Just last week, Jon and I had a nice long “discussion”.
That’s what you call fights when you’re a mommy and a daddy, you know.
Needless to say, I’m not short on material for this particular topic. God’s generous like that.
If you’ve been married for any length of time, or even around married people, I’m sure you’ve heard the whole “good communication is essential to a healthy marriage!” line. And it’s true.
But no one really tells you how next-to-impossible it is for a woman and a man to achieve “good communication”.
When Jon and I were dating, we talked about everything. At least it seemed that way. My roommate would tell me that we communicated so well, and I was proud of us for that because I knew it was important!
And then we got married and moved in to the same house and realized that good communication has very little to do with talking a lot.
That’s all we were doing. Talking a lot. About the same thing but about very different things. You know?
That might fly temporarily in a dating relationship, but it is a total marriage exploder.
Jon and I have had to learn how to communicate with each other. We are really good at arguing and stating our own particular case and listing all the reasons why the other person should agree with us. We are also really good at refusing to budge. Clearly, we are awesome. Hence our need to start at square one on the whole communication front.
If you’re in a high maintenance marriage, it’s possible that you argue too. Sometimes. Once in a while. Maybe every now and then.
I’m no counselor, but I’m going to share with you the best thing we’ve learned on this topic. It’s not new, or groundbreaking, by any means. But it grounds an argument almost immediately, and it’s the most useful tool we’ve acquired.
Sounds all fancy, I know, but it’s not. Really, it is about taking turns. (What? No more yelling over each other? Whatever shall we do??)
One person talks and tells their side of the story. The other person listens, and then repeats back what they heard. If what they heard is not exactly what the first person said (or meant, you know how that goes), the first person gets a chance to clarify. This continues till the second person fully understands.
Then, the second person says why they understand and relates it to a personal experience where they’ve felt that same way. The first person feels understood. The second person asks for three options of things they can do to help the situation. The first person gives those options, and the second person picks one that they will commit to.
Switch roles. Wash, rinse, repeat. (And ladies, it’s okay for you to be the listener first. Sometimes it works out best that way. Trust me.)
Easy, right? But you have to actually remember to do it. That’s the hard part. We have literally stopped screaming matches in the middle and had to start over using this method. Usually that sounds something like this, “CAN YOU PLEASE STOP YELLING AND START LISTENING TO ME REFLECTIVELY??????”
Yes, we use big words like “reflectively” in our screaming matches.
And then we both take deep breaths and start over. In much calmer tones. Usually, that discussion is much shorter and more effective than the first.
(Also, Jon says that it helps if you’re sitting when you do this. I agree. It puts you in a calmer state, and really helps the conversation move along peacefully. BUT, he says to make sure you don’t tell your spouse to sit down so they will calm down. That might just increase the length of your “discussion”.)
So that’s my best tip. But I do have one more.
Communication is not just about talking to your husband.
It’s also about talking about him.
We women, we are good at men bashing. Complaining. We like to call it “venting” and assume that makes it ok.
It does not.
It matters, the way we talk about our husbands. It matters, how we portray them to others. Our words carry such weight, and it is crucial that we speak about our husbands in a positive light.
When we speak about our husbands in a negative way to others, we perpetuate a feeling of discontent in ourselves. We look for affirmation in our own choices and sides of the story. We dig our feet in a little deeper and feel more justified in our unforgiveness. We let ugliness tumble out of our mouths and make it’s home in our hearts.
Even more, if we feel like it’s ok to bash our husbands in conversations with others, we will be much more quick to bash him in person.
And we add yet another arrow to our already wounded relationship.
But when we speak about our husbands in a positive way to others, we begin to cultivate a sense of gratitude in ourselves. When we look for reasons to affirm him and build him up, we understand that he is not made up of only his faults. We choose to speak kindly and graciously, acknowledging that we, too, need forgiveness. We let encouragement, grace, and respect come forth from our mouths and make their home in our heart.
Even more, we are practicing speaking about him in an edifying way. This gives us material to use when we are with him, thanking, complementing, and affirming him.
And we bless our husband, and our marriage, tremendously.
I’m not saying that you need to lie and fake it if you’re having a rough time. Seek out a confidant who is trustworthy, and ask for prayer, genuinely. What I’m saying is that you don’t need to air your dirty laundry at your playgroup on Tuesday mornings. You don’t need to join the ranks of women speaking disrespectfully about their husbands when God’s clear command to us is to respect them.
I know that sometimes venting feels good in the moment. But in the long run, it is deadly. Choose life. Choose to speak words of life.
Whether you’re talking to your husband or about him, know that every word that escapes your mouth makes an impact. A lasting impact.
What kind of impact do you want your words to make?