There is nothing very new in marriages in the new century. It’s only the stress of the increased pace of daily life that has compounded old problems. Without a firm faith in the Lord Jesus, it is impossible to have a vibrant, healthy marriage in our era. To have a happy home, a safe haven, one must learn to communicate.
For many, the term “communication” is ill-defined. Properly understood, communication involves both sending and receiving. There is only one thing worse than MIScommunication: that is DIScommunication. Most men desire intimacy with their wives, but few understand the art of true communication. No man is born with these skills: they must be learned. Furthermore, no man can master these skills by reading a textbook. He must have someone to learn these skills with. In the second chapter of the Bible, the Lord said that it was not good that a man should be alone. He needed another person to communicate with. Adam was incomplete without Eve.
In the Gospels, when the Father chose to communicate with humankind, He sent His Son to dialogue with us personally. Since most of Jesus’ teachings involve interpersonal relations with one another, this assumes He had marital communications in mind as well. Jesus desires a growing, loving relationship with His bride, the Church, through the communication of prayer. Communication is the basis of intimacy—and good communication means the ability to transmit and receive properly understood messages. Communication is the vehicle that takes a person on the road of deeper understanding. Superficial communication with one’s spouse, like superficial prayers, are not the answer.
Effective communication is at the center of all marital happiness. Truly understanding your mate is the goal, but it is the willingness to communicate that must be addressed. A couple can and will “talk things out” if they only try. You can read a hundred books on marital communication and attend a dozen marital workshops and still be non-communicative.
Summed up in one word, the number one problem in marriages today is selfishness. It is this selfishness, the unwillingness to bend and to give, that causes the lack of exchange of quality communication between a husband and wife.
Several things are fundamental to good communication and marital happiness:
A. An active prayer life and continuous affirmation of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. Taking full responsibility for your own decisions and actions. Quit blaming your mate and trying to put him/her on guilt trips.
C. Refusing to look back, for there is no future in the past.
D. Maintaining a positive attitude.
To communicate effectively, there are some barriers you must tear down. Some fences that hinder good communication include:
A. Fear of rejection. “Will the other really accept me if I open my heart?”
B. Fear of reaction. “Will my spouse get mad? Pout? Argue?”
C. Fear of failure. “If I try to talk with my mate, will they turn me off?”
D. Shyness. “I’m just too timid to communicate well.” Do not accept this type of self-assessment. Effort is required for success in communication.
E. Distrust. “Will they hurt me if I give them ultra-sensitive personal information?”
F. Internalized feelings and emotions. “I have to hold it all inside me.”
G. Anxiety. “I’m just too stressed-out to talk about it”.
F. Depression. “The weight of all the other problems becomes so great I can’t give my attention to communicating effectively.”
So how do I become a good communicator?
Here are several tips:
1. Take the initiative to communicate. Start and maintain the conversation in love.
2. Don’t be judgmental.
3. Don’t be argumentative.
4. Don’t interrupt.
5. Don’t monopolize the conversation.
6. Maintain good eye contact with your mate.
7. Be sensitive. Have tender regard for how the other feels.
8. Don’t express shock whatever he/she says.
9. Don’t talk about yourself too much. Ask about the other’s needs and feelings.
10. Completely focus on the other.
11. Receive all communication from your spouse warmly and lovingly. If a person likes what they find, they will tend to come back to find more of the same.
12. Receive all non-verbal forms of expression positively.
13. Really listen. Affirm you are listening by asking quality questions that are directly related to what they are saying. Paraphrase and lovingly tell her/him what you heard.
14. Put yourself in the other person’s moccasins.
15. Say the name of your sweetheart as you communicate. Everyone loves the sound of their own name—including special sweetheart names.
16. Think before speaking. Think before speaking. Think before speaking.
17. Reach out and touch your spouse in love as you communicate.
18. Always end a conversation in love and often in prayer.
Concerning the development of communication skills in marriage, it’s good to bear in mind that you married a sinner—and so did your spouse. If you have accepted Christ, of course, now you are sinners saved by grace, but you are both imperfect human beings. Since humans tend to be selfish,
self-centered people seek the ideal mate. But unrealistic expectations are often crushed by marital realities. We build castles of sand and weep when the tide comes in and destroys them. Most couples never realize that marriage is not “What can I get?” but “What can I give?” For unbelievers, marriage is mostly about entitlement: “What do I get out of it? What am I entitled to?”
As believers, we must come to understand that Jesus came to exemplify the self-sacrificial attitude. He has made this clear in the last book of the Bible where we find Him represented as the Lamb of God. He invites His bride, the Church, to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. He does not invite believers to a party or an orgy but to a dinner that celebrates a marriage. Since Jesus represents Himself as the One who best exemplifies self-sacrifice—and represents Himself as a husband—what should this teach men today?
