After the rocky period at the start of our marriage, we were introduced to a small book that changed everything for us. Sounds like hyperbole I know, but it was an important read. We read a book on communication. Before we read the book, we thought we knew how to communicate. While our talks didn’t always work out well, we believed that communication was a strong point in our relationship. After we read the book, we came to know just how much our marriage was impacted by communication, and just how little we understood.
We Have to Learn (or Unlearn) How to Communicate
One of the primary things that we learned was that communication is a learned behavior. Couples have to be taught effective communication as a skill. We tend to adopt whatever served as communication in our homes growing up as our go-to style. Sometimes we do this without even recognizing it. If silence was golden, then it becomes our style. If heated fellowship and raised voices (arguing) was what occurred in our home growing up, that becomes our style. Armed with this understanding, we embarked on a quick survey of how our parents/families communicated, and what habits we’d learned from them (good or bad).
“A new baby is probably the most ineffective communicator we know!”
To help you see communication as a learned skill, I want to paint a picture for you. I want you to think of a brand new baby, just home from the hospital. Our marriages, in many ways, are as brand new as newborn when they begin. We are oblivious to much about each other, even after spending months connected. Think about how a baby communicates. A new baby is probably the most ineffective communicator we know! Don’t think so? Do you believe crying gets the point across? Let’s see. When a baby cries (the only way they have to communicate initially) we pick them up. If they stop crying, we assume they wanted attention, they wanted to be held. If they continue crying, we check the diaper. The diaper is clean so we see if they want to eat. They’re not hungry so we check their temperature. Do you still believe that crying effectively communicates a baby’s intentions?
As the child grows, they learn to point to what they need and express what they want. As their vocabulary expands they become even better in expressing themselves. Every now and again, however, they revert back to crying although they know that it doesn’t really work.
“Couples have to learn, much like babies, how to effectively communicate in their relationship.”
Couples have to learn, much like babies, how to effectively communicate in their relationship. Knowing how to listen, and how to be heard, is crucial to marital success. Communication in marriage requires that each party bring the selflessness and commitment that I spoke of earlier to the table.
Communication is an Expression of Love
Communication is, at its core, an expression of love. I want my wife to know what I need, so that she has an opportunity to love me. That means I need to express myself. I also want to know what she needs, so that I can love her. That means that I need to listen attentively. The motivator, on both sides, is our desire to love each other. I listen so that I can love. I express, so that she can love.
Don’t Be Selfish, Work on Your Communication Skills
It is the selfish husband or wife who doesn’t see improving their communication skills as important to the marriage. This position, in essence, says that it is all about me. You don’t need to know what’s happening in my mind or heart, and I don’t care to know about you. We’ve discovered that with effective communication there is no issue in marriage that cannot be overcome. Talk openly and honestly. Listen with a heart to hear what is truly being said.
What’s communication like in your marriage? Do you agree that communication is learned? What skills (expressing yourself or listening) are easiest for you? Which of the two is most difficult? I’d love to hear your thoughts and interact with you in the comment section.