Communication is key in relationships – you know that. But let’s talk about how you are communicating with your spouse. 

You probably talk to them at home or send them quick messages throughout the day. These things aren’t necessarily bad ideas, but they can get mundane. And if you’re not thinking, you might even communicate a hurtful message to your partner. 

So I want to propose a more meaningful, mindful way to communicate: writing feelings down.

I’m not talking about a quick text or a phone call. I’m talking about picking up a pencil and paper and actually writing your thoughts and feelings out by hand on a Post-It, in a journal, or on a piece of paper. 

Why Write Feelings Down By Hand? 

When you actually go to the trouble of putting pen to paper, it forces you to think a little more about what you’re saying. This is due to the fact that it takes longer to write things out by hand than it does to verbally say what’s on your mind, send a text, or record a voice message. 

Why does this matter? Because that extra time can be used to reflect on your words and how they might come across to your partner. 

When Should You Start Writing Feelings Down? 

When you’re upset. High levels of emotions often make us say things we later regret. But you shouldn’t stifle how you feel. This will only lead to the bottled-up emotions coming out in a damaging way later.

Instead, when you start to feel angry, anxious, or upset with your spouse, write them a letter. Lay out how you feel and then put down the pen and take a walk or cool down. Then revisit the letter later. 

In most cases, you will probably want to edit your thoughts or rephrase them in a more gentle, loving way. This is something you can’t do with most other forms of communication where sending your message – literally or figuratively – is far easier and more immediate.

When you don’t know what to say. Sometimes, the right words don’t come out the first time. Avoid miscommunications by writing down what you want to say to your partner. 

Manually writing something out provides you with the opportunity to reread it and rewrite it until you find the right words. Technically, you can do this with texts, emails, and even (in a way) voicemails, but most find it more natural to do with handwritten messages.

When you’re thankful. Don’t limit this practice to times when you are upset or feeling negative. Start a gratitude journal

Each day, write down one-five things that you are grateful for in your life. It could be your partner, your health, or your job. Share this journal with your partner and show them when you feel grateful for their kindness, their love, and so on.

Your spouse will appreciate the extra effort you went to in physically writing out your appreciations. 

When you are thinking about them. Love notes aren’t just for children in grade school. Pass your partner a love note when you are sitting in front of the television. Leave them one to read when they get home from work or get up in the morning. Just a few little words can make all the difference. 

Need Relationship Help? We Can Help You Write the Right Words

It’s not always easy to come up with the right words for your partner. But you don’t have to find them alone. Sign up for a couple’s workshop and learn more about how to communicate what you’re feeling with the one that you love most. 

Originally posted 12/6/19. Updated 6/1/21.

When two partners are discussing a conflict, things can move faster than you can think. Emotions run high. And those feelings can run you into places that you don’t want to go.

When this happens, we speak without thinking. We may say the first thing that comes to our mind. Even if what we say is not meant to hurt our loved one, it can spin the conversation out of control. 

Don’t let this happen to you when talking through a conflict. If you find any of these phrases on the tip of your tongue, bite that tongue. These phrases can escalate the conflict, and they won’t help you come to a couple’s agreement.  

“Calm down!”

You may not understand why your spouse is mad. But invalidating their feelings will get you nowhere. “Calm down” tells another person that they are being irrational. Their feelings are “wrong.” A person may go so far to think that this request is an insult. If you can avoid any phrases in a conflict, avoid this one. 

“At least you’re not ____” 

Everyone is going through their own personal struggles. Everyone has problems. Bringing up someone else’s issues will not solve yours. Suggesting that someone should be “grateful” for something that upsets them will not get you further in an argument. 

“It must be hormones.” 

Yikes! Blaming someone’s emotions or concerns on hormones will never end well. When your partner comes to you with a conflict, sit down and listen to them. If you are not sure why they are upset, ask. And then listen to their response. Brushing off someone’s concerns will not make them go away. 

“You always do this!”

Pointing out a spouse’s “faults” or a habit that you don’t like will not help the conversation. Why are your spouse’s actions hurting you? Have you talked to them about this before without any accusations? Rather than pointing fingers, open your arms to your spouse. Communicate your concerns gently. Empathize with their reasoning for behaving in a certain way. Move on from there. 

“It’s over!” 

Threats are not a healthy form of communication. Empty threats are even less effective. Don’t dangle your marriage in front of your spouse in order to change their behavior. Shift the conversation. How do their actions make you feel? Why are you so concerned about your spouse’s behavior? This brings your partner into the conversation, rather than pushing them out of your life. 

Need Relationship Help? Talk to a Relationship Counselor 

Conflict resolution requires more than eliminating nasty phrases. Both partners need to listen, empathize, and learn from what the other person is saying. 

These are skills that can be acquired and practiced. A relationship counselor can help you hone these skills and resolve any conflict with your spouse in a healthy, loving way