Welcome back to Marriage Monday! I think we're all pretty excited to be back on board after our long sabbatical as e-Mom has spent some time adjusting to her new home environment. Be sure to visit and see what gems of inspiration the Marriage Monday community has produced!
Our topic today is Communication.
Communication, dare I say, is for me, the most important tool in maintaining a loving and fulfilling relationship. You can be head over heels in love, full of passion and desire but if you cannot communicate that love your spouse does not ever receive it. Does that sound too harsh for you?
I happen to believe it to be true. Unfortunately, I've lived it! If any of you have read even parts of Gary Chapman's 'The Five Love Languages', you'd understand what I mean. In fact, do yourself a favour and do the free assessment here to discover your own love language and encourage your husband to do the same. Be sure to compare notes and you may be surprised to discover that the manner in which you have been communicating your love for each other is not the manner in which your spouse or yourself receives love.
Confusing? Let me explain. In my early marriage I craved physical affection and lots of reassuring words of love. I'm guessing it was because my own father was not very affectionate, both in his words and in his actions. My husband, also not having received this from his family, did not know how to give it or was not comfortable giving it or receiving it for that matter! The more I wanted this for myself, the more I gave it to him and in the process only managed to cause him to feel pressured to give something he thought he couldn't give and myself to feel rejected and hurt.
Later on, I understood that to him, he believed he was showing his love for me by how he provided for me. He felt that his hard work and the money he brought in proved his love. This was not how I wanted to receive love however. I guess, as all humans do, we grow and change and our love languages go through a metamorphosis too. We have both recently discovered that we have almost the same love language now and want to give and receive love in the same way.
Communicating love is just one aspect of communicating within a relationship. There are other things you MUST communicate:
- your needs
- your feelings and desires
- your dreams and aspirations
Once upon a time my husband and I had a huge barrier between us.. one that sometimes still threatens to raise up in times of conflict. Essentially, my husband was, sometimes still isn't, a great communicator. For all of his life he has kept things close to his chest rather than share them. It is a difficult habit to break and one we are constantly working on together, but he found it difficult to share his thoughts, feelings or dreams with me.. especially if it would cause conflict.
Years later, when the doors of communication finally began to open it was as though floodgates were thrown open and I was now hearing almost 20 years worth of things I should have known about. I learned how my words or actions had hurt him.. things I had never realized had made such deep wounds. I was learning his dreams and finally learning his real heart.. it was like I had never really known him before.
You cannot imagine how I grieved for the lost years and how life could have been for us! If I had known the areas that he had struggled with.. I could have helped in some way. If I had known his true feelings about certain things.. I could have tried to work with him on them, maybe the outcome would have been a lot different. I could have apologized and have the process of healing begin. If I had known his true needs... I could have tried to supply them. If I had known his dreams.. I could have supported him in them. All these lost years because he had never communicated with me!
This may be a bit long-winded, but here are my thoughts on communication in a nutshell ;-)
- You cannot be truly understood or understand your spouse if you are both not sharing your true hearts. This means being honest and forthcoming about your own needs, expectations, what hurts you, what your hopes and dreams are.
- Humans are continuously growing and changing.. we are not stagnant beings. If we are unwilling to share the areas of growth with our spouses, we will be on divided paths. Our relationships need to grow and change as well.
- Openness and honesty in communication is essential. I f you cannot be real with the one with whom you are sharing your life, who can you be real with? Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking we can hide our feelings from our spouses, but they do sense them. Many times I have withheld from my husband the true reason for my moodiness or irritability and it has frustrated him as he ended up believing that he was the cause. I've also been on the receiving end of this more times than I can count. All this leads to is more tension than was ever necessary. When I am honest about what is bugging me and he does the same, we can have peace... still working on this area too ;-)
- We always have to remember that there are proper ways to communicate...especially in times of conflict! My husband is constantly reminding me, as we also remind our children, that it's not what you say, but how you say it. Body language, sometimes the words we choose..they all convey a different message than the one we might actually want to say because of underlying resentment, anger, bitterness etc. Its been my own experience that there are times when my husband hears a totally different thing to what I actually said. Its a kind of selective hearing. There are times when, especially in a heated moment, that certain words are not the best ones to use. They are snatched up and the whole message is turned around. These words are 'triggers'. Apart from the usual no-no's like 'always' and 'never' the trigger words will be different in each relationship. My husband may react to the word 'I' because he thinks I'm focused on myself alone. Yours may react to the word 'you' because he believes you are always accusing him. Can anyone else relate to this?
- Communication is possible without words. Sometimes a good companionable silence or hug is all that is necessary. I'm sure that many of you out there have experienced those moments when hubby just wants to cuddle. We women like to talk a lot, we use words to communicate.. I have discovered, in my own experience at least, that my husband communicates without words.. a squeeze of the hand, a certain look, a smile (or lack thereof!), an arm around my shoulder. Though its difficult for me to do, I see the value in giving in kind at times. The adage that silence is golden is pretty true!
- Sometimes timing is everything. There are times when it is prudent, I have discovered, to give my husband the time and space he needs before I try to discuss anything with him. Sometimes even the little things can become blown out of proportion by the timing of the 'talk'. In addition there are times when, as I said in the point above, he doesn't WANT to talk. My trying to start a conversation or get to the root of the frown on his face just makes him withdraw and me frustrated. As hard as it is for me to do.. I need to learn when to back off and try again later.
Well, that's my rather long-winded piece on communication. This, as in most things, is a work in progress in my marriage and I'm sure in many of yours. The fact is God made us, man and woman, different yet compatible and communication is really just the secret to that compatibility.. in my humble opinion, that is! ;-)
Have a blessed week everyone and may you all shine brightly for Jesus!