First Key of Marriage Growth: Communication

Hey friends,

I’m less than two weeks away from releasing Rhythms of Relationship, and I am so excited! For the next few weeks, I will be releasing blog posts with bonus content about each of the Eight Keys of Marriage Growth, which I talk about in the book. These keys are the focus of rhythms, and provide an avenue for ways to grow purposefully with your spouse. While these short posts will help jump start growth in each key, the book goes into more detail with my own experiences, tips, suggested rhythms, journal questions, and resources for futher research. I hope you enjoy learning about the first key: Communication!

We all know that communication is foundational to any relationship, much less marriage. But it may be the thing that couples struggle with the most. Communication is so complex, and there are a lot of things that can get in the way of a message being understood. Communication is not simply one person sending a message to another. As you can see in the diagram below, it also includes encoding, decoding, noise, and feedback, all crucial points to the communication process.

Image source: Lumen Learning

I don’t want to oversimplify things, but I think one of the biggest disservices we can do to our spouse in regards to communication is not giving them a chance to provide feedback, or not receiving the feedback they do provide. It makes sense – if our spouse says something we don’t like, it’s natural to get defensive, prepare a response and tune the rest of their message out. In my own marriage, I can be quick to jump to conclusions and not give Matt the opportunity to clarify what he meant if I misunderstood what he was saying. But this approach doesn’t benefit anyone! I’ve had to work on slowing down, being less reactive and more gracious when he is communicating something I don’t like.

One humorous example happened when “parenting” our dog. One week, I felt like Matt was nitpicking every little thing I did with our dog, Darcy, critiquing the amount of food I gave, how I disciplined her, and the things I allowed her to do. While he said all these things to me in a very straightforward and unforceful way, the way I decoded the message was: You’re not doing it right and I make better decisions for our dog than you. Rather than giving feedback by asking clarifying questions or confirming if that was what he truly believed, I assumed I knew his intent and responded to him defensively. In his mind, he was trying to be helpful by offering suggestions, not suggesting I was a bad dog mom. Pausing to ask questions instead would have been more helpful for our communication!

A beautiful example of this I saw recently was in the latest season of The Crown on Netflix. In one episode, Princess Diana and Prince Charles are unhappy because both of them feel neglected, unappreciated, and unloved by the other. Charles asks Diana what she wants, and she responds “To be heard.” Charles responds, “I’m listening,” giving her the opportunity to expound on her desire – to be understood and appreciated. She says Charles doesn’t understand what she feels, to which he says, “I know what being overlooked looks like more than anyone…if I seem cold and distant from you, perhaps it’s because I feel misunderstood by you.” Their conversation escalates, but at the end of it, Diana says, “I suppose we’ve got to learn to give [encourgement] to each other on a more regular basis…any time either of us feels that way–not getting what we need–we simply need to give that very thing to the other.” Wouldn’t this be a great way to end an argument or hard conversation – shared understanding?

Journal question: What is the most important thing you can do that would positively impact your communication with your spouse?

For further reading: Marriage Forecasting: Changing the Climate of Your Relationship One Conversation at a Time by Tim Muehlhoff

Hope you enjoyed reading about this first Key of Marriage Growth! And don’t forget to mark your calendars for the release of Rhythms of Relationship on January 25th šŸ™‚

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