Many marriage counselors identify communication as a major problem in marriage. Lack of communication has a devastating effect on the couple, leading to emotional isolation. Because communication nurtures the relationship, it is important that couples acquire this skill to strengthen the marital bond. It is a way of enabling spouses to meet each other’s needs, while having their own needs met.

Men and women have different ways of communicating. Probably this is biologically determined. Social upbringing, culture and environment may influence the way people communicate. In certain cultures, women are shy and have difficulty expressing themselves. Men tend to focus on impersonal objective things. Women are more involved in the emotional and personal dimensions of life. Men have difficulty in talking and revealing their innermost thoughts. They fight shy of giving praise.

Communication has several dimensions. Merely talking constitutes only about 50% of all communication. Body language, facial expression, tone of voice can communicate anger, sadness, happiness and other emotions. Communication is not merely exchange of information. It may be sharing of feelings, details about daily events, discussion on matters affecting home and family. Unless there is free communication between spouses it is impossible to gauge what is going on in each other’s minds. Presuming that they love each other and want to keep their partners happy, they must tell each other what makes them happy. One cannot rest on the surmise that the other is a mind reader. Communication should be at every level and every aspect of their lives. Many decisions have to be taken in the course of their marital journey. Unless they communicate and make decisions together, life will not be easy. Each may have their own ideas about how to tackle a particular issue. Only communication will enable decision making easier through understanding, negotiating and cooperation.

Ways to Communicate:

Talking and listening are two aspects of communication. Conversation should be warm and loving, not loud and abrasive.

“Let your conversations be always full of grace.” (Colossians 4:6.)

Hurtful words should be filtered out. Romantic and sexual needs if not conveyed properly will end up in frustration and lack of real intimacy. Intimate self disclosure and expressions of affection draw the couple closer. Sex is considered the highest level of communication.

During the early months of marriage, there is a lot of communication between couples. It is a time of discovery, of freshness and novelty. They communicate thoughts and feelings through physical intimacy. They focus on each other to the exclusion of everyone else. This is a time for open communication – the liberty to express thoughts, hopes, dreams or even failures.

“Partners have to express what they want, what they feel and more important, what they think the other wants,” says Richard C. Richard, a Professor of Philosophy.

But as time passes, this openness disappears. Men usually begin to talk less. Expressing their love becomes difficult. They don’t compliment the woman on her looks or her attire or her culinary skills. The woman begins to complain, “He never talks to me. We used to have so much to say to each other.” Now conversation is on mundane matters, household requirements, money, budgets or children’s school fees. If both have busy jobs and return home late in the evening, they are in no mood to talk. The woman finds it easier to SMS her husband that dinner is ready, even though he is in the next room reading the newspaper or watching TV.

On Being a Good Listener:

The one who is listening should give undivided attention to what the other is saying. Inattention can kill communication. Frequent interruptions or unsolicited advice can disturb the flow of communication. The whole message should be first listened to. If there are doubts, one can have them clarified later. If opinions differ, there should be room for discussion, so that they can arrive at a mutually satisfying solution.

How to Quarrel Constructively:

It is important to bear in mind that spouses are not enemies. They are both batting on the same side. Arguments are part of every marriage. But couples should evolve a healthy communication technique and argue in a spirit of love. The idea is to recognize and understand the other’s point of view. There should be no threatening gestures, no name calling or abusive language, no exaggeration and no blame. Words that give another pain leave ugly scars.

Bothersome issues should not be swept under the carpet. They should be discussed in an atmosphere of equanimity, with a view to resolution.

“Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,” is a sound Biblical exhortation

Even while disagreeing, there should be mutual respect for the other’s point of view. “Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger,” and “speaking the truth in love,” are important points to remember. If there is a bothersome issue, “Bringing the issue into the open may provoke a temporary crisis,” says psychologist Neville Vines, “But if that crisis sparks frank talk, it helps the couple to develop skills and insights to deal with future conflicts. Each time a couple overcomes a problem, it strengthens their marriage – for they learn they can resolve differences.”

If one is too vague about one’s needs, there is no hope of them being met. A woman who feels neglected must bring this to the notice of her husband. “I’d like us to spend more time together.”

A man who feels his wife is disinterested in his work could say, “I like it when you ask me about my day.”

Silence creates a barrier between couples. It cuts off communication. A verbal deadlock leads to pent up anger, miscommunication, hurt feelings and drives a wedge between relationships.

There are times when communication needs no words. A husband and wife may be sitting close together on a sofa watching TV. Their mere proximity to each other may be a form of communicating that they love being together. There are times when there is no need for words. Body language speaks for itself. The comfort of physical closeness, a hug or holding hands assures the couple that they are one. Doing things together, listening to music, going for walks are also forms of communication.

Good communication skills ensure that marriage partners nurture each other’s self-esteem.

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