There's been a bit of a pause reporting back on the Marriage Survey results, a small thing called 'C who must not be named' has as you know interrupted the normal flow of things across the globe. I've been feeling as if I'm now in an eternal Thursday; we know the weekend is coming but don't quite have that 'Friday feeling' yet. Pressing on!
So can you guess the *#1 biggest struggle in marriage? (from 100 surveyed)
(*read to the end and see the full survey breakdown results)
I couldn't count the number of times I've come away from a conversation or an argument (we used to call it excited fellowship) feeling like we'd gotten absolutely nowhere. More often than not you feel worse and the issue you started with seems bigger than ever. My ideas and assumptions on what communication can look like has needed major reframing over the course of our marriage. I thought communication was about me having my say, being heard and expressed needs, wants, desires being met. Oh dear. You're feeling sorry for my husband right now aren't you?! :D
"We never listen when we are eager to speak"
- FRANCOIS DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD
A big mistake I've made with communication is heading into a conversation armed with my script, ready to go at it head on. The trouble with this approach is that my ears weren't armed ready to listen. It's kind of frustrating isn't it, to be talking to someone and they don't seem interested or willing to hear your perspective? It makes you put walls up pretty quickly because it's ouchy and, you feel disrespected.
No one enjoys feeling invisible. One of the beautiful things about the nature of God is that He knows our thoughts from afar and every word before we utter them (Ps 139:2,4) this makes me feel very seen and understood. It also makes me feel loved and accepted just as I am, where I'm at. We have a friend in Jesus who understands what it's like to be human with all our infirmities and temptations (yet Jesus without sin) and He can sympathise (Heb 4:15). We see the incarnate nature of Christ in each other when we act the same way and offer the same sympathies and understanding to our spouse. We can even communicate the love of God without words (1 Pet 3:1) where verbal communication isn't possible for whatever reason, maybe your husband is on a different page spiritually or is more of an internal processor.
Why is listening so hard? Humility would be one of the reasons, a lack of. We need buckets of humility rooted in grace and that requires another scary ingredient we steer away from - vulnerability. Patrick Lenciono says, "Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability."
"It's sad, so sad why can't we talk it over?
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word"
- ELTON JOHN
Why do we struggle with being vulnerable? I know for me it has come from a base root of fear; fear of being hurt, taken advantage of, pride being wounded, being wrong, loss of control, the consequences of letting go, shame. Sometimes we have good reason to put boundaries up and should, you expose your vulnerable parts and someone kicks you right there! Or in an abusive situation where you need to be guarded. But assuming that we're talking here within the context of everyday struggles faced between two flawed sinful healthy-ish people committed to moving forward, learning to be vulnerable is one step towards better communication.
I think I can safely raise my hand as being a bumbling communicator growing up and into my late 30's. I was quite insecure. When you're insecure about your identity, the core of who you feel you are you find yourself putting on a mask, a brave face. I grew up with a lot of instability so my learned way of coping was to tough it out and fend for myself. You can imagine how well that philosophy outworked in my marriage! I had not learned what healthy communication looked like, every issue in my experience began and ended with heated confrontation, tears, anger, frustration, wounds. Worse than that was the polar opposite, buried feelings, unspoken words, pushing things under the carpet. Silence can be more potent than a blazing row. The result was a woman who bottled things for too long until I became like Old Faithful, then right on time I'd explode. By that stage even though what I had to say might have had some merit my delivery completely detracted from the point.