by Reginald Williams
The failure to communicate is arguably “public enemy No.1″ when it comes to the destruction of a marriage. The ingredients that make up the recipe for poor communication includes a little ridicule, a few tablespoons of sarcasm, a couple of cups of accusations, a pinch of curtness sprinkled with some disregard, all marinated in judgment.
“Disrespectful judgment” is how Dr. Willard Harley, author of “His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-proof Marriage,” describes marriages garnished with questionable communication. It was “questionable communication” that took root recently on a Facebook thread with regards to the article, “The Other Side of the Ted Williams Story: The Affected Spouse,” published on this site. I must be honest, some of my comments definitely waded in the “questionable communications” pool.
Several folks took issue with the article charging the author with casting judgment on Ted Williams (the former homeless man with the “golden voice”). I challenged those who did because the author simply used Mr. Williams as an introduction to the subject rather than use him as the subject.
The article’s subject choice was excellent because oftentimes in marriage one spouse will initiate an action and while doing so ignore the affects that the activity will have on their spouse, who is clueless to what’s been done.
It was easy to see that those Facebook fans who where critical either had not read the article or simply did not comprehend the heart of his message. After heating up the thread with my challenges three of the five people who took issue with the article admitted later in the thread that they hadn’t read the article, but had formed their judgment solely based on the article’s title. Another reader readjusted their point of view after re-reading the post, and the last critic refused to move from what they believed.
The spirit of the thread reminded me of what a husband and wife should avoid when their goal is to have a healthy marriage. If living “happily ever after” is your goal steer clear of the following examples of poor communication:
Refusal to listen
In my marriage/relationship coaching I will ask one spouse to explain the situation as they see it, then ask the other spouse to respond to “˜what was stated.’ More times than not the responding spouse renders an explanation that addresses nothing that was raised. Rather than speak to the stated issue the responding spouse chooses to present the story they want told.
Working through issues is extremely arduous if communication includes the failure to listen. James 1:19 reads, “Understand my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.”
Rehearsing instead of reflecting
Rehearsing is the first cousin to a refusal to listen spirit. When difference of opinions take residence in a marriage, it’s not uncommon that while one spouse attempts to express their position, the other spouse, instead of listening, is mentally rehearsing their response. How does one render an honest response when they have not authentically reflected upon what was said? In Proverbs 3:5 the concluding segment of the verse advises “lean not on your own understanding.” Leaning implies you are putting all your weight on something; in marriage this could potentially be troublesome especially if you are leaning on the wrong thoughts.
Render yourself available to the heart of the message
Making an assumption about what you heard or understood requires no effort. It is effortless to respond to what you thought was said. In contrast to assuming, asking caring questions for clarity and investing the patience to accurately comprehend your spouse’s message takes effort and demonstrates love; it necessitates that you sincerely avail yourself to hear and understand the heart of your spouse’s message. Stephen R. Convey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says the fifth habit is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The premise of Convey’s habit suggests that people, “[use] empathetic listening which in turn reciprocates empathetic listening and together “an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving” takes place.
Reginald Williams, an Award-winning journalist and Certified Relationship Coach, is the co-founder of Marriage Nectar, a marriage and relationship enrichment company and the author of the blog www.ruleyourwife316.com. You can follow Reggie on Twitter at Twitter.com/Ruleyourwife or contact him at www.marriagenectar.com.