*Are you and your husband struggling to effectively communicate with each other? Please welcome my sweet friend Erin from Momma's Living Room as she shares what she has learned about communication in 7 years of marriage.*
Growing old together. I remember considering that thought when I got married, seven years ago. My husband, Justin and I would still be together when we were 40 and 60 and 80 and 100 and beyond. We’d be together for the rest of our lives, however long that ends up being.
It was so important to me to find someone who didn’t view divorce as marriage’s escape hatch. I had grown up in a home where my parents always told me that I needed to find someone who believed that there was no way out in a marriage, that he would be just as committed to making marriage work as I was. This was in stark contrast to Britney Spears’