The Problem with Communication
Communication word picture: You are standing on a bridge that spans a great chasm. Your spouse is standing in front of you, facing you. A hundred or so feet separate the two of you and the bridge is completely missing in between. No matter how loudly you try to talk, your spouse cannot hear you. You get so frustrated because you can hear them just fine.
This “word picture” reminds me of the communication gap that a lot of us find ourselves in these days in our marriages. The reason for divorce is often rooted in this issue. The problem isn’t that our spouse doesn’t hear us. It’s that neither one of us are truly listening.
Why do we do this? It’s because we are so scared that our own needs won’t be heard and met that our whole focus is consumed with getting our message out instead of giving at least equal attention to the message our spouse needs us to receive. We have been hurt and/or offended, and it makes us feel insignificant; like we don’t matter.
No matter how much we have been hurt by our spouse, they have also been hurt by us. It is so hard to see this through our own pain and frustration.
We live in a world that is filled with narcissism. A large portion of our young adults seem to have this sense of entitlement. Book shelves are filled with SELF help books. Our entire social media world is founded on SELFies. In this world, it is pretty easy to think of ourselves as less self-centered than society as a whole, but are we really?
SELF assessment is not the easiest thing to accomplish. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes takes objectivity when the situation involves us. This is hard to do. But it is completely necessary to remedy this problem.
My husband and I will be celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary this November, and we have been together for 25 years. In the midst of five children, we are just now really starting to grasp the communication thing.
A couple of days ago I was having an unusually stressful day: A very close friend of mine was at the hospital with her son who was admitted for some very serious symptoms, one of my children had accidentally charged an item to a wrong account and caused an overdraft, I was in the midst of preparing for a rather large event our family has coming up, and it is officially August, so as a school teacher my mind starts racing about the upcoming school year.
My husband and I were texting and I was telling him all of my woes. His response was “Welcome to my world. We need to stop worrying somehow.” Although I have always felt like I was a pretty empathetic person, this really gave me new insight into what life was like from his perspective. He has always been a worrier by nature. I am not, so this was a relatively unfamiliar experience to me. The knot in my stomach, the restlessness, the muscle tension.
I told him that for me, having a few minutes each day to talk to him about it would be really helpful. His reply was “K. I have so many chores to do when I get home. Then I am exhausted and just want to veg.”
Shortly after this exchange, I was out running some errands and listening to my favorite Christian radio station (Family Life Network) in the car. The daily broadcast of Focus on the Family was on and it was uncanny how applicable it was to our situation. Going from ME focus to WE focus. I STRONGLY encourage you to listen to this broadcast:
Working Together as a Team in Your Marriage
Moving away from the ME mentality toward the WE mentality makes all the difference in the world. Bridging the gap takes working together and actively listening; not just hearing.
The broadcast linked above talks about taking 10 or 15 minutes a day just to connect with each other. Like many other things in our lives, motivation is the biggest problem. It’s not that we don’t want to spend time talking to each other. Frankly it is that there is no energy left at the end of the day. All we want to do is vegetate, right? But taking that 10 to 15 minutes a day to really connect can make all the difference in the world.
The couple being interviewed, Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley, have what they call an E-nuptual agreement. It is a mutual understanding that they will not let electronics interfere with their WE time. This goes beyond just the 15 minutes that they are talking each day. It extends to the time they are watching their favorite program together. I would venture to guess it includes date nights and any other time they have set aside to connect with each other. Technology is a wonderful tool, but just like any other tool, it can be grossly misused and cause tumultuous impact on our relationships.
Most of what has been said in this blog entry and in the broadcast linked above is probably not anything new to most of us. But it is always a good reminder and something we need to focus on more deliberately in our day-to-day relationships, especially our marriages.