Communication in marriage requires work. It takes time and effort to keep it healthy. Living and working cross culturally can add to the difficulties of communication with our husband. His work may involve hours of struggling to listen to people with deep needs. He’s worn out with listening by the end of the day.
We, on the other hand, may feel we are using every bit of our emotional reserves to deal with a life that seems totally foreign and unintelligible. The demands of keeping our children safe, our house clean, and food on the table don’t leave time and energy to listen to our husband’s plans for a future project or his thinking process in preparing his next sermon.
No matter how good our communication is, most of us, from time-to-time, realize our communication needs a tune-up. The following is from Growing a Great Marriage, The ABCs of Healthy Communication by Mike Constantine at www.intermin.org
The ABCs of Healthy Communication
The human body needs basic elements to thrive and last. So does your marriage. With these qualities, expression and understanding thrive. Without them, they die.
Accept Each Other
Acceptance means taking one another just as you are. The English word even comes from a Latin word that means, literally, to take to oneself. Accepting your spouse doesn’t mean you totally approve of every action or attitude. But it does mean we’re on the same team, and glad of it.
Team members know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Rather than wishing they were on another team, they learn to recognize their strengths and build on them, while strengthening their weaknesses.
The difference in winning and losing is often more about attitude than it is about ability. Sure, other people might have an easier time building a great marriage. They may have strengths that you and your spouse don’t naturally possess. But you are not other people. God knows how to bring you fulfillment, no matter what your flaws are.
Believe the Best
Human nature tends to look for the worst and believe the worst. Believe the best instead. Will you ever be fooled? Probably. Still, if you don’t have solid reasons for your suspicions, dump them. Suspicion damages many relationships, sometimes beyond repair.
Concentrate on Understanding
It’s harder than you think, because most of us spend more energy making our point than understanding someone else.
Prejudice means making an uninformed judgement. It’s deciding that you don’t like something before you even try it. It’s rejecting an idea because you didn’t think of it. It’s determining that you will not like your husband’s sister before you have had a chance to get to know her.
Prejudice blocks understanding. Prejudiced people live dry, shrunken lives and miss many joys. Destroy prejudice by refusing to make judgements until you know the facts. Allow the facts to convince you and change your outlook.
You can invite openness, but you can never force it. People are not oysters to be pried open with the edge of a knife. We should respect every person’s right to not reveal their inner man to us.
Instead of forcing openness, invite it. When we lived in Nigeria I developed some painful boils. I wanted to force the poison out of them by squeezing them, much like you would squeeze a pimple. But my wife, a trained nurse, saved me from that mistake. She explained that if I did that I could actually force the poison right into my bloodstream, and possibly die from it. So she made warm antiseptic compresses that we applied until the boil opened and poison could safely flow out. Warm, assuring love will do the same thing. It encourages openness.
All of us say words we would like to get back, words spoken in anger or carelessness. When your spouse says something of that kind, either let it go or ask for some clarification. Don’t let one careless word change your positive feelings about your husband or wife. Instead, forgive it and let it go.
Grace is what we need from one another when our worst comes out, not our best. Grace is unearned kindness. In any relationship, grace is an absolute essential, for all of us are difficult to live with at times. When your husband or wife wakes up in a bad mood, you can choose to react negatively or respond positively. Granting grace is the positive response.
Did you know that you cannot humble your spouse or anyone else? You can humiliate them, but you cannot humble them.
Please don’t let this word scare you. Humbling yourself doesn’t mean that you become a doormat for your husband or wife to trample. Humility is simply the difference between reasonableness and stubbornness, unresolved conflict and agreement.
Some pride is good. It’s fine to take pride in your work and in accomplishment. It’s wonderful to take pride in your children. But there is a type of pride that is poisonous. Poisonous pride is self-justifying and self-protective. When it controls us, we become impossible to live with.
Don’t let your relationship suffer from neglected communication. Make time in your busy schedules to talk. Don’t wait for it to happen by itself, plan a time and place. Remember to laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Communication, like a fine machine, is oiled by the attitudes mentioned from Mike’s article.
If you need more help with communication or any other marriage issue, please take time to go to intermin.org. The Intermin Community page offers an opportunity to share with others your questions or comments.