MARRIAGE – Communicate Constructively

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.

Image result for thermometer    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.

Woman pushing a stroller passes mural that reads "The best gift is you"

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.

   Image result for thermometer     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.

MARRIAGE – Cultivating Compatibility

A strong marriage is created when couples are more compatible in personality. Together they can ignite enthusiasm and energy more easily.  I have watched such couples at work and the energy is contagious.  Nine of my friends from Singapore travelled to Margaret River in the Easter weekend with us.  Henry, my husband, and I are not natural photographers or posers for shots.  But at the suggestion of a few couples in the trip who are energetic and fun-loving, we found ourselves lightening up and we ended up outbeating one another at the most fancy shot.

 

While compatibility is preferable at the pairing stage of every partner as it gives the relationship a good headstart, not every couple starts off that way.  People marry for all kinds of reasons.   Couples who quarrel a lot and experience much tension probably have compatibility issues to varying degrees.

The good news is that compatibility can be cultivated.  But the question I would ask you is, ‘Are you prepared to make changes?’

According to a PREPARE ( a pre-marital program) article, stronger couples  have healthy personal worth and self esteem.  The better and healthier your personal worth and self esteem, the more compatible you are.

What story of yourself circles in your head everyday?

making_story

For some of you, the stories are almost always negative – “ I am sloppy”; “I am lazy”;  “I am always late”; “I can’t do anything”…  Some of these stories are told to you by significant others in your lives and they are hard to shake off. The brain is wired to remember the bad  and the ugly quicker than the good.  These negative stories you tell yourself come automatically  and they erode your self-confidence and your energy.

I invite you to make some changes in the stories in your head so that you can enjoy more enthusiasm and energy in yourself and in your relationship.   The Bible in Song of Songs 2:15  says, “Catch the little foxes that are spoiling the vine.”  Negative stories in your head can change the state of your marriage.  If you constantly think “you can’t do anything,” you produce an atmosphere of inertia, insecurity, inferiority.   This is not a healthy atmosphere to raise a strong family.

Tell yourself it’s not 100% true that “you can’t do anything.”  List down 10 things you can do and have been doing well.  By the end of this activity, I hope that you have a better story about yourself.

10things_bigweblogo

Others of you may have more positive scripts.  People think positively of you and you think positively of yourself.  You are the emotionally well-endowed one!  Perhaps in your marriage, you can act the part of the encourager so that your partner feels nourished and empowered to make changes that would bring about a stronger self and marriage.  Do not assume the superior position to blame or criticise.  They can kill the strength of the marriage and the confidence of your partner.

View marriage positively.  Marriage can be seen as a greenhouse where you are both being nurtured to deal with the issues in life.  You don’t always have everything together.  That’s why you are a pair so that you can complement each other – your strength offsets the other’s weaknesses; your strength is combined with the other to become a stronger team.

CHANGE  for a stronger YOU.  CHANGE for a stronger marriage! Continue to cultivate compatibility all throughout your marriage.

TAAQ8318

BUILDING A STRONG MARRIAGE

I just gave a talk on ‘Building Strong Marriages’ and am inspired to blog on MARRIAGE for the month of April.

Image result for Winnie the Pooh + if you live to be a hundredI like to be able to say the same as Winnie the Pooh in my marriage – to have a long and strong marriage with my husband to the very last day of our lives.

How do we have a strong marriage?

Olson and Olson did a survey of 21,501 married couples in the year 2000 and found that happy couples have BETTER

  • compatibility in personality
  • communication
  • conflict resolution skills

To have a strong marriage, get better at cultivating compatibility, communicating positively and constructively solving problems.

Cultivating compatibility

Enthusiasm 

Energy

A strong marriage has enthusiasm and energy, an article in PREPARE (a premarital program)  wrote.

To Norman Vincent Peale, enthusiasm “makes the difference between success and failure, is the spice of life, is the mental ventilation, it  cancels fear and worry and tension, builds power under your difficulties…. Enthusiasm makes all the difference.”

To be enthusiastic is to be full of God, to be energised and inspired by God.  Enthusiasm is attractive and it exudes energy.  People love to be around enthusiastic people as their moods are altered when they are in a highly charged positive atmosphere.

You can use Peter Scazzero’s emotional thermometer to practise being enthusiastic .  Enthusiasm is heightened when there is appreciation and excitement .

Image result for thermometer Appreciation or excitement (I am excited that… I appreciate)

Practise a broad range of phrases that will bring about enthusiasm and  energy

  • I like this about you (whatever ‘this’  may be)
  • I love it when you come home with a happy face
  • I appreciate it when you helped me to buy the groceries this week
  • I am excited that you have planned a movie day for the family
  • I am so looking forward to our new sofa etc

The greatest joy of connecting with our significant other is to be ENCOURAGED in the attachment.  Paul the Apostle wrote in Col 2:2 that the main goal in relationships, including marriage, is to be knit together by strong ties of love and to be encouraged in heart and united in love.

When we are encouraging, we will increase compatibility.  Don’t depreciate marriage life by counting things that are wrong. Don’t be a fault finder and have stinking thinking.  You will create a negative atmosphere and no one likes being at home.   Get better at positive talk and your compatibility level will rise.