Every relationship brings certain challenges and expectations. None of these relationships have higher expectations and needs than the marriage relationship. With divorce rates hovering around 50% it is clear that many marriages face problems they consider to be insurmountable. All marriages face certain challenges. It is part of the process of two people becoming one.
People will occasionally inquire about what I consider to be the most common marriage problem. When talking with couples about their struggles, the three most common topics seem to be money, sex and parenting. However, these issues are usually only symptoms of a larger problem. In my opinion, the number one problem in marriage is communication. Communication affects every area of your marriage and usually when you are having a difficulty, it is because there is something lacking in your communication. We often limit our view of communication to conversation or talking and that may be the biggest part of the problem. Here are a few things to consider about communication – especially in marriage.
You Are Always Communicating
This is an extremely important concept to know about communication, but especially communication in marriage. Everything we do, not just everything we say, is communicating a message. The gifts we buy communicate whether we have been paying attention. The shows we watch signal the things we value. Our response to a question. Our approach to romance. Every single thing we do sends a message to our spouse and if we are not careful, we will be communicating things we did not intend to communicate.
An eye roll can speak more words than a novel. Slouched shoulders give answers that don’t have to be uttered. A hug can send one message while a huff sends a completely different message. The slightest glance or gesture in body language can send an enormous message, sometimes intended and sometimes not. I will share with you a simple personal example. My wife is not a big snuggler but often while we are in bed, she will touch my foot with her foot. No words are spoken. It is her simple way of saying “I am glad you are here beside me” without ever saying a word. Body language tells a story.
Every single choice we make tells a story and no one is reading that story any more closely than your spouse. Choosing to watch the game instead of spending time with her. Going shopping with the girls instead of taking an interest in his hobby. Where we spend our surplus money. Who we choose as friends. What clothes we wear and the food we choose to eat send messages every single time. Have you ever considered what message your choices are sending to your spouse?
This is a vital part of communication and the one where most of us could use improvement. Listening is more than waiting for your turn to speak. Most of us can be polite and be silent while others are speaking, but listening requires us to actively pay attention to what the other person is sharing and process it for the benefit of the relationship. There is a constant need for listening in marriage, not just in conflict or decision making. It makes a difference in every conversation we have with our spouse. Listening helps us know their dreams, desires, wants as well as their pain, hurts and frustrations. When we listen, our response will improve.
Words matter. The person that first uttered “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” most likely said that to mask the pain caused by hurtful words. The words we use matter. The tone with which we say those words matters. The body language we use while saying those words matters. Words are the most obvious form of communication and if they are obvious then they must be handled with care. We cannot expect to say things and then get a pass as “only joking” or expect “I’m sorry” to remove it from our spouse’s mind. Choose your words carefully. They are important.
Your marriage may be experiencing the strain of poor communication. You may think that your marriage is struggling because of issues with your money, parenting, sex or some other issue, when in reality it is most likely a communication problem. Work to improve each area of communication and most likely you will see improvement in the symptom areas.