THE MARRIAGE ABCS
Copyright © Ufuomaee
Communication is a HUGE topic. I know this because it was one of the modules I did when I studied Social Work in University. Since we are relational beings, social beings, communication affects us in multi-dimensional ways and our ability to communicate well can actually determine our success and failure in life, whether in business or in marriage. However, since this is a singular post, I don’t think I can do the grand topic justice, but I’ll try my best in relation to marriage.
Firstly, we need to understand some basic things about communication. Communication is not speaking only. There is verbal and non-verbal communication, and it has been said that the non-verbal communication is weightier than the verbal communication. You can say a whole lot more with your silence, than with words! Even though we must pay attention to our verbal communication, and ensure that we utilise the right words, construct them well, and apply the right tonation, pitch and tempo, to communicate ourselves well, we must also ensure that our non-verbal communication is not contradicting what we are saying with our lips!
For a simple example, you can tell someone you love them and also be rolling your eyes at the same time. Do you think they will believe you? Of course not! Your non-verbal communication, eye-rolling, conflicted with what you were saying, so that what was actually communicated was that you do not love them, and in fact, they are quite irritating!
Another important principle about communication is to understand that communication is only complete when the message you are passing across has been received! Ideally, there should be an acknowledgement from the recipient that your message was well-received and understood. Some people think that they can shout their message, and that because they shouted, it was received and understood. An increased volume does not ensure that your actual message will be received, but can actually confuse your message by giving the impression that you are angry. So what happens again is that the person you’re addressing doesn’t take the actual content of your words into consideration as much as they take into account your yelling…and so they might get mad, and yell back too. That is a classic communication failure!
The study of non-verbal communication is probably as vast as the study of the English Language or any language. Within non-verbal communication, there is closed and open communication. When your spouse approaches you to talk and you cross your hands across your chest, you are already communication a couple of things: 1. you’re not interested, and so they are not welcome; and 2. you are not ready to accommodate them by changing your mind. This is an example of closed non-verbal communication. If you want to send across a different message, then you would probably smile, lean closer and LOOK at them.
Apart from the face to face communication, there are also things you communicate when you are not really trying to communicate. You have to be aware that you are ALWAYS communicating something, whether you are happy, angry, worried or irritated. Knowingly or unknowingly, you are sending messages to your spouse about what is going on with you and how you feel about them. Knowing this is important, because you can now take control of what messages you are communicating and also take responsibility when you pass across the wrong message carelessly.
Let me present another example. You come home from work, and carelessly slam the door. Your wife in the kitchen receives the message that you’ve had a bad day. She too has had a stressful day, and came back early to cook. You shout from the living room, “I’m hungry! Any food?”, she receives the message that you’re impatient and unappreciative of what she does for you. You switch on the TV, open your laptop, and get locked in your own world, and don’t bother to look at her face when she finally brings your dinner. How do you think your wife will translate all that you have been communicating carelessly? Do you suppose you might have an argument that night?
So communication requires that we empathize with others, and put ourselves in their shoes, and consider how they might receive a message we are trying to communicate. That will result in us being more sensitive, thoughtful, diplomatic, and affirming, when we interact with them. Before we spout off about how horrible our day has been, we might want to own our feelings, so that we do not offload on our unsuspecting spouse. We should rather begin with an affectionate, “Honey, how was your day?”, even if you just had the day from hell. Then after you have LISTENED and RESPONDED to them, not simply waiting for them to finish their long story, while thinking about how you will tell them what an awful day you had, you can now begin to give an account of your day…once again, owning your feelings.
A major barrier to effective communication is that we do not listen! If we do not listen, we will not receive the message that is communicated. Again, listening isn’t simply about verbal communication. You need to be attentive to other messages that they are not communicating verbally. If someone is visibly in pain, and they say they are fine, you know that something is wrong. If someone keeps repeating a phrase, or seem to be saying the same thing in different ways, perhaps they are trying to communicate that you are not understanding them, and you need to stop and listen.
In an argument, it is very easy not to listen. Mostly because you think you are right. And also because you think that they are not listening. They may be listening and still disagree with you, and you have to make sure that YOU are listening, and not thinking of your comeback. If you are both listening, then you should be able to come to a conclusion on the matter, even if it is to agree to disagree on that issue. The main thing is that you and your partner were able to express your own viewpoints in a respectful, loving and supportive atmosphere, that resulted in both of you better understanding and appreciating where the other is coming from.
Finally, another major area of communication in marriage is the subject of Love Languages, which was made popular by Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages – How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate“. Many of you will be aware of this, and you can read up on it via the Internet or by getting the book. It has been quite ground breaking in its impact in helping couples to have better communication and show love and appreciation to each other. The five love languages are:
- Word of Affirmation – We all like to be appreciated, but if this is your dominant love language, you are big on encouragement. You want to be told you’re a good mother or wife, or good father or husband. You want to be acknowledged for what you do, so you need to hear “Thanks for doing…” Hearing the words stops you from guessing and wondering if they noticed or even cared, and it’s okay to need the affirmation.
- Acts of Service – We all like to be taken care of, but if this is your dominant love language, you are big on pampering. You want to be treated like a king or a queen. You like your spouse to be helpful around the house, do nice things for you, without you having to ask, and actually enjoy this service. For you, actions speak louder than words.
- Receiving Gifts – We all like to receive nice things, but if this is your dominant love language, you are big on thoughtful gifts. You want to know that your spouse is thinking of you often, and the fact that they went to the trouble to purchase something they thought or knew you would like, tells you that you are loved. It isn’t because you can’t get it yourself, but that it cost them not only money, but time and care to pick out your special gift.
