Can We Talk?

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A thought crossed my mind a few weeks back that perhaps I should focus my efforts on developing my communication with my husband. That might seem an obvious thing to have or desire in a marriage but I was thinking more along the lines of the fact that, as long as we have great communication between us, we would be able to resolve whatever conflicts arise. Conflicts are inevitable given that marriage is made up of two human beings with different personalities, backgrounds, gender etc.

Now this is easier said than done, and I know that the minute we get married all the wonderful traits that we so admired as our spouse’s strengths suddenly become the traits that we want to change. I remember when I first got married, I cannot even begin to recount the number of times I would moan to my husband that we were so different… and it certainly was not meant as a compliment!

I think that innately we all have a desire to change our spouses to become like us, but this is not in line with God’s design for marriage. God who is fully aware of our differences as husband and wife, in his wisdom brings us to fulfil His purpose in and through us.

As a newlywed, whenever my husband said we needed to talk, I used to wonder what new thing I had done wrong. As you can imagine, this was definitely a no-no for enhancing good communication, as my walls shot up because I immediately (and wrongly) assumed he was blaming me for whatever issue needed addressing. This was not helpful because, instead of an environment where the issues were laid on the table and dealt with, I personalised things and made it difficult for us to address them.

It Is Good To Talk

So my first tip is that it’s good to talk. Talking engenders intimacy. It is important to realise that conflict is normal and healthy in any relationship; after all issues will arise as a result of our differences. However, the way we choose to resolve the conflict will either drive us together or apart. Here is what I used to do whenever we needed to talk. I would picture myself and my hubby on a three-seater sofa, one of us at each end and a pillow between us (the pillow represents the issue keeping us apart); this helped me remember that we are a team and that the issue is outside of us. Many years down the line, I still need to remind myself of this as issues arise.

What Do We Need To Talk About

Let us look at what we need to talk about. I am married to someone who is thoughtful and wants to hear what is going on in my inner world as I am known to bottle things up and share on a need to know basis. I know it sounds really romantic to have a man who likes to get into my world and I am grateful to God for that, however it does pose a challenge for me as I am not very good at expressing my innermost thoughts.

The biblical book of Genesis records that Adam and Eve were both naked and unashamed; they were open with each other and willing to reveal their nakedness to each other, warts and all. Your marriage should be viewed as a safe haven where each person can share their innermost thoughts, fears, anxieties, weaknesses, insecurities, hurts, and deep feelings without the fear of judgement. God wants us to be vulnerable with each other, so I need to make a daily choice to be vulnerable with my husband (and to allow him to be vulnerable) and my husband needs to do the same. We need to share our innermost thoughts. Like everyone else I am still on this journey and I fail as often as I succeed.

Benefits Of Talking To Each Other

As with any of God’s commandments, in this case been naked and unashamed, there are blessings that are attached to obeying God. I find that by making the choice to communicate on a deeper level with my husband I am beginning to understand both myself and him more. We are more understanding of each other’s challenges and better equipped to pray for each other.

In the past I probably focused more on my husband’s actions than the reasons behind them. For example, he is mega-tidy and when we were dating his friends used to laugh that he had a show home. When we got married, this was a challenge for me as I like a house to look lived in. I believe your personality should be expressed by your home and, as you can imagine, this caused a problem, as he was always tidying up and I was under pressure to keep my things by his definition of tidy. When we began to talk about this issue and he expressed how the clutter affected his ability to think, I was able to be more understanding. I am never going to love living in a home that is extremely tidy but at least we have both made adjustments to accommodate each other.

Create An Environment That Helps To Talk

My second tip is to create a friendly atmosphere in your home, as this will encourage good communication. The thing we probably enjoy most about our closest friendships is the fact that we can just be ourselves with these individuals? It need not be different with our spouses. Because we have different personalities, some people find it easier to open up than others. If you are good at opening up do encourage your spouse by sharing your innermost thoughts; this might make them want to open up too. If you are not so good at it, don’t show disinterest when your spouse does; remember that the more you know about your spouse the better you are able to meet their needs.

Listen To Your Spouse

An article on communication as a means of building intimacy will not be complete without mentioning the two important skills needed for great communication: listening and speaking skills. I recall arguments with my husband during which we would both accuse each other of not listening to each other, interrupting each other as we both determined to get our very important views across. We had been through premarital classes, where we had been taught to be swift to hear and be slow to speak, but, as you know, knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. However, we soon realised that we would not make much progress if we did not make a choice to put this into practice. It is still an ongoing challenge, especially as the longer you have been married to your spouse the more you think you know them, so even before they start you think you know exactly what is going to be said, so you filter issues through your presumptions.

We all love to be listened to, as it makes us feel special and valued, so your spouse deserves your attention. And actively listen to your spouse; not just the words spoken but anything that might be communicated without being said. I know my husband is always perplexed when he asks me if I am okay and I say I am fine, when my actions or tone suggest otherwise. While it would be easy for him to shrug it off and avoid having to sit patiently while I fish around for the means to communicate what I’m feeling, by using the knowledge he has of me he can give me his attention and draw out what the problem is. Sometimes I find that even I wasn’t aware of what the problem was. Great communication involves clarifying what is said to ensure that there is no misunderstanding, and this can only be done in a non-hostile or non-threatening atmosphere.

I think that listening to each other is one of the greatest gifts we can give to each other as husband and wife; it is such a powerful way of communicating our love for each other as it says “you deserve my time”, and time seems to be such a scarce commodity in this world.

Speak The Truth With Care

I also recall arguments with my husband as a result of each person just speaking the truth, as my husband would say “ let’s call a spade a spade” or “ let’s be sincere”. These words taken at face value seem perfectly reasonable to expect that we speak the truth to each other, what we neglected to add is what the Bible says, that our speech should be seasoned with salt. Nowhere is this more important than in our marriages where we are exposed to our spouses weaknesses and frailties and the need to create a non-judgmental atmosphere is crucial. Speaking careless, harsh words that have not been thought through to each other can only hinder intimacy in our marriages. The danger of speaking reckless words is that once spoken that cannot be taken back and to the person on the receiving end, the devil will take great pleasure in reminding them often at weak moments.

Let Love Be Your Motivation

My final tip is to make sure that love is the motive when sharing any truth with your spouse. One of the things that I do whenever I am desperate to speak the truth is to ask myself what my motive is. Until I am sure that my motive is out of love – not out of spite or a vengeful vendetta – I try not to speak. Timing is also important, so mulling over a possible conversation could render it unnecessary. The Bible says God has given us self-control so we have a choice to exercise restraint in what we say and how we say it. That means no blaming or accusing statements, and it is more productive to be specific than to generalise.

Wisdom is the application of the knowledge we have, and if we apply the knowledge we have of our spouses, our marriages will be more harmonious. Falling in love may have been effortless, but building intimacy in marriage, and keeping it strong, requires hard work.

– Kemi Olutunbi

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