The desire to have great communication with your mate stems from a determinate act of your will, not one’s personality. Excellent communicators are intense listeners. Do not make the mistake of blaming your spouse’s irresponsiveness. The best way to begin to have great conversations is to discuss the events of the day. Timing is everything, so do it when you can be alone together without distractions and interruptions. Respond to each other constructively, not destructively.
With this in mind, let’s explore a few factors that hinder good communication.
1. Anger. The other is just so mad they cannot communicate.
2. Frustration. The problems appear too big to overcome.
3. Regret for all the lost years of non-communication. The “there’s just no way to fix it now!” attitude.
4. Regret for enduring/tolerating a situation too long, such as infidelity.
5. Denial of the facts. A refusal to face a situation squarely.
6. Transference of blame. The attempt to play the “shame game” with your mate.
7. Trying to solicit sympathy from the other by slanting the facts.
8. Indulgence in self-pity. Personal pity parties always hinder communication.
9. Attacking the other. No one communicates well when the dishes are flying.
10. Withdrawal. Like a turtle putting his head in his shell who is afraid to come out.
Here are a few statements we hear often from wives seeking good communication with their husbands:
“He dominates the conversation.”
“He uses “trigger-words.”
“He questions every statement I make.”
“He corrects every statement.”
“He provokes by opening old wounds.”
“He changes the subject.”
“He majors in minors.”
“He pushes his pet philosophy/theology.”
“He embarrasses me.”
“He raises his voice to make his point.”
“He doesn’t give me time to speak or express myself.”
Here are a few pointers that will help your communication:
A. Look at the person as you speak to them lovingly.
B. Give your undivided attention to that person.
C. Assume they are telling the truth.
D. Use positive body language and other non-verbal signs of communication.
E. Select your tone carefully and prayerfully.
F. Demonstrate respect for the other.
Finally, remember that the spouse that God gave you needs:
4. Freedom of expression
God made men and women very different. Women wear pink contact lenses. Men wear blue ones. We see things differently through our filters. But your spouse has one thing in common with you for sure—the need for honest communication. The essence of femininity is response and the essence of masculinity is initiation. When communication breaks down, people get hurt.
In marital counseling sessions, there is often the poker-faced husband and the cry-baby wife. She cannot understand why he withdraws: it’s a mystery to her. But both assume the other should understand. He often thinks she’s trying to provoke him when she’s really only attempting to motivate him to communicate. Women usually want to keep a clean slate, to keep the phone line open. Too often, she makes the mistake of thinking that more talking will solve the problem. If men would only take the time to really listen and lovingly respond, most marital problems could then be solved easily.
In all fairness, women need to read up on men too. They need to know that timing is (almost) everything. Men tend to put things in compartments, like mailboxes. If he’s in the sports mailbox, don’t try to instantly force him into the childcare mailbox. Wait until he’s not stuck in the car washing mailbox before you try to get him into the take-out-the-trash mailbox. A substantial step toward understanding your mate is just plain common courtesy.
A key point that women must remember about men is that they crave respect. Men go to war and die for honor and respect. However, there’s a big difference in receiving respect on the job and receiving it at home. Men want their business associates to respect them, not to love them. But too few men ever bother to give their wives good reasons to respect them. They are deceived into thinking that respect should come automatically. It’s strange that men know that respect on the job must be earned, but often expect it naturally from their wives. They try to command respect by forcing her to submit to him, but this never works—ever.
The early glow in a marriage is respect and admiration. Later in the marriage, when she gets frustrated and critical, it crushes him. If a man does not get the love and respect of his wife at home, he often seeks it elsewhere. Even Christian wives make a big mistake when they do not understand this. The principle of mutual respect is so powerful that thousands of divorce lawyers buy their expensive sports cars on the hate money of hurting couples. What divorce lawyer ever refers couples to marital counselors?
In Ephesians five, the wife is commanded to respect her husband because it doesn’t come naturally. He’s commanded to love her for the same reason. Men don’t love as naturally as a woman does. The wife is not commanded to love her man, for she was designed to love. “God made them male and female.”
A wife may ask herself, “Does he love me as much as I love him?”
But how often does a husband ask, “Does she love me as much as I love her?”
Both the wife and the husband should ask:
“Am I satisfied with our communication level?”
“In what areas do we need improved communication?”
“Which of us does most of the talking? And why?”
“In what specific ways can I contribute toward enhanced communication?”
Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long-distance race and you must take breaks to talk things over. To build trust in a relationship, there must be a consistent pattern of love and respect.