Hi this is pastor Ken thanks for taking the time to join me again for my Monday Marriage Message. I’ll call this and the next few episodes…Marital Communication 101
I chose that title for various reasons. Many couples who come to see me for counseling never really learned how to communicate with one another. It was simply assumed that since they each had been communicating with some level of success since before they even knew how to talk that they would be able to do so with their spouse. For many, regardless of past and present experience with others, they find they are not as successful at communicating within their marriages as they imagined they would be. As anyone who has been to college knows the beginning classes in any subject are numbered 101. If this has been your experience trying somewhat unsuccessfully to communicate with your spouse…Welcome to Marital Communication 101, come on in and have a seat.
I also chose the title of these episodes because many would say they have tried at least 101 ways to communicate with their spouse, and none of it has worked. If that’s you, don’t think you are alone. Often times when I ask a couple on their first visit to see me, “How can I help?” They answer that they have trouble communicating. Usually, both of them are frustrated by the fact that they are seemingly misunderstood more often than not. They wonder how it can be that the person that was so easy to talk to when they were dating, they can’t seem to converse with now about anything without finding they are both frustrated.
One further reason I entitled them Marital communication 101 is that for some, it seems that they must argue about at least 101 things before they find common ground. Even those breakthrough events can’t be fully enjoyed because they are innately aware that once that successful conversation passes…there are probably 101 more difficult ones to wade through and endure before the next good one occurs.
There certainly are many reasons spouses who come to see me tell me their problem is that they have trouble communicating. First of all, and I don’t want to be seen as trying to split hairs or have a semantical argument but, very few people have trouble communicating. They have trouble arriving at mutual understanding. There is a marked and important distinction. That difference is crucial to understand because communication is in fact occurring and much of it is unintentional. For example, when a husband and wife are having difficulty understanding each other, they become frustrated. This frustration can lead to things like raised voices as yet another attempt to convey the intended meaning is made. It can lead to speaking faster, changing inflection of tone, and interrupting or talking over one another. Body language unmistakably changes as arms cross over the chests and fingers get pointed. Faces can redden or lips begin to quiver. As the tempo of the conversation rises to match the nearly palpable tension in the space, mouths becomes dry, hands become sweaty, and a fight or flight instinct settles on one or both of the contestants…(sorry, I meant to say) participants. Sometimes when all else fails one or both people leave the room where the attempted conversation has taken place in a rapid or stormy manner muttering under their breath or shouting their frustration over their shoulder as they exit. The couple I have just described are communicating very effectively, and they are espousing some things they had no intention to just moments before. Communication has ensued. Mutual understanding about the original topic…under those circumstances never had a chance.
If what I have just depicted sounds like you, I promise I haven’t been eavesdropping…this unintended result happens to more good, well intentioned, Christian couples than you could imagine. The problem is that unfortunately, the couple I just described has indeed communicated very effectively to one another. They have in no uncertain terms informed their spouse of some things they never meant to, and that likely aren’t even true. They have clearly communicated a lack of love and respect for each other and each other’s thoughts. They have left little doubt that they often find each other intolerable. Furthermore, they have made whatever the issue was, the most important thing in the world, instead of something they needed to have the most important person in the world understand their feelings about.
Scripture tells us in proverbs 3:13-18 that Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. I am sure that you know how well things go when there is understanding. The things described in the scripture above are true for those who have and seek understanding. No one likes to misunderstand nor be misunderstood, and there are steps we can take and strategies we can employ to help achieve mutual understanding without all of the friction and sparks.
In the coming weeks we will look into some of the problems that often leave married couples struggling to communicate well, and we will search the scriptures to find out how God would have us achieve mutual understanding. God’s word tells us in James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Asking God for wisdom is exactly what we should do when we don’t know what to do. For that reason, we will find specific places in His word to see what He says our responses should be when we are having difficulty understanding one another. Verse six above is important though. If we don’t know what to do, and we ask, and we learn in His word what He says we should do…we can’t argue with the answer…otherwise we will end up more unsettled than we were to begin with. So if you are ready to see how God wants to help you adjust your responses to your spouse and avoid misunderstanding…Welcome to Marital Communication 101
Questions to answer:
What does the distinction between failure to communicate and failure to attain mutual understanding mean to you?
What things or subjects derail your ability to successfully communicate your thoughts and ideas with your spouse?
Are there subject areas you have less trouble communicating about?
How long has it been since communication seemed easy for the two of you?
Actions to take:
Ask God together to accept the things His word instructs you to do to increase the level of positive communication in your marriage.
Decide right now that learning to communicate effectively is more important than being right.
Choose today to be willing for judgement free discussions that will enlighten and help you both do that successfully.
Commit to being willing for the discovery process with your spouse as to what makes it difficult for each of you to remain engaged when the communication begins to break down.
So now, learning the importance of mutual understanding and inviting new ideas from God’s own word to communicate in positive ways with your spouse…Go Be Awesome!