Is there a secret to a long marriage? Is there one thing that is most important? The short answer is “No.” However, there are a few things that every marriage needs to work out. One that is a priority is communication. Most of us know how to talk. Most of us can hear. The exception may be the parents of one of my best friends in my formative years. Both Tom’s mom and dad were hearing impaired and communicated in sign-language. So technically they talked with their hands and heard with their eyes. Seeing them argue when they were driving us to a movie, church, or Skateland was always an event. (But that is another story).
Communication is more than talking or hearing. Consider the following Five Factors in Caring Communication.
- Commitment: When your spouse knows you are committed to them and to the relationship then communication deepens. If they know that you are there for them and have THEIR best interests in mind, then they will consider what you have to say. Your words will have a greater impact on their lives.
- Listen: I know you can hear, but do you listen? If your wife asked you what you thought of her new “arsenic” chicken recipe at dinner, would you even know it? Too often we are so absorbed in a TV show, ball-game, book, magazine, video-game, or iPhone to really be listening to each other. To really listen, we need to turn our full attention to the other person and hear not only their words, but try to see the emotions behind them.
- Check the Meaning: Have you ever spoken and then realized what you said either did not make sense or said something completely different from what you meant? Consider these two similar yet completely different written sentences: Let’s eat, Grandma. vs. Let’s eat Grandma. The words are exactly the same, but they communicate two entirely different messages. We can make the same errors in our verbal communication. I need to learn to say what I want communicated. When I am listening, I need to restate what I heard to make sure I am understanding what my spouse is really saying. I am guilty, more times than I want to admit, of hearing what someone said, but not understanding what they meant.
- Take Time: Try not to rush through conversations with your spouse. Take time to sit and talk. Take a walk away from the phone, computer, TV, and children and use that time to communicate. Sit at a table, sit close to each other on the couch, or in some other quiet spot and simply talk and listen.
- Keep Communication Positive: This does not mean to never tell someone something negative, corrections is sometimes necessary (Eph 4:28-29). Nor does this mean to add, “Bless your heart” to a statement to make it sound nice. This does mean to express more appreciation and respect to each other. This does mean to give compliments and to engage in sincere positive feedback. I think it is even best for couples to avoid playfully putting each other down.
What works for you?