I’ll never forget it. Cheryl and I were engaged to be married, and we were working on plans for the wedding. She said, “What color do you think we should pick for the flowers?” My answer? “Whatever color you want, honey, is fine.” I could tell that my answer didn’t go over well, and I was a bit confused by the look on her face.
Cheryl understood my answer to mean that I didn’t care about our wedding flower colors, and she immediately reacted negatively. “What did I say?” I thought. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why she was so upset!
I answered her the way I did because I thought she would be happy to make the decision herself. I was under the impression that it would be freeing to her to not have to worry about pleasing me or dealing with my uneducated opinion. Wow! Was I was wrong!
It was then that I first discovered that we needed to work on our communication. Almost 21 years later, I am getting better at understanding the things she says to me. By no means have I arrived!
I’ve worked hard at communication because I’ve found that it is at the core of my marital relationship. When communication is strong, it affects all other areas of my marriage positively.
In fact, healthy communication with your spouse leads to a strong emotional connection. A strong emotional connection leads to a solid physical connection. Even intimacy begins with good communication!
Here are some principles that I’ve embraced over the years that have helped me communicate better with Cheryl. Hopefully, they will help you too.
My guess is that your life may be just as crazy as mine! With three kids in the home there is always activity. When the kids were small, we used to be able to catch up on each other’s day at the dinner table. If it was a sensitive subject, we spelled it out.
Not anymore! Our children are 10, 13, and 16. We’ve had to change our strategy. The point is that you need to make time to talk with your spouse. You need each other’s undivided attention. Intentionality is a must if you are ever going to get better at understanding your spouse.
For years, we have set aside one night a week for our date night. Now that our kids are older, it’s more important than ever that we have this time to talk without having to worry about our kids eavesdropping.
There is a difference between hearing and listening. I love how Power to Change makes the distinction.
“Hearing takes place when something disturbs the atmosphere and that disturbance takes the form of pressure waves that strike our ear drums as sound. It’s the way we perceive sound. Listening is different. It expands on hearing when we pay attention to the meaning of what we hear.”
As guys, we often just “hear” our wives when we are watching an important game on TV. If we are going to listen to what she has to say, we would need to turn off the TV and look her in the eyes as she talks.
I love James 1:19 in The Message paraphrase. It says, “Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” Good advice.
Conflict is inevitable in a relationship. When it hits, it’s so important to speak the truth in love. Unfortunately, I have gone wrong in the past by caring more about being “right” than being concerned for the emotional well-being of my wife.
Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. You can love your spouse deeply even if you don’t agree with him or her on everything. Work diligently to keep your differences from causing strain in your relationship.
I like to think about our disagreements as being in 2 categories: essential and nonessential. Essential subjects are those which are absolutely necessary for our marriage to function well. Nonessential are things that we see differently that don’t negatively affect our relationship.
Think for a minute about the things that you and your spouse cannot agree on. For example, Cheryl loves Chinese food. I can’t stand it. Thankfully, this is nonessential.
But let’s just say that we have different ideas about the role of the woman in the relationship. What if I think a woman should stay home and be barefoot and pregnant, and Cheryl thinks that women should have the freedom to work?
For the record, I don’t believe this! But if it was, this would be categorized as “essential” and we would have to work towards a compromise if we wanted to keep our marriage healthy. What are the areas of conflict in your marriage? Take some time and reflect on this.
When we disagree with our spouse, it’s so easy to talk to them in an accusatory tone. Accusatory comments often start with the word “you”. You never pick up your clothes. You don’t ever remember my birthday. You sit and watch football all day when I need help with the duties of the household.
Next time you get into a disagreement with your spouse, start by explaining how what they are doing is making you feel. For example, “When you do _______, it makes me feel _______.” Doing this keeps a person from feeling like they are being attacked and leads to a more constructive dialogue.
There is a right time and a wrong time to communicate with your spouse. This is unique to every relationship. I’ve learned over time that Cheryl is not a night person. If you want to have a productive conversation with her, its best to do it between 9 AM and 2 PM. Why? She’s just wired that way.
Me…on the other hand. I am more of a night person and would rather hash things out in the evening. The bottom line is that it’s important to know the best time to communicate.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the brain immediately determines how trustworthy a face is before it’s fully perceived. This means that we make very fast judgments about people.
Psychologists from the universities of Glasgow and Princeton have discovered that a simple “Hello” is enough to allow most people to draw conclusions about personality type. They say we can do all this in 500 milliseconds!
If this is true about the people we don’t know, how much more true is it with people we know well. Let’s face it! We naturally judge everyone around us including our spouse. But as quick as we are to judge, our perception often misleads us causing us to draw incorrect conclusions. We assume.
The next time you have a conversation with your spouse, try asking about their feelings instead of drawing quick conclusions. You will be surprised how much easier it will be to understand what your spouse is saying to you.
What are the areas of communication that you need to improve? How can you implement them into your marriage? I want to encourage you to be proactive. Remember, good communication will enhance your marriage as a whole.
Feel free to comment below!