For any relationship to last and get better, it requires good communication. This is most certainly the case in marriage. Marriages rise and fall on communication skills or lack thereof.
Every couple knows this inherently. When dating, then spend a lot of time talking—learning about each other. If they’re smart, they will keep sharpening their communication skills.
Your marriage will only be as good as your communication skills.
First, the good news: God made us different to compliment each other.
The bad news: God made us different and we tend to focus on the differences as a negative!
As men and women, we don’t see the world the same. We don’t always handle problems the same, or pressure.
The problems come when we assume or expect our spouse to see things only as we do.
You’ve heard the stereotypical complaint of some men: “Women! Who can understand them?!” That’s a lazy man speaking. I love this challenge to husbands from the Bible:
In the same way, you husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way [with great gentleness and tact, and with an intelligent regard for the marriage relationship], as with someone physically weaker, since she is a woman. Show her honor and respect as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered or ineffective. — 1 Peter 3:7 (AMP)
“…live with your wives in an understanding way…”. Guys, you may not understand your wife perfectly today but you can learn to understand her better every day. And the same goes for you, ladies.
Too often, after the wedding one or both stop making the effort to keep up that good communication or striving to make it better. They grow apart instead of growing in a better understanding of one another.
We need to learn to talk, to ask the right questions, and to listen from the other person’s standpoint to gain a better understanding. Not jump to conclusions about what he or she means.
It’s a lazy man who says, “Women! Who can understand them?!”
Too Many Arguments Start With Misunderstandings
Years ago, Gail and I decided to take our five kids on a week-long camping trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I didn’t set a budget for the trip—just determined we’d take from savings. Gail was okay with using savings but the lack of a budget unnerved her and created a tension between us the whole trip. It was one of our most memorable family vacations yet tainted because of my lack of understanding from Gail’s perspective.
I’ve never repeated that mistake since.
One of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits for highly effective people is:
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Smart man, that Covey. How many hours have you spent trying first to convince your spouse, explain your perspective, etc.? I don’t want to think about my answer.
3 Simple Reminders For Seeking Understanding
- Use “I” messages. Sounds self-absorbed at first mention but it’s a great skill. Too often, especially when not on the same page with another, we use “you” too much. “You don’t understand.” “You always…”. “When you do that, it makes me so mad!” “You” tends to raise the defensive walls. It sounds so blaming and shaming. Better to turn it around with, “I’m not sure I’m understanding what you’re feeling.” “I’m sure it’s my problem, but I have a hard time when I hear you say…”.
Listen from your spouse’s perspective. What is he/she really saying? Ask questions. Restate what you think the other is trying to communicate: “So if I understand you correctly, you’re saying…?”
Don’t always try to “win”. This isn’t a contest. The goal line is understanding and showing respect to each other. Trying to simply win or make your point will only cause you to lose in the end.
Having a clearer understanding of each other’s feelings, opinions, and preferences only deepens and strengthens your relationship. And the only way that can happen is by practicing good communication skills. Taking the time to clarify what’s being said before you respond or argue your point averts a lot of heartache.
Stir up your commitment to work at gaining a better understanding of your spouse every day for the rest of your lives.
Question: What have you found helpful in your marriage to grow in understanding of each other? Share your answer in the comments below.