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September 19, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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Make Sure You Communicate
At the time, it went in one ear and out the other, along with a myriad of marital advice my friends and family shared with me on my wedding day. That was over twenty years ago. Since then, much of that well-intentioned counsel has fallen to the ground. It either didn’t prove to be particularly important or I flat out forgot it!
However, some words of wisdom have increased in value over the years. Time and experience have revealed their worth to be greater than gold. At the top of this list are the wise words, “Make sure you communicate.”
As a 23-year-old groom, I didn’t resist the notion of communicating with my wife. I just didn’t understand what it meant, much less what it would do to my marriage if I did or didn’t do it. But the past two decades have taught me the following truth concerning communication: You will have conflict if you don’t communicate.
Now, in the course of married life, sometimes conflict can’t be avoided. It’s part and parcel of living as human beings. But a contextual absence of communication between a husband and wife creates a vacuum where unnecessary conflict is created. And conflict isn’t just created in such an environment, but it also thrives and will eventually define one’s marriage. A damaging doorway for conflict is left wide open, and communication is the key to closing and locking it shut!
So, what is this thing we call communication? In essence, communication is the act of talking and hearing. Wait . . . let me go one level deeper with that definition: Communication is the art of sharing and listening.
Here’s why I make that distinction—you can talk without honestly sharing and you can hear without intently listening. Communication isn’t just a matter of using our ears and mouths, but it’s about using our hearts and minds as well.
Another important piece of advice I was given on my wedding day was the importance of “no secrets.” Those two words have been invaluable in protecting me from a multitude of marital pitfalls. It sounds simple, but it takes a lot of courage. Our fallen nature instinctively wants to run and hide when we’ve done something wrong or sense risk . . . Adam, anyone?
Running and hiding doesn’t fix anything, especially in marriage. But it’s the courageous act of telling the truth that promotes emotional health and wholeness, which is the difference between talking and sharing.
Talking is moving our mouths, but sharing is moving from behind the metaphorical bushes and out into the light of truth. It’s being open and honest with your spouse about your thoughts, desires, and feelings. When this happens, the first step in the communication equation is taken.
It’s not enough to just share, however. One also needs to hear the heart on the other side of the marriage. Now, we all know we’re being continually bombarded with voices. Consequently, we “hear” stuff all the time that never really registers with us. It’s the white noise of life that we tend to tune out.
I amaze myself at how long I’ll go without changing the radio when it’s in a commercial loop. Six or seven ads in and it finally hits me, Oh yeah, I don’t care about this, let me turn the station. Why? Because I’m hearing sound but not listening to the words!
A lot of marriages can fall victim to this pattern. There might be an attempt to share, but it’s simply received as sound because there’s a lack of listening. Again, listening requires engagement. It’s taking what you hear and processing it through your mental and emotional filters.
Let me share an example.
“Hmm, I hear my wife telling me she doesn’t want me to do anything special for her birthday. But now that I think about it, that’s what I did last year and I remember it didn’t go so well. I’m also picking up on a tone in her voice that isn’t normal . . . it’s as if there’s something deeper happening here. And then there’s that reference to how her sister’s husband did that thing that one time . . .”
Now, I’ve cast a husband here, but it applies equally to wives as well. Sometimes husbands are sharing without words, and a wise wife skillfully observes and discerns what’s being “said.” The point is, when our hearts and minds are fully engaged, we will move beyond hearing and on to listening to our spouse. When this happens, the communication equation circuit is complete.
Again, communication won’t completely prevent marital conflict, but it will limit it. Moreover, when there’s a consistent context of sharing and listening between a husband and wife, it’s a night and day difference when it comes to resolving conflict.
Muscles that are regularly exercised can handle pressure and stress. The same holds true for marriages where hearts and minds are committed to communication. It breeds a blessed understanding between husbands and wives that enables them to see beyond and weather the swirling storms of life.
“Make sure you communicate.”
What a great advice, and what a great gift to any couple that receives and practices it!
“Likewise, dwell with them with understanding . . .”—1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV)
Pastor Dan Hickling
1. Has communication been a priority in your marriage or only when it’s needed? If so, why?
2. When you do communicate with your spouse, do you share and listen or talk and hear?