One of the things Rhonda and I learned early on in the effort to preserve our time as a couple was the need for good communication. To put it bluntly, we just did not have the time to deal with poor or misunderstood communication. When your time is “squeezed”, the need to share your hopes, dreams, challenges, and hurts in ways that are understood and addressed is critical. We demonstrate love through our encouraging and caring ear. And when communication is good, we feel like we are moving forward as a couple. Let me share some principles that helped us along the way.
Good communication only happens when the listener understands the words of the speaker in the way the speaker intended them to be understood. In our communication, we asked a lot of clarifying questions. We wanted to make sure we knew where each other were coming from and exactly what each other were saying. This was especially critical in our case because our strong personality differences made it easy to hear the same words in two completely different ways. I can’t stop the conversation with, “Well, I said what I meant. I can’t help it if Rhonda heard it a different way.” We can “help it” and we must “help it” for good communication to go forward.
Good communication adds to the “emotional bank account” of you husband or wife. Words have incredible power. Just ask a grown-up about hurtful words that were sent their way in their childhood. We can not only remember the words, but also how the words made us feel. Words that hurt drain the emotional bank account of your spouse. But words also have an incredible power for good and words that lift up, sooth, challenge, and encourage bring health and healing to your marriage.
My number one goal in communication as a couple is to understand my wife, not convince her of my opinion. This one principle has been a long learning curve for me. But, by God’s gift, our talking is more characterized today by a desire to understand each other than by a need to prove our opinion. One of the outcomes has been to remove or at least decrease defensive comebacks and arguments to shore up our position. It hasn’t always been easy to take this approach. But I am convinced that we will only arrive at a beautiful place of oneness in our marriage if we go through the hard conversations that improve our understanding of each other.
In our counseling with married couples, a failure to communicate is easily the number one problem we encounter. This is what it looks like. Poor communication in marriage leads to a downward spiral of misunderstanding (hurts or offenses left unsettled), which leads to assumptions (private thoughts that are repeated in our minds), which leads to walls (practice in keeping each other at a distance in those tough subjects), which leads to quietness (no longer a desire to find joy in each other’s company), which leads to emotional separation, (“I really don’t need you after all”).
Preserve, celebrate, and embrace your time as a couple through good communication. It will produce a lifetime of benefits for your marriage, yourself, and your children.