Communicating Effectively in Your Marriage
By Dr. Charles Stanley
Have you heard about the loving husband who cleaned the house every Saturday morning while his wife slept in? For ten years he exerted his labor of love and never mentioned his selfless service. Imagine the husband’s consternation when his wife finally exploded: “If you think I’m such a terrible housekeeper, why don’t you clean the house every day!”
That story is fictitious, but it may not be too far from some real-life situations. It illustrates the importance of good communication between husband and wife. Industries spend millions of dollars annually to help employees transmit information more effectively, but little is being done to alleviate the problems of miscommunication in the home. This creates terrible difficulties. In fact, a group of psychologists I talked with traced incompatibility in many areas of home life to a simple but devastating lack of communication.
To talk and listen with understanding is the simplest definition of communication. Listening is not passive. It is concentrated attention with the ears, mind, and heart, with the goal of comprehending what another person is saying. Therefore, when you talk to someone, think through the efficacy of what you’ve said by considering:
- What you think you are saying.
- What you meant to say.
- What you actually said.
- What the other person heard.
- What the other person says about what you communicated.
- What you think the other person said about what you expressed.
When you say something to your wife, you may think she heard it, but her mind was dealing with more than your actual words. Sometimes we say things casually and expect the listener to understand exactly what we meant. We take for granted that what we said, what we meant, and what we felt are understood. Quite frankly, at times it would take a miracle for that to be true! The recipient of the message may understand one thing from our eyes, another from our gestures, and another from our mouth. When the transmission of the information we’re attempting to convey is not consistent in all forms, confusion or misunderstanding results.
This is why two people who are joined together for the rest of their lives have to make clear communication a priority and must work diligently to achieve it. I recommend daily practice and lots of patience. Acquiring these crucial verbal skills takes work but is absolutely worth the effort.
Helps for Communication
Fortunately, there are also helps for good communication. These positive steps can help ward off the hindrances.
- Speak clearly. This is partly a mechanical matter of enunciation and partly a matter of taking time to ensure that your message is heard. Careful speech shows respect for the other person and takes the listener’s perspective into consideration.
- Seek the listener’s comprehension until your message gets through. We men sometimes want to retreat when our conversations become turbulent. But be assured that if you patiently and prayerfully continue to communicate, eventually your efforts will pay off. Strive to understand your wife more than you seek to be understood by her. This outgoing effort will generate big dividends as your wife responds from her heart.
- Another action that helps is to plan times together—time for praying, talking, and observing each other’s interests. Sharing activities can open new insights into your spouse and grow a deeper appreciation for who she is. For example, few couples discover how praying together can inspire deep, intense closeness. But I believe the highest, most intimate level of communication often comes when two people talk to God together. As you learn to express your fears and desires sincerely to the Lord, you will experience a growing identification with your spouse’s concerns. Sometimes we will say things about ourselves in prayer that we would not say with our eyes open. During prayer, your spouse will often receive a new awareness of the great love in your heart, your humility, and your spiritual aspirations. This is because the Father’s divine love always draws the praying couple closer to Himself and to each other.
- Develop one or more mutual interests. This may require a sacrifice of preferred pastimes, but the resulting companionship will strengthen the sense of oneness and the awareness of how to meet each other’s needs. Start small if necessary, but find something you both like and make it a permanent part of your lives.
God gave the husband and wife to each other to make them more together than they could be on their own. However, they can’t complete each other until they learn to share their innermost being and work for the good of the other.
Therefore, I challenge you to take these steps to deeper communication with your spouse. Because if you do, you will get to know the person you married to the very depth of her being as you learn together. And not only will your marriage improve, but your family and your relationships with God and others will also move toward their fullest potential as you speak and live from the heart.
Adapted from Man of God by Dr. Charles Stanley
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