- Quality Time – We all like to spend time with the one we love, but if this is your dominant love language, you are big on attention. Nothing says “I love you” more to you than your spouse choosing to spend the day with you, doing the things you love to do and actually enjoying it like you do. It’s not just about the opportunity to talk, but also the shared moments of silence, relaxation or pleasure. You feel connected, in sync.
- Physical Touch – We all like to be touched and kissed, but if this is your dominate love language, you are big on affectionate touches. You like public displays of affection, holding hands as you walk along the street, kissing as often as you think about it, and making love a lot. Being able to express your desire for your spouse through intimate touches and caresses is important to you, and when they touch you, you also feel desirable.
Each person is unique, and you need to understand your own spouse to know what love language they understand best, so you communicate love and affection to them, in a way they won’t miss. If your spouse loves to spend quality time together, talking, and you think that buying them expensive things communicates your love and appreciation better, you are still going to find a disgruntled and unsatisfied spouse. And you might end of thinking that they are ungrateful, when instead they didn’t hear “I LOVE YOU”, they heard “I’m too busy, manage this.”
While both spouses need to make every effort to learn their spouses love language and communicate it to them regularly, my personal feeling is that where there is a lack, the man needs to lead the way. Women reciprocate love. So if you desire to be touched and made love to, in order to know that you are loved by your woman, you need to first reach out to her by speaking her language. If she likes to go out and eat, take her out. If she likes to receive thoughtful gifts, be sure to come home with flowers and chocolates, now and then. If she prefers a handy man, and she finds you sexiest when you’re fixing things, then be on the look-out for opportunities to be helpful around the house. Yes, even doing the dishing and offering to cook.
You will probably not find that you and your wife have the same dominant love language, because I believe we all like all five expressions, some more than others. However, if you and your wife are exactly the same, great! But don’t take this for granted. People change. Even if you don’t change, she might change. Especially after having children. She may not want to go out as much. She may prefer you to be more hands on. She may prefer you to be more affirmative, reassuring and appreciative of what she does. Ladies, men change too. Constantly review and adjust, to ensure that you are always communicating love and appreciation in the most effective way to your spouse.
So, to round this up, I would like to talk briefly about what we should expect to achieve with effective communication in marriage. Like all things, communication can be abused. We can have unrealistic expectations, and make ourselves miserable trying to use a spoon to do a job that requires a shovel. Communication is a tool, and when well used, it saves marriages. But there are others things at play, mainly our submission and relationship with God.
- Communicate for Unity, not Absolute Agreement – Effective and good communication between spouses will enable better bonding between them, and ensure that they are united. Being united doesn’t mean that you will agree on every single issue. You are not clones. Your unity comes from having the same vision for your marriage, and being submissive to each other, to ensure that you can drop certain arguments to keep the peace.
- Communicate for Understanding, not Absolute Knowledge – You should communicate with the aim of learning more about your spouse and coming to understand them, how they think, what makes them happy or sad etc. It isn’t so that you can write a manual on them! Let there be some mystery. Trust your spouse to be their own person, knowing that they are already submitted to God. Only God knows and should know everything about us, and we shouldn’t approach communication as if we are preparing for an exam on our marriage.
- Communicate for Care and Concern, not Control – You should communicate to show that you care about your spouse and are concerned for what is happening in their lives. You should be their no 1 confidant, and they shouldn’t be shy or afraid to open up to you, because they feel you are going to take over and be controlling. For example, if your spouse is telling you about a problem at work, listen attentively, and if you have any ideas share them, but don’t push them and tell them they should do it your way. That’s controlling.
- Communicate for Intimacy, not Insecurity – Sometimes, when we communicate, it is our insecurities we reveal. This may be a sign of lack of trust or emotional instability. We should communicate to grow in intimacy with our spouse, but not to heap them with burdens we should rather lay at God’s feet. They can be your prayer partner, they can counsel you, but don’t think they can handle your anxieties. They’ve got theirs too. The Bible says, “Cast all your anxiety on [God], because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
- Communicate for Restoration, not to Accuse and Convict – Offenses will come. Grievances will arise. But in all things, remain gracious and kind. Remain humble and wise. Do not use communication as a tool to convict your spouse, with interrogations as though you are in court. The Devil is our accuser, so try to come with the recognition that you could be wrong, and seek to understand and to restore your relationship in love.
In closing, communication is an essential tool for building up your relationship with your spouse. We are told that “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1). While men are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, women are obligated to TRUST their husbands (Eph 5:22-33). We need to be supportive of their role as leaders in our marriage and home, and give them room to lead.
While we are both to submit to one another, as we submit to God (Eph 5:21), the woman is also burdened with the duty of showing submissive respect to her husband. She must respect his authority as the leader in the home, while he is submitted to Christ. Therefore, as one who is submitted to Christ, the husband must be humble and serve his wife, because the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve (Matt 20:28), and he who wishes to be great, must become the least (Matt 20:26).
It remains that both, husband and wife, owe each other due courtesy and respect when communicating with each other. Love is not rude, nor is it self-seeking (1 Cor 13:5). We must always, in every circumstance, perform our duty of love to one another, and thereby fulfill God’s law (Rom 13:8). And if we do, our home shall be a haven and a place where the peace that surpasses all understanding abides. May the grace of God be with you and bless your marriage.
Thanks again to my husband, Toritseju Ashogbon, for his assistance with this piece.
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