While going through my archive, I found out that I made a promise since December 1, 2013, to write on communication in marriage on this column. A promise is a debt and it is better paid late than never fulfilled, so here we go.
By now every married person or persons preparing for marriage ought to know that good and effective communication is an essenco (essenco means essential commodity, for the younger ones who were not born or were very young in the early 80s) to the success of every marriage.
Communication is the live wire of any marriage; the day couples stop talking or start talking anyhow, the marriage starts dying. If the trend is not stemmed, the marriage becomes physically dead or brain dead, that is, the couple lives as if the other party does not exist: no feelings, no intimacy, no attachment; they are just familiar strangers.
The first thing couples must realize in marital communication is the enormous power of the tongue. The Book of James reminds us that man has been able to tame wild creatures, “but no one has been able to tame the tongue. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). The tongue is small but mighty, it can cause irreparable damage to your marriage in a twinkle of an eye or over time. It can cause separation, divorce, fights, resentment, homicide, manslaughter and suicide. Spouses, watch your tongue.
Two, anger and the tongue are a deadly combination. I strongly suggest spouses keep their mouths shut when they are angry. Communication can resume when tempers cool down. People say terrible things in a fit of anger. As I said some time ago, “even if you apologise thereafter, you cannot erase what you have said from your spouse’s memory.” “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12: 18).
Three, communication should be empathic. Stephen Covey says: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In other words, when discussing with your spouse, your first duty is to understand what she/he is saying, where she/he is coming from. Having done that, you are in a better position to respond to what she/he said. This is not what happens in many marriages. Many spouses simply wait for their other half to “finish their own so that they can say their own.” You can scarcely get the desired end result in such communication.
Additionally, like many other people, I believe that God created us with two ears and only one mouth so that we can listen more and talk less. Many people suffocate their spouses with talk. They talk too much and seldom have time to listen. Four, communication should be genuine. Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no. Trust is also an essenco of marriage and genuine communication breeds trust.
Genuine communication and trust are like Siamese twin. The reason many married people do not trust their spouses is because of lies. Unfortunately the advent of mobile phones has worsened the situation. Many spouses tell lies with impunity. It hurts when a spouse betrays your trust. “A deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4).Many spouses are also manipulative.
Only if they realize sooner than later that they cannot manipulate their way through marriage. Before long, the scales will fall off the eyes of their spouses. Timing is also very important in marital communication. I have advised my wife not to tell me anything, when I am watching Arsenal matches, if she wants my full attention, especially now that things are looking up for Arsenal. Of course, emergencies are exceptions.
As long as there is genuine communication, you can work through your differences. It is not compulsory for spouses to share similar views on all issues, although the fewer the points of divergence or areas of conflict the better, especially on core issues. But understand your spouse’s point of view and respect it, even if you do not share it.
Non-verbal communication is just as punchy as verbal communication, especially when negative. Couples should be careful with negative non-verbal communications: frowns, long faces, gestures and body language. I remember a particular cantankerous couple. They were always fighting and non-verbal communication was responsible for more fights than verbal communication.
Couples should also refrain from answering questions with questions, aka, Cain’s communication. God: “Where is your brother Abel.” Cain: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Husband: Honey, is the food ready?” Wife: “What kind of questions is that? Didn’t both of us get back from work at this same time?” The outcome of negative communication is still as deadly as it was in Cain’s time.
It has led to separation, divorce, manslaughter, homicide and murder. The irony is that a positive answer takes less time, words and energy. Husband: Honey, is the food ready?” Wife: No. We say that marriage is the only institution of learning in the whole world that has not produced a single graduate. I also believe that many courses in this marital institution never end. Communication is one of them.
Sometimes, when I have communication-related issues with my wife, I just wonder when I would master this course and get it behind me. Part of the problem couples have is their different backgrounds. No matter how much we try, we are still enslaved to certain aspects of our upbringing and it gets in the way and creates communication-related problems in marriages. So every couple should keep straightening the crooked paths and smoothening the rough edges.
Couples should also be weary of the internet, video games, television, Facebook, twitter and instagram and many other social platforms. They have become refuge for many couples who do not want to deal with their problems. Couples should empathically and genuinely talk things over and resolve their problems. Unsolved problems only grow worse, not better.