Relationship experts have long maintained that open communication is vital to marriage success. In fact, one of the first things counselors begin working on in couple’s therapy is improving communication. For most of us, it starts with our daily conversations. How we converse with our spouses sets the stage for so many other interactions.

Conversations can be both healthy and unhealthy, say the marriage counselors at Rye, New York’s Relationships & More. Counselors at the Westchester County clinic say that healthy conversations are not accidental; they are intentional. To that end, here are five tips for having better conversations with your spouse:

1. Shut Off the Phone

Few things in the modern world are as distracting as the cell phone. So many people have become so attached to their screens that shutting them off creates anxiety. Yet doing so is necessary if you want to have meaningful conversations. You cannot truly engage with another person if you are distracted.

If you want to have better conversations with your spouse, this is something you have to do. Shut off your phone and go place it in another room. Then take the attention you would have given to your phone and give it to your spouse instead. Be as attentive to them as you would have been to that electronic box.

2. Listen More Than You Speak

With your full attention given to the conversation, do your best to listen more than you speak. While you’re at it, make a conscious effort to not begin formulating your responses until your spouse has finished making the point at hand. In other words, listen to everything they say before making any effort to respond.

One of the goals of listening more than you speak is avoiding the temptation to assume. Responding based on assumptions of what the other person is trying to say only leads to trouble. Don’t do it.

3. Ask Rather Than Accuse

It is easy for good conversations to suddenly go south as a result of accusations. You can avoid this by asking questions. If you truly don’t understand what your spouse is saying, ask questions. Do not accuse them of saying something they didn’t say.

If you are the one answering the questions, do not assume that you are being questioned as a means of accusation. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Accept the fact that they truly may not understand what you’re saying.

4. Pay Attention to Body Language

In any conversation, be it positive or negative, the actual words spoken only tell half the story. The other half is told by body language. You can have better conversations with your spouse by paying attention to that body language.

Pay attention to facial expressions and body movements. Pay attention to tone of voice. All of those subtle hints body language provides can give you a feel for how the conversation is going. If it’s going well, you’re on the right track. If not, you need to change what you are doing.

5. Stick with the Truth

This fifth and final tip is a wonderful way to close this post. One of the most important keys to good conversations is the truth. Do yourself a favor and don’t lie to your spouse. Every time you do, you are only making future conversations more difficult. Stick with the truth and you will not have to worry about the consequences of lying.

Meaningful conversations are the result of thoughtful effort. If you are willing to employ the five tips described in this post, you and your spouse can have better conversations.

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