Hi, this is pastor Ken, welcome to the Monday Marriage Message, this will be the third installment in a series I am calling Marital Communication 101
For the past two weeks we have looked at the often difficult topic of marital communication. In the first session I spoke of the important difference between communication and mutual understanding. There I encouraged you to recognize that even when we don’t arrive at mutual understanding, we still communicate with each other through things like body language, tone, volume, etc. I spoke to the fact that if we are not careful we may communicate some things to each other that we don’t mean and that aren’t even true. Frustration brought on by a lack of arriving at mutual understanding can cause us to communicate things we do not wish our spouse to think.
In the second, I spoke of a few of the variables that can lead to misunderstanding such as; differing process of thought, differing families of origin as well as the fact that we each have our own unique set of core beliefs. I discussed the fact that those core belief systems we each have often cause us to interpret the same information very differently and that can lead to breakdowns in mutual understanding. When this is the case it is vital that we recognize that differences in any of these areas or others do not make one of you right and the other wrong. You can, and often are, both right to think the way you each do given the variables that make up who you are and what you believe as individuals. The objective is not necessarily agreement, but rather that you each have heard and find the other person’s thoughts on the matter valuable.
One of the major roadblocks to successful marital communication is frustration. That condition results from a faulty belief that communication is only effective if it results in agreement. When we are striving for mutual agreement rather than mutual understanding we unintentionally set ourselves up for failure. Understanding that you and your spouse think differently than each other on nearly every subject, agreement will require that one of you admit that your spouse’s ideas and thoughts are more valuable than your own. The “loser” will then have to abandon their own thoughts (which they know have merit) and adopt their spouse’s thoughts as their own. Even when this is accomplished without visible tension, silently held frustration usually exists. In most marriages this misguided goal means that one spouse or the other will triumph in determining what the “agreed” upon outcome will be, and the other is forced to acquiesce. In some marriages the winning position will vacillate between spouses with the husband winning some while the wife succeeds in others. In less fair instances either the husband or the wife will be the victor in a far more lopsided final count.
When mutual agreement is the goal of communication, silent frustration is not the only kind that can abound. We can, and often do become overtly frustrated when a meeting of the minds is the expected outcome of communication. Actually this can cause a total breakdown altogether in the process. Often times as soon as it becomes apparent in a discussion that husband and wife to not see the matter at hand the same way, the process of “convincing” erupts. While one spouse is explaining their thoughts on the matter the other is not listening, but rather formulating a response designed to devalue their spouse’s ideas illustrating their own to be superior. Having proceeded to develop their own thoughts communication ceases to employ one of its two necessary components…listening. This breakdown soon becomes apparent and frustration and anger quickly follow. James 1:19 in the New Living Translation says: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. This scripture warns that when we fail to listen and desire instead to speak our own mind, we risk anger on one or both of our parts as a result. As I mentioned last week, Proverbs 18:2 tells us that A fool has no delight in understanding, but only in expressing his own heart. The breakdowns in communication that I have just described come from the very foolishness that this scripture speaks of.
However, the reverse truth offers to us the correct objective of successful communication. A wise spouse seeks to understand the other and refrains from being pushy with their own thoughts. In other words, a wise person truly wants to know what another’s thoughts are and why they think what they do. Verbally seeking this information alone, validates the other’s thoughts as valuable. Making the point that we need to know our spouse’s thoughts because they are valuable to us…goes even further. When we take these wise steps we are exchanging the purpose of successful communication from agreement for mutual understanding. When the latter is the goal as opposed to the former there is no need for frustration, and the probability of success skyrockets. One might argue that mutual understanding sounds wonderful, and it might keep frustration at bay, but don’t decisions still have to be made? Don’t we sometimes still have to come to some sort of conclusion as to how to move forward? Yes.
Thankfully scripture has an answer for that as well. Proverbs 31:10-11 speak to this very thing. Essentially what those verses say is that if we will give equal value to each other’s thoughts they can be used to collaborate and arrive at a decision that has greater potential than even the best thoughts of one spouse alone. Here God is admonishing that success comes from wisdom which is arrived at only after carefully considering both spouse’s ideas. As the two thought processes exhibiting the intelligence of the husband and wife are married together, they give birth to wisdom…and true wisdom promotes success.
Questions to answer:
When you consider it carefully what do you generally hold as the goal of successful communication between you and your spouse?
How do each of you recognize when frustration is hijacking the process of successful marital communication for you?
Actions to take:
Discuss some strategies the two of you could employ to trade mutual agreement for mutual understanding in your marital communication skills.
Without using any form of the word frustrate, discuss how you feel when you see communication breaking down between the two of you.
So now, choosing to increase the success rate of your marital communication by exchanging the goal of mutual agreement for mutual understanding…Go Be Awesome!