by diving into any of these above titles today.

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