Our last discussion on marriage was on responding to challenges in marriage. Today, we are sticking with that theme with a focus on communication.
Every married couple involves two different people. Because we are different, we have different opinions on some things. Every couple should have some things they have differing views on--you are different. That is totally normal and okay to disagree on some things. Often times, it is very productive because it causes you to really analyze your options and usually come to an even stronger opinion that you both agree on.
An important thing to do in marriage is to focus on the positive qualities your spouse has. When you first got married, you likely primarily focused on all of the great things about the other person. There were so many things you loved. At this point, no matter how long you have been married, you should know your spouse better than you did when you first married, and that means you will also be more aware of the shortcomings of your spouse.
It can be easy to start to hone in and focus on those shortcomings and faults and look past the good things. A great practice to have is to continually focus on the things you like about your spouse. You married that person for a reason. Make lists in your head or on paper about the things you like and appreciate in your spouse.
I am a big believer in communication. My major was Technical Communication and my minor was Communications--highly focused on various interpersonal communications. Open communication, in most cases if not all, helps to prevent difficulties and resolve difficulties. Let's discuss three basic communication elements that can help greatly in a marriage.
- Listening to each other
- Discussing challenges openly and calmly
- Communicating in loving and positive ways
This has got to be one of the hardest things for people to do when it comes to communication. Strange right? We put all of this effort into learning to talk but our path to learning to listen is rather passive. Often times when we are having a discussion we are passionate about, we spend the time the other person is talking preparing our next statement rather than listening to what the person is saying.
When you listen, you know what the other person is saying. Novel! When you know what the other person is saying, you can do your best to make sure you understand and can try to see things from the other person's perspective before making a judgement call or offering advice. When the other person knows you listen, that person will feel like you love him and will feel valued by you. He will thus also feel less need to defend himself because he knows you have listened and made an effort to understand.
Listening is such a huge part of communication that I had an entire semester spent on a class called "Listening." That was it. I didn't have an entire semester on any other communication topic by itself. We covered many things. We talked about how to phrase things in times of conflict. We talked about empathizing. But we never focused solely on any one specific thing for the semester in any other class for communication.
Listening is important. I think we think it is easy. We assume we do listen and that we can. Things, however, often get in our way. Our busy lives can get in the way. Our lack of interest in the subject might get in the way. Remember, we want to listen always, not just in a time of disagreement. Positive communication helps prevent common problems in a marriage that arise because of poor communication.
How do we listen better?
Have a time each day where you just talk with each other with no distractions. Couch time is one way to do this. You do nothing else but talk to one another and listen to each other.
As you listen, try to understand what is said, and no interrupting! You can ask for clarification if you don't understand.
Also, don't get angry or offended. Many times both of you can be right if you have differing opinions. There is more than one right way to do things, and many opinions are based on an aesthetic taste--which varies from person to person.
As you discuss issues that arise, do so quietly. I am fortunate to have a husband who is not one to raise his voice. Neither of us are, but if he were to yell at me, I am sure I would yell back (sad, but true). He never does yell, so neither do I. That isn't to say we never disagree--we often do. But we don't yell about it. I love this quote, "Let husband and wife never speak in loud tones to each other, 'Unless the house is on fire' " (David O. McKay).
We are grown ups and can control ourselves. I know I wouldn't be okay with my children yelling at each other when they disagreed, so I shouldn't have any lower standard for myself.
I think it is also important to be open in your communication. Be honest. And remember, you can disagree without being diagreeable. I am a big believer in honesty. Some people think that in order to be fully honest, you have to basically be rude. I don't think that is true. I think you can share your differing opinions respectfully and kindly.
Remember those things you thought of at the beginning of this article about why you loved your spouse? Focus on those things an lovingly express appreciation for those things.
"Avoid ceaseless pinpricking...[this] can deflate almost any marriage...Generally each of us is painfully aware of our weaknesses, and we don't need frequent reminders" Joe J. Christensen.
When we are positive in our communications, we inspire the other person to be better. When we first got married, my husband encouraged me to learn to make bread. I had no idea how to make bread, but he seemed so confident in my abilities to learn that I thought I would give it a shot. As I learned, he always ate it and told me how great it was. I am sure it was not as fabulous as he led me to believe it was. He was encouraging. Because of that, I continued to work on it. Today, I am really pretty good at making bread. If my husband had spent that time telling me what was wrong with the bread, I probably wouldn't have been to interested in continuing to work at it.
Communicating positively will do great things for your marriage. Listening to each other will help you to understand each other and respect each other's differences more. Communicating opening will help avoid the problem of that pile that gets broken by the "last straw." Finding the positive and focusing on that is a great way to help encourage each other to be the best you can be. In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to apply these things, but if you do, you will find your disagreements lead to a productive ending rather than a harmful one.
Inspiration for this post found here.
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