Marriage is to be lifelong. This will already spark off all kinds of wisecracks:
“‘I am’ is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English Language. Could it be that ‘I do’ is the longest sentence?”
“Marriage is not a word. It is a sentence–a life sentence.”
“By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Socrates
But marriage can be lifelong and lively.
“A first-rate marriage is like a first-rate hotel: expensive, but worth it.” Mignon McLaughlin
A first- rate marriage is enjoyed by a couple who make daily choices to communicate constructively. A communicative culture is a great gift in a marriage. No one walks on eggshells; both feel relaxed and speak respectfully to each other. “Culture has longevity,” Ps Benny Ho, Senior Pastor of FCC Perth, said. Once that communicative culture is created, your children will follow suit.
What kind of communicative culture do we want to create?
GIVE -AND -TAKE
An article in PREPARE (pre-marital program) writes that GIVE- AND -TAKE relationships make enriched marriages. If you have an encouraging word, say it; if you are the receiver of that encouraging word, return the word with an encouraging word. That way, life flows like the waves that roll back and forth in the sea.
This ebb and flow is the result of mirror neurons in your brain. A mirror neuron is a brain cell that fires when one person acts and the other follows. Couples mirror each other frequently. It’s God’s way of helping couples to enjoy mutual harmony and involvement. When adequately mirrored, you develop well in your self image and social image. You discover yourself through the eyes of your spouse.
Be the proactive one in constructive communication:
“The report you wrote for the company was great! So glad you got your promotion because of that. What did your boss say?”
You target your compliment to a specific act (eg the report); you express your feeling of happiness (eg so glad) and you ask an open question for the other person to respond. You are the GIVER. As the TAKER, you encourage the communication by responding to the compliment and to the open question.
Make time for this sort of give- and- take communication. For some couples, mealtimes are good opportunities; for others, car rides are great conversation openers. There is no hard and fast rules. Make it easy for each other to be involved in such conversation – be inquisitive and be genuinely interested to add to the conversation.
Conversation topics may vary. You can even turn a gloomy statement into a possibly encouraging one:
“ I am so tired today after that long meeting with the boss. I may need to rest for an hour. Could you fetch the kids from school?”
“ Yes, don’t worry about it. I will fetch the kids and you rest well. You had a long day.”
This is a request for help and when met with an encouraging response, it will bring comfort and a willingness to do something in return in the future.
An enriching conversation can also be one that you air your hopes and dreams. Not everything we talk about needs a resolution as not everything is a problem. In Peter Scazzero’s emotional thermometer, you can share your world of imagination by talking about your hopes and wishes.
Hopes and wishes (“I hope that.. I wish that…)
“ When I was younger, I hope that I could own a …..”
“I wish I am an eagle and I could …..”
“ I wish I can turn you into Spiderman and you could then …..”
Play is important in a marriage. Don’t forget to play. Loosen up and enjoy each other’s company.
GIVE- AND -GIVE
The same article in PREPARE (pre-marital program) also wrote that a GIVE-AND-GIVE relationship, where one gives without expecting to receive immediately, enhances the marriage.
There are times when such communication is needed for eg in illnesses, in crisis, in challenging stages of the marriage etc. The giver needs to dig deep into internal resources built up for these moments and to “talk only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph 4:29, the Bible). In the month of MAY, I will blog on SELF CARE which will help you harness inner strength to cope with the challenges of life.
The hope of give-and-give communication is that there will be a turnaround on the part of your spouse and you will be rewarded for your fine effort of giving without expecting instant results.
Peter Scazzero’s emotional thermometer again is a great help in increasing constructive communication.
New information (My new information is …)
Make it a habit to share NEW INFORMATION. The good thing about it is there’s no need for an exchange if your spouse doesn’t want to contribute at that time. You can narrate and describe your new information as long as you see that your spouse is interested in your sharing.
I was once in a car with a friend and her husband. She read the news of the day aloud to him while he was driving. That’s great communication! Another man I know would gather all kinds of new information when he was overseas. He would then return home to his wife with new stories to tell. I must say that through my 36 years of marriage, I got a lot of local and international news through my husband who is an avid reader and listener of news.
Be generous in your communication. Sometimes you give and take; at other times you give and give.
“Give, but give until it hurts.” Mother Teresa
“The most truly generous persons are those who give silently without hope of praise or reward.” Carol Ryrie Brink
Of course communication is not just verbal. It’s non -verbal as well. Look out for my next blog on constructive non-verbal communication in your marriage.