Excerpts from the 'Called to be a Wife' devotional.
Couples who struggle with lack of communication in their relationship usually experience ongoing, unresolved conflict, making it difficult to manage stressors such as finances, sexual intimacy, children, and work. However, couples can learn how to communicate more effectively, which helps resolve conflict and experience greater relational growth.
Whether you are just dating or already married, all of us need to learn and maintain the keys to effective communication. The issues that occur with communication within relationships date all the way back to the time of Adam and Eve. I believe communication is a mix between a science and an art! And the skillfulness of the science can be learned, and it's an art that can be mastered. Improving your communication skills is vital and is essential for every single one of your relationships! Effective communication skills could enhance the progression of your corporate, sibling, parental, platonic, romantic and even your spiritual connections to God. As prayer is a bi-directional conversation between you and the Father which is made up of you talking to Him and listening for His responses, guidance and directions. But especially for your romantic relationship, it is the oxygen in which your love is expressed, respect is conveyed, admiration convinced, and appreciation imparted to the person you claim to love.
Effective communication is the cornerstone of marital relationships. When it’s good, it acts as a glue and plays a large part in keeping the relationship intact and able to withstand the differences in personality and the storms that are sure to come. On the other hand, when its poor it can lead to constant conflict, often acting like a solvent to cause the relationship to separate or dissolve. It has the power to either make or break the foundational bonds of your union. A lack of communication has the same destructive power as lying or disloyalty. The difference between a happy and an unhappy relationship lies in the competence of each individual to communicate effectively.
The same tool is also inherently responsible your emotional connection is directly dependent on the relational feelings that you're always emitting, whether we want them to be revealed or not. As love, hate or indifference in any relationship is expressed through words that exude and actions that convince the thoughts of your mind, feelings of your emotions, and the very sentiments of your heart. In order to share your heart, you must intentionally share how you feel. No matter if you're dating or married, effective communication will play a crucial role in creating an environment where both individuals can:
Make known their moral character, integrity, thinking process and personality traits that would indicate to another person if they were even compatible or not.
Share their thoughts and feelings, which ushers in understanding of the essence of who they are as a person.
Express their needs and set healthy boundaries for them to protect those important personal and individual needs.
Convey the base knowledge necessary to deal with, maneuver and resolve relational conflict together, without every disagreement (which are normal) leading to World War III or becoming increasingly problematic.
This type of communication should begin way before marriage. It’s during the dating process that this type of communication must be established. Dating is intended to be a social ritual, where two people share in joined social activities to experience things together and enjoy interactions, aimed at getting to know each other better. It’s through dating that people gain an opportunity to monitor their engagements with a person, to evaluate their compatibilities with a potential romantic partner, build a relational connection, and foster a relationship that could potentially last a lifetime.
Originally people dated to find a spouse. However, nowadays, people date for various reasons, including companionship, sex, or just for fun. If you are choosing to date with purpose, with a specific goal and objective of marriage in mind, then you must use an intentional approach to these interactions. Using communication to invest deliberate effort into getting to know them and making yourself known. It is imperative that you keep an eye out early for signs that you two are looking for completely different things, which usually show that the relationship won’t last. No one wants to waste time, energy, or effort.
It doesn’t have to be constantly mentioned, but you also shouldn’t let anyone cause you to feel bad if you know that you have a clear direction and a well-defined vision of what you want from a relationship. So, it’s important to use communication to ensure your time and energy are being invested into the right person. This approach can lead to more successful and fulfilling relationships, as it quickly aligns expectations and encourages open communication between partners. The dating phase is intended to offer an opportunity for each partner to:
Learn the inner workings of your own and your dating candidates thinking process and what makes up the intricacies of their personality.
Develop a solid, honest, and transparent friendship with their partner.
Learn and establish each person’s relational preferences, boundaries, and goals, including what they like and dislike.
Gain a deep understanding about relational intimacy.
Learn each other’s communication styles and develop their own communication skills.
Learn each other’s goals, dreams, aspirations to see how your futures align.
Effective communication is essential while dating and to optimize the bonds of the marriage relationship. The ultimate purpose communication is for both individuals to obtain understanding for each party involved. The Bible says in Proverbs 4:7 (KJV) 7 "Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all they getting get understanding." The most useful tool for you to gain and offer understanding on any matter, is communication. Your communication is actively building or tearing down something, as it:
Helps to build trust between partners.
Fosters emotional intimacy and strengthens the relationship.
Enables partners to understand each other's needs and wants.
Helps to prevent conflicts and misunderstandings.
Is essential for maintaining a healthy long-distance relationship.
The depths of investment and effort that you put into your gift of gab, is not just about the specific words that you say to your man. When you claim to love a person then you are responsible for being a 'good steward' of their heart. Which means that you are not just responsible for the specific words chosen, but also the other elements that play a part in laying the foundation for your word's success in their heart and mind.
Though it may not be a reality that we want to face, there are times when we may all struggle in the area of communication in marriage. After you first walk down the aisle, you must learn that everything is now different as you have (until now) only been concerned about your own thoughts, considerations, and emotions. And it remains much simpler after you make the challenging adjustments in always considering your mates point of view and feelings, until adding the nuance of the stresses of children, bills, career, health concerns and a plethora of other issues of life. The difference between a happy and an unhappy relationship lies in the competence of each individual to communicate. If you're dating and want your relationship to graduate to the next level, you and your man must feel the love you are trying to convey. Your emotional connection is directly dependent on the relational feelings that you're always emitting, whether we want them to be revealed or not. As love, hate or indifference in any relationship is expressed through words that exude and actions that convince the thoughts of your mind, feelings of your emotions, and the very sentiments of your heart.
We're always projecting something! We must be intentional about what we're trying to emanate, as the keys to it are found in the art of effective communication. And if your already married and want to change the trajectory of your relationship to experience deeper depths of love, affection, friendship, trust and intimacy, the keys to those doors are opened by the skillful use of that same communication. By skillful use, I am referring to all of the science that contributes to a conveyed thought, emotions, relational requirements, intentions and healthy boundaries. The components of effective communication can vary but may include careful active listening; appropriate timing; suitable responses; evading personal attacks; favorable tone and facial expressions; management of balanced emotions while communicating, and navigating conflict resolution, then abandoning resolved topics.
What are the keys to effective communication?
Communication is not just the key to the success of all relationships, but also how that relationship is transformed from one level to the next. This exchange between a couple leads to better marital satisfaction and fosters a better understanding between them as a team. It will furthermore hold the power to all of your development as an individual.
The difference between a happy and an unhappy marriage lies in the competence of each individual to communicate. If someone were to ask the average person to describe the true definition of what they think a happy married life consists of and what it requires from each spouse, they may say some of these attributes:
To loves themselves and share a beautiful love of each other.
Expressed mutual respect.
Exclusive commitment of unwavering loyalty.
Expressed mutual trust.
Transparent and honesty communication.
Relational stewardship and willingness to do the work.
Each spouse possesses sound judgement and self-control.
Each person has their own hobbies.
Connected emotional intimacy.
Frequent affection, with consistent hot and satisfying sex.
Relational fun and light-heartedness.
Each spouse is supportive and attentive to the other’s needs.
Each individuals needs to be independently content.
Management of emotions and follow rules of engagement during conflict.
Establishment and respect for healthy individual boundaries.
Each spouse devoted to learning and understanding the other.
Resilient ability to maneuver the issues of life together.
Transparent and committed financial partners.
Aligned vision for your future together.
In addition to these characteristics, you may include some other desired traits for your ideal marriage, but I can assure you that all of them would be directly established, nurtured, or impacted by effective communication.
A marriage will be made or broken to the degree a couple learns and practices effective communication skills. It's a challenging task indeed, but it is a possible skill to develop and learn. Well, research on what makes marriage work shows that happy and healthy couples have a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative behaviors in their relationship. This doesn't mean that happy couples are perfect couples, but it does mean they are at least five times or more likely to have many more positive interactions between these happier couples. As an example, these couples choose to put forth considerable intention towards listening to and validating the other person; using soft words instead of harsh; expressing appreciation and affirmation instead of complaints; purposeful displays of physical affection; and they look for opportunities to offer compliments to build up, instead of tearing them down, etc. (i.e., raising one’s voice, stating a complaint, or expressing one’s anger).
TIPS FOR IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF COMMUNICATION IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP:
Make your message as clear as possible.
Communication may only be successful once you've successfully identified your audience and listened to their needs, desires, and intentions. You must arrive at an understanding or a definition of the terms he’s trying to say. To achieve this effectively, turn to the 5 C’s of communication to ensure your message and/or feedback achieves most of these characteristics:
Clear – Remove obstructions, an oversimplified explanation of concept that should be easy to understand.
Correct – Factual truths not clouded by emotions.
Complete – Having all the necessary and appropriate parts.
Concise – Information delivered in a brief but comprehensive method. Removing extra data that may be too much and confuse.
Compassionate – Your speech should show sympathy and concern for his feelings, emotions, and point of view.
Be intentional about spending time together.
Couples often spend very little time in meaningful conversation throughout the week. To change this, turn off the technology and make it a point to spend 20-30 minutes a day catching up with each other daily.
Listen carefully without being defensive.
Proper communication requires total participation of both parties. Active listening is the dedicated practice of giving him your full attention without interruption, enabling you to concentrate on listening attentively with the aim on understanding what he is saying through his uniquely blue lenses. As an engaged participant in a communication exchange, you are no less responsible for your role as the listener, just because you’re not holding the role as sharer at this moment. In any relationship we all want to feel heard. But one vital communication tip for couples where we tend to ignore, is the principle of allowing your partner to talk as you actively listen to their explanations, appreciations, complaints, and concerns. We will dissect this topic more in the next chapter, but some techniques include paying attention to body language, and tone of inflections in his voice.
Use more “I” statements and less “You” statements.
This decreases the chances of your spouse feeling like they need to defend themselves. For example, “I wish you would acknowledge more often how much work I do at home to take care of you and the children.”
Yes, we are required to communicate during the good and bad times of relationship. But it is very possible to not be in agreement with your spouse about a presented issue and still talk about it in a respectful, mature, and amicable manner. You can express your disagreement but can still empathize with a confirming statement like “I feel your disappointment in my actions, but do you realize that...” Not intended as a defense mechanism, it give reassurance to your partner that you see their concern and you're taking their feelings into account, but you also want to present your opinion or point of view. And would like the same respect.
When issues arise, be specific. Broad generalizations like, “You do it all the time!” are not helpful.
Evade personal insults.
Sis let’s be honest, when we want to cut a man down with our mouth, we can be very harsh with our words! But we’re instructed in wisdom in Proverbs 14:1 (NASB) “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” And I would dare add, with her own mouth as well! Be intentional to avoid any form of personal attack through criticizing him as a person, name calling or labeling, inappropriate body language, and of course shouting, yelling, and cursing. Your point can be made without being critical or accusatory. You may indeed have a valid point, but the way in which you communicate it has an effect on the way your partner conceives the information. It is human instinct that your partner takes a personal defense strategy in response to your reproach, hindering all communication between you two. Be wise, and use your mouth to build him up, NOT TEAR HIM DOWN! Remember, we know for ourselves that the pain of what is said to us can lasts a lot longer than we’d care to admit!
It is very frustrating when someone else acts like they know better than you what you were really thinking. Don't make a judgement on him according to what you guess is happening. And take the time to speak your mind and heart, as he is no mind reader either.
Seek understanding and clear explanations.
For lovers, the art of communication is the art of sincere curiosity. A person seeks to intimately know and understand what they love. And it’s this sincere curiosity that validates your partner’s feelings and fosters good relations. Communicating effectively between couples involves asking fact-finding questions or seeking explanations from their partners. This skill enabled couples to understand each other better, rather than making unfair judgements or assumptions. When you ask questions in a non-confronting way, it shows your spouse that you really care. The use of open-ended questions rather than closed-ended questions grants room for your partner to share their insight and thoughts concerning a situation. Closed-ended questions are more for authoritative conversations, like teachers or police interrogations, where the inquirer does not care about the feelings of the person in question. Remember he’s your mate and not your child! An authoritative approach doesn’t work well when you want a person to be vulnerable, understanding to be cultivated and allow for open fruitful communication. Remember communicating from your head can create drama, but communicating from your heart can create transformation. Having an overactive mind isn’t a good recipe for creating heartfelt connections with your lover and your equal.
Always consider your audience.
Knowing the heart of your husband and his family history, past traumas, along with his strengths and insecurities can grant you the keys in delivering the right message effectively. An individual's culture, age, race ethnicity, gender, marital status, family and relationship history, income, education level, subject knowledge, emotional intelligence, and spiritual intelligence can all impact how they’ll receive your message. You must manage your expectations in the wisdom of what you know about him. If he was raised in a family that never talked about their emotions or he’s currently laid off from work fighting self-worth issues, then all of these factors will impact your level of communication in this season. This is when it’s better to pray, then keep prodding him to share. Timing is everything, maybe right when he arrives home may not be the prime opportunity to speak on this subject and better scheduled during a ‘Business Meeting’.
Express negative feelings constructively.
There will be times when you feel bitterness, resentment, disappointment, or disapproval. These feelings need to be communicated in order for change to occur. But how you express these thoughts is critical. It’s one thing to say, “I am really disappointed that you are working late again tonight.” But if you say, “You clearly do not care one whit about me or the kids. If you did, you would not work late every night,” will convey something entirely different.
Always use the right tone.
Sis, (1 Corinthians 7:4) you have power over your husband’s body, make sure you use it! Be intentional about using the right tone when discussing sensitive topics with your man. When you fail to use an effective tone when dealing with a sensitive issue, the conflict can turn into a disaster. Those couples communicating with maturity use the appropriate tone manifested by a stable mind to deal with the situation. When you speak in a tone of respect, you offer the gift of humility and politeness to your partner, guiding their choice of words and calming them down to participate in the discussion in a humble manner.
Freely express positive feelings.
Most people are quicker to express negative feelings than positive ones. But no one wants to feel like they can’t ever please you and all you ever open your mouth to say is a complaint. It is vital to the health of your marriage that you affirm your spouse. Positive feelings such as appreciation, affection, respect, admiration, and approval are like making deposits into your love account. You should have five positive deposits for every one negative. If your compliments exceed your complaints, your spouse will pay attention to your grievances. If your complaints exceed your compliments, your criticism will fall on deaf ears.
Use the appropriate medium or platform.
Using the right medium or platform to communicate matters. Effective communication requires you to consider whether you need to meet in person or if text would suffice. Is your message casual enough to use WhatsApp, or would a formal email be more efficient and thorough? If you are catching up with your man, do you two prefer to talk on the phone or via old-fashioned face-to-face? Whatever you choose it should be intuitive and appropriate for you both and adhering to the current situation. As some things simply get lost in translation through text or cause issues because there's room for other assumptions to be made.
Refuse to settle for assumptions.
Good communication excludes assumptions. And no communication implies that you have no interest in the topic, or in your spouse or marriage. If you don’t know what’s happening in your partners life, don’t just assume that it’s all good. If you don’t know what their dealing with, then you don’t possess the ability to understand or empathize. This stance could slowly lead to a lack of interest in each other’s lives and thus a strained relationship, alienation of affection, and fractures in your effective communication. You also don't want to see something that you are too apprehensive to acknowledge and address due to concerns of avoiding conflict and keep the relationship. If it's a concern, then it's worth discussing it during a mature and intentional conversation.
Communication Is a Process!
None of this happens merely because you talk once sis. Keep in mind that the single biggest problem with communication occurs under the illusion that it has taken place. Be determined to learn yourself and your partner. The only way to reach that awareness of what you and your partner need in a relationship and from life, is through honest, transparent and effective communication. Awareness of issues is always the first step in making sure they can be resolved and communicating them is the next step. After becoming aware, it is important that each person makes a commitment to changing the patterns that are detrimental to the relationship. A good way to begin is to identify one change each person needs to make and write it down. After making the commitment to work towards better communication, it is important that both people hold each other accountable as they try to implement these changes. If one person does well the first time, but reverts to their old communication patterns shortly, their partner should be able to hold them accountable–and they should be able to take accountability for their mishaps and mistakes.
Often, communication issues come up during times of conflict. When discussing how to avoid communication issues, consider coming up with a plan after cooling off. Be intentional about extending grace to yourself and your partner as you learn...
Some things to consider when making a conflict plan include:
Make a list of the challenges.
Limit the conversation to 30 minutes and one topic.
Take turns sharing how you feel.
Don’t interrupt. Write things down if you have to.
Manage your feelings.
Discuss whether taking “breaks” during the conversation is okay ahead of time.
Put your phone away and turn the tv or computer off. Be present.
Maintain good eye contact.
I'm Praying With You Sis,
Your Sister in Wifehood,
Author Adia Dozier