Thursday, June 2, 2016

12 Principles That Can Make or Break the Marriage Relationship: No. 9 – Communication Barriers Part One

The most annoying thing in a marriage is how long you can be together, how much you can know about one another, how often you have said or done the exact same thing, yet how far short you consistently fall in mind-reading abilities. So that means, obviously, that you must communicate in other ways. Words are good. 

However, lots of things can get in the way of the simplest communication—even words themselves. Psychologist Val Farmer says that communication falls apart in a marriage with too much conflict, hostility, blame, criticism, defensiveness, or belligerent verbal attacks. (Sounds like a fun marriage.)

I could write on and on about each of those six things I think. But let me see if I can address at least the first three of them under the umbrella of communication. We can look at the next three next time. Here we go:

Conflict –
The thing about conflict is that you’re going to clash—a lot. The easiest way to avoid a lot of conflict is to let the little things go; pick your battles; and be kind. (Those things help a lot with communication, too.) 

First, letting the little things go helps you not to feel always at odds with each other. You don’t want to live with someone you see as an enemy. He’s your friend. Sure you’re annoyed because he jackhammered up the basement floor and hit the sewer line, or because he hung his laundry to dry on the neighbor’s fence. The fact is he’s equally annoyed because you wanted him to work on the house on his day off or because you’re the one that broke the dryer. Take a deep breath. Keep the little things little. In my experience it takes at least 12-14 years for a wife and a husband to train the other in what matters to them. Do we load silverware in the dishwasher handles up or the wrong way like an idiot? Do we take our shoes off at the door and clutter up the entryway or do we put them in the closet where they belong like a well-trained child? (I struggle with a passive-aggressive style of conflict sometimes.) 

Second, picking your battles is important, but if you get too choosy and never face a conflict, that can also be a problem. So caution. Don’t stuff everything that bugs you down until you explode over something as inconsequential as a lost remote control, or until you stop caring and feeling emotionally connected because you don’t face problems. Don’t pick fights, but do pick what you fight about. You should bring some things up.

Thirdly, kindness in conflict goes a long way. Remember how kind you can be to animals, children, or even strangers, and ask Jesus to give you more of that for your husband.

Hostility – 
I think this is the history piece. Sometimes letting small conflicts go doesn’t work, and you end up building up a pretty big fire inside from cleaning up messes or whatever. In that case, you obviously have to address the conflict that’s making you hostile. Chances are really high that he has absolutely no idea of what is actually bothering you. Chances are also high that once you speak it out loud it will sound kinda dumb. But it will be out there and you’ll feel better and hopefully, problem solved. The other thing about the history here is that we all get into cycles in our relationships that keep us doing and saying the same things over and over. Sometimes these are good—like kissing-goodbye rituals, or eating-dinner-together habits. Sometimes these are bad – like always being in a bit of a hurry. Spin it positively and I have great timing. Spin it negatively and I run over people’s needs and feelings because I have to control the time. Either way, it’s a cycle. Once you get to know how you both work in these ways you can either be annoyed as hell, or you can figure out how to give up a little bit of you for him. Neil Simon put it like this in his play/movie Barefoot in the Park

“It's really very simple. All you have to do is give up a little bit of you for him. Don't make everything a game, just late at night in that little room upstairs, take care of him. Make him feel ... important.”

It’s hard to be hostile when someone is genuinely caring for you.

Blame – 
Blame it on the rain,” is the sentiment Milli Vanilli so poetically lip-synced in the 90s. That is good advice. Weather—actual or emotional—can be the cause of a lot of communication issues in marriage. Bad moods, bad hair days, the cycle of the moon, or of you or him, hanger (grumpiness from hunger), lack of sex, being cold, hot or broke—enough things all around can take the blame before you hang it on him every time. My problem is actually blaming myself. I do that to a fault. Looking to yourself can be a healthy way to steer clear of the blame game, however. Keep your viewpoint clear, though. No marriage is made up of any perfect people. 

Communication without all these other hurdles becomes much more about making sure you’ve synced your calendars and you both talk through your day as needed, your feelings as they come up, your dreams and goals when you think of them, and whatever else you can say to one another that makes you feel close.

Rebecca Barnes is the director of curriculum for Summit Kids Ministry at Flatirons. She’s been married to Ron Barnes almost 25 years and has three daughters. Her oldest daughter will be getting married this year, so she’s been thinking a lot about marriage lately.

1 comment:

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