By Dr. Harold Sala
But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16, KJV
Marriage counselors are in agreement about one thing for sure: When there is a problem in a marriage or a relationship, the problem includes the failure to be able to communicate what one thinks and feels and how one looks at a situation. It is an old problem which has been compounded in recent days by our culture and our expectations in marriage.
Interested in saving your marriage? Then make communication a priority! As the result of working with people from different cultures for many years, I am absolutely convinced that communication skills can be learned. I am also convinced that most people, especially men, think they are better at communication than they really are.
Communication is not yelling or screaming at another person! It is not broadcasting. It isn’t even talking. Much of what we think is communication really falls into the category of what Shakespeare described in Macbeth, “Full of sound and fury but signifying nothing!” Effective communication–the kind that makes a marriage work—is opening the windows of your heart and allowing another to see within as you, without intimidation, striving to express your feelings, your thoughts, your emotions and your ideas!
There are two major problems with communication today: (1) Many of us think we are communicating in marriage when the other spouse says, “No–you are not!” And, (2) Communication means something totally different to men and women, which means that there is, very definitely, a male language and a female one, using the same words and vocabulary.
“Dear Dr. Sala,” wrote a friend of Guidelines, “please pray for us. My husband filed for divorce and moved out. He won’t discuss it so I don’t know why he wants it; he just says he doesn’t want to be married any longer. After 12 years I thought we were getting along pretty well. There was no warning at all!”
Did you notice that last phrase, “There was no warning at all!”? This phrase so aptly describes the problem. Men and women use different languages when they communicate. Men communicate from a rational or logical point of reference; women from an emotional reference. Men (though not all of them) tend to think; women, to feel. Men are failures at non-verbal communication; women are masters at it. Men accept things at face value; women are sensitive and pick up non-verbal signals that are totally lost on men.
Understanding how important communication is, what can a couple do to communicate better in marriage?
Guideline #1: Strive to say what you mean and mean what you say. Effective communication isn’t a matter of saying something; it is a matter of having something heard. “I said that; no you didn’t. Yes, I did!” No matter what you said, if the other hasn’t heard, you haven’t communicated!
Guideline #2: Develop the habit of listening. How? By concentrating on what you are hearing, not what you are saying, by rephrasing what you hear, by asking questions for clarification.
Guideline #3: Set the stage for communication. Take time when you are not tired, busy, or exhausted. As Charles Dickens put it: “Never close your lips to whom you have opened your heart.”
Guideline #4: Look at the issue from the other’s point of view. You can win the argument (and a lot of men do) and lose your love.
Guideline #5: Communicate about what’s important to you! Communication can save your marriage. It’s the key to real happiness.
Resource reading: Philippians 4:4-9.