Good communication is one of the keys to a happy marriage. When there is open and effective communication a relationship is able to work through challenges and grow stronger. Many couples seem to struggle with their communication and need to work on improving their communication skills.
I recently was ministering to a husband who was having difficulty communicating with his wife. From his point of view he felt like she expected him to know exactly how she felt and what she was wanting based on her subtle hints and actions. Finally in total frustration he told her, “I can’t read your mind – you have to tell me what you are thinking, what you’re wanting or what you’re needing”, which only exasperated the situation.
Often we depend on assumption as our format of communication thinking our spouse totally understands everything we have shared with them. However, effective communication is not what is said but what is actually heard and understood.
Good communication requires effort, time and energy. It is interesting that researchers tell us in “True Communication” just 7% of what we communicate is the result of the words we speak, or the content of our communication, but 38% of our communication to others is a result of our verbal behavior, which includes tone of voice, volume, inflection and tempo, and 55% is a result of our nonverbal communication, our body posture, breathing, hand jesters and other movement. WOW!
So, to make sure our spouse is hearing the heart of what we our communicating we need to make sure our attitude and our demeanor are sending the same message. This is a huge key to effective communication with one another. There are several other keys to effective communication. Here are three you can work on to improve your communication:
1. Be a Good Listener. Listening is one of the most important communication skills you can work on. A good listener does more than just hear words; they interpret emotions, behaviors, and respond appropriately. They are able to better understand their spouse. To listen means giving your undivided attention. If you continue being focused on whatever you’re doing while trying to listen you are not going to hear the totality of what he/she is sharing. Stop what you’re doing and focus on what is being said. This will eliminate the potential for misunderstandings and it will speak volumes to your spouse. It will scream – “You are important to me and I value you.” It increases the likelihood that he/she will continue sharing their feelings.
2. Be Respectful. Do you really value your spouse? Do you respect him or her as a human being made in the image of God? Notice God’s instruction regarding our relationship with others: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3). Be respectful of each other’s wishes. If a spouse suggests something that is not practical in a situation, don’t fly off the handle by calling them dumb or stupid. Always show respect and explain why the suggestion may not work effectively. Mutual respect is a key to an effective relationship.
3. Communicate Regularly. Don’t wait until there is an issue or things are difficult to sit down and talk. If communication is only sporadic in your marriage, it will create more opportunities for misunderstandings and you will not be prepared to communicate effectively in those stressful situations. Set aside time daily to talk with your wife/husband. Ensure you have at least 30 minutes to an hour of quality time. Make communication a priority in your daily schedule. When you have a regular time of sitting and talking with one another it enhances the relationship and prepares you for critical times.
While every one of these keys are important and extremely helpful in improving communication, they need to be worked on when the marriage is not facing a challenge. I want to share with you the most important ingredient for good communication when your marriage is struggling. It is even more important than all the standard skills for communication.
SECRET TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
There is an underlying SECRET that is the true basis for effective communication. It is the most powerful ingredient for great communication and it is this – QUALITY RELATIONSHIP. It is out of relationship that good communication happens. If a couple becomes disconnected – communication will break down.
“Good Communication Results from Relationship Not Vice Versa”
The premise most people work from is that if you improve your communication your relationship will improve. Most marriage counselors and every marriage book or article you read identifies communication as a key to intimacy in the relationship. They have a couple who is in trouble go through a ton of exercises to try and improve their communication believing that will help solve their problem. However, it is only out of relationship that is connected that effective communication occurs.
When two people are connected their communication is working great. However, when a couple feels disconnected their communication breaks down, no matter how many communication techniques they try to apply.
In fact most of the communication techniques can seem patronizing and even manipulative when a couple are emotionally disconnected. They can even put a further strain on the relationship if they come across disingenuous or seem self serving.
When a marriage gets into trouble it rarely is a result of bad communication. Bad communication is the outcome of a marriage that’s in trouble because of other issues.
So, when a marriage is struggling I challenge couples to work on reconnecting. Instead of thinking about how to “communicate” with him/her, look for ways to rekindle the relationship and reconnect. Ask yourself:
What is that you love and value about your spouse? What is it that attracted you to them? (write a list of all the positive things)
Do you really care how he/she feels? (or is all about you?)
How can you reconnect emotionally with your partner?(write a love letter, go on a date night, say I am sorry, tell them you love them, etc)
Are you willing to really hear and learn his/her perspective?
Don’t get bogged down trying to implement awkward communication techniques at this point, but instead choose to take the first step to reconnect right now. Don’t wait for her/him to do something, don’t make it conditional just do it! If you do, there is a great chance your spouse will reciprocate. Communication will then improve just because of the connection. More importantly, your love for each other will be strengthened and the relationship will be better.
Working on your communication skills is important and they will improve your marriage, however if your marriage is struggling work on the relationship – regain the feelings of intimacy.
Make sure to include “Prayer” in your relationship. The couple that prays together stays together. There will be obstacles, differences, and even conflicts. So, ask God to help you and make sure He is part of the equation in your relationship. Remember marriage is a covenant not only between you and your spouse but with God. Don‘t try it by yourself, you cannot do it on your own. You need the help of the Lord. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). It is Christ that strengthens you and your marriage. May God bless you and your marriage as you improve your communication!