My mom and step-dad used to argue A LOT, almost every day for 2 years straight. And when I say argue, I mean there were times where I would go into the kitchen and grab a steel pot just in case things got out hand if you know what I mean. This played a huge part in my view of marriage and communication. I didn’t realize this until recent years. See, I thought that the louder you argued the more you loved each other, and if you didn’t argue at all, well, you weren’t in a healthy relationship.
Before my wife, I found myself in relationships where we were at each other’s throats. I thought that this was the norm. I guess you can say it was my norm. But then I got tired. I got older, and I didn’t have the energy to be in another relationship where arguing was our natural form of communication. It was slowly killing my perception of communication. So I went from arguing and expressing my thoughts to making sure that I didn’t say the wrong thing in order to avoid an argument. Needless to say, this didn’t help either. I was confused because culture tells you that men don’t like to talk. But I love to talk. But when I did talk I was saying too much, or I had to watch how I said it. Then when I tried talking less I wasn’t talking enough. I wasn’t being authentic to the person I really am, and that’s a communicator.
It was during this time that I found out how not saying anything can hurt your relationship more than being argumentative. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both unhealthy, but silence is a whole other beast. Think of being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t talk. They’re never vulnerable, or they always agree with what you say. Think about riding in a car and pouring your heart out to your spouse and when it’s their time to speak all you hear is the cold air blowing out air vents. NOTHING. You mean after all that I’ve said you have NOTHING to say?!
That in itself can make a person aggravated. It’s funny how we think silence will make the situation better but the reality is it just makes the situation worse. It’s a slow killer. We hear all the time how communication is the key to any relationship. At least with arguing you’re over-communicating, that beats not saying anything at all. And it all boils down to one word: FEAR. Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of being transparent and how that will affect how this person treats you. It’s all boils down to fear. Fear has caused you to go silent and the next thing you know, you went from honeymooning on the beaches of Costa Rica to looking at your soon-to-be ex-spouse with disdain as you sit across the table from them with your lawyers and sign the last page of your divorce decree.
But what if you could travel back in time? What if you could make it so your marriage never got to this point? What if…………you could…save…….your…….marriage? Here’s the good news, you can. I’ve listed seven ways on how to speak up and take back control of your marriage before it’s too late. Check them out and let “silence” know that there’s a new sheriff in town!
1. Say EXACTLY how you feel
Sometimes the truth is ugly. Sometimes there’s not a good way to say what you really want to say. So instead of saying how we feel, we won’t say anything at all. You try to avoid confrontation, or you try to find a way to make how you feel sound pretty so it can go over easier for our spouse. I get it, but stop that and say EXACTLY how you feel.
Don’t sugar coat it. Men especially , appreciate when our women is direct and we don’t have to guess how she’s feeling. Don’t beat around the bush, and don’t try to dress it up. SAY EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL. The reason why this is important is because through honesty and transparency you’ll grow and learn how to communicate with each other. But if no one is communicating their real thoughts you’ll never figure out what works and doesn’t work for your relationship. So say exactly how you feel. It will be ok, trust me.
Listen to get a greater level of understanding. Now is not the time for you to be day-dreaming and thinking about the randomness that’s going on in your head. Be in the moment. Don’t get so frustrated that you mentally check out. Whatever is being said needs to be taken seriously or else your spouse WILL stop talking because they feel like you don’t care and you’re not listening. I’ll admit that sometimes when I and my wife are talking I consciously have to put my phone down so that she has my full attention.
Also, don’t listen to respond; listen to listen. I was really good at listening to respond. I was a selective listener. I heard what I wanted to hear. I would zone out on one phrase and wait for my chance to respond so I could turn what you said against you. I wasn’t listening to hear your heart. I was listening to win the argument. Is that you? Has pride blinded you to the fact that you don’t know how to take constructive criticism from someone that loves you? Don’t listen to win, listen to listen.
3. Don’t shut down (when to wait)
Never shut down. Never stop talking. Talk it through. There is a time to wait. But even if you have your reason why you want to wait to have a conversation, you have to communicate that to your spouse. If you have to gather and process your thoughts before you respond that’s OK. Just let your spouse know that you need a few minutes to gather your thoughts, and can they give you an hour or 30 minutes to process everything that’s being said. I get that. That’s healthy communication and it shows that you’re being thoughtful about what you want to say.
What I can’t get is shutting down. Out of nowhere you just stop talking. They don’t know why. You didn’t tell them that when you said this it made me feel small and stupid so I just stopped talking. You didn’t say anything, you just STOPPED TALKING. This isn’t going to help especially since they don’t know what they did to make you respond that way. How do you expect them to correct something that they don’t even know is there?
4. Watch your tone
Ever heard the saying that it’s not what you say, but how you say it? You won’t get much done by screaming at each other but, at the same time, no one likes someone who is passive aggressive either. Yelling at someone as well as being passive aggressive both carry certain tones. You don’t have to yell at someone to make a smart remark; a smart remark can be made even if you are using your “calm voice.” Being passive aggressive most often looks like you communicating your negative feelings in an indirect manner; what you said may not have sounded negative but you meant it in a negative manner. You see what I mean? So watch your tone. You want to both walk away from the conversation feeling like you’ve been understood.
5. What’s your love language?
There’s a book by Gary Chapman called “The 5 Love Languages”. This book will revolutionize your approach on communicating. Why? Because you get a clear understanding on the style of communication that’s naturally most effective when it comes to talking with your spouse. Here’s a quick over view on the 5 love languages.
- Words of Affirmation – The language uses words to affirm other people
- Acts of Service – For these people actions speak louder than words.
- Receiving Gifts – For some people what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift.
- Quality Time – This language is about giving the other person your undivided attention
- Physical Touch – To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch.
Here’s a suggestion for you. Why don’t you and your spouse take the love language quiz together? What if you haven’t been communicating effectively this whole time simply because you don’t understand how they receive communication? You just have no clue what works. So here’s your chance, take the quiz, and do it with your spouse!
6. Always ask yourself what and why?
This matters because you have to be able to articulate why what they said made you feel this way. Ask yourself, what did they say, and why did it make me feel this way? If you don’t understand this then how will you be able to communicate it? This helps you think deeper about the situation and often times causes you to search yourself and ask yourself some tough questions. Maybe there’s a deeper reason that you’ve become numb because of something that happened so long ago.
When I asked myself why you like to win an argument I came to the conclusion of that’s what I saw to be normal. I followed my parent’s pattern. Where’s your father? Where’s your mother? Were you in a broken home? Do you trust men? Do you trust women? Why not? Did something happen to you when you were younger that scared you? All of this stuff matters when it comes to talking with your spouse. The greater understanding you have of yourself, the more you’ll be able to effectively communicate your emotions.
7. Never say “never mind”.
This never helps. Saying never mind is like saying “don’t worry about it”. You really expect them not to worry? You really expect them to just let it go? If they do just “let it go”, if you just “let it go” every time, I can see why you’re in the predicament that you’re in now. Make a commitment. Make a vow to not let it go. Make a vow to get an understanding. Make a vow that you won’t let the enemy tear you two apart by living in a house where two people’s relationship have been rip to shreds by apathy, too afraid to speak up and take back what’s yours.
[shadowbox]1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”[/shadowbox]
[shadowbox]Mark 10: 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”[/shadowbox]
This marriage is yours. The enemy would love to have it. He would love to tear you two apart. He would love for you two to say “never mind” “it doesn’t matter”, but IT DOES MATTER, and if you want your marriage to survive you’ll wake up and do something about it!