The Daily Struggle for Better Communication
After 12 years of marriage, my husband and I needed help hearing and understanding each other.
It turns out that two first-born adults can only co-exist together for so long before they realize they can’t fit into the same bossy-pants. Extra acceptance and grace is in order for a couple like us.
I wanted to be emotionally closer to him, but he didn’t know how to make that happen, so we decided to commit to see a therapist twice a month. That was over a year ago. Every session we walk out of that office with new insight about ourselves, and strategies to love better.
But even though we’re learning better solutions, the daily responsibility of choosing those solutions is still a struggle. It’s a very human struggle.
The fact is, we are two different people with different styles of communicating, and different vantage points.
Every day, our wants, needs, and expectations seem to be different and are misunderstood.
Every day, it seems one of us struggles to sacrifice, and frustration brews.
Every day, we fight against our flesh to have our own way.
We justify why the other is wrong, and ignore each other for days on end before breaking the ice to acknowledge the tension.
Can you relate?
I’ve found that the best communication days are when we’re being intentional in these areas:
- Active listening. When we know the other is really listening, (not chiming in with an unsolicited opinion, or asking too many questions), we each feel loved and appreciated.
When he knows I listen, he’s more likely to tell me things. When I know he listens, I’m more likely to trust him. (Who knew?!)
- Pick the right battle. It’s important to remember that each disagreement is a building block for future disagreements. The more often we attempt to speak up in healthy and respectful ways and wrestle with important issues, the more experience we have to discern whether the next argument will be worth initiating. He speaks up when he feels disrespected, and I speak up when I feel unseen, unheard, or unloved (the trifecta).
When a battle is chosen, we know it must be about something important to us, so we attempt to lean in and listen closer.
At first, there was a lot of yelling and slamming of things (mostly by me), but we’re learning that calm, straightforward, honest words do the trick.
Staying on the same team allows us to communicate things that matter in a non-defensive tone and manner.
- Regulate Quickly. This one either takes a lot of restraint or a lot of courage. Some days, my mind becomes so clouded with rage, that I face very real temptations to lash back, stonewall, or actually harm him. True story. Lord knows I’ve needed divine intervention to calm my anxious human heart. But, just as we put energy into teaching children how to control and regulate their own responses and behaviors, the same energy is often required to learn new patterns ourselves. The more we are able to choose brave and practice healthy communication, the more we will experience the fruit of a more enjoyable marriage.
The truth is that hurt people hurt people, and marriage is no different. I’ve prayed for God to save me from myself in these moments, and to give me visions of the future if I were to follow through.
Before we have any hope to feel love for our husband again, we must first be willing to submit to God’s command to love, because obedience comes before understanding.
Marriage is not going to work unless we’re willing to fight against our natural instincts to have our own way. When we choose to do the things that don’t come naturally, every choice carries us past what used to be an impossible act of unconditional love.
The more we die to the instinct to have our way, the more God opens the door for a beautifully fulfilling relationship–one where everybody wins.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NASB)
Wife Step: When you feel dishonored or hurt by your spouse, try to put a name to that feeling. Rehearse it to yourself first and then say it out loud to God. Ask Him to calm your heart, give you the words to share with your husband, and a heart to love him even when you don’t feel it.
Jennifer Bryant is a Christian blogger and podcaster who lives in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (Hawaii) with her husband of 13 years and 2 feisty kids. She founded Practical Family as an outlet for creativity and resource for mothers after coming home from full-time church ministry. Jenn loves to study human behavior and help women to discover their God-given passions and purpose.
Bailey Richardson is the wife of a Paul Bunyan look-a-like, the mama of a growing little family, and a woman on the wild adventure of pursuing Jesus. She lives in a small lake town in Minnesota where her family is highly involved in their local church and Young Life, a global non-profit youth ministry. A self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist,” Bailey loves writing for and connecting with women who want to more deeply experience the grace, freedom, and abundance that comes from following Jesus. You can find her at baileymrichardson.com or on Instagram @baileymrichardson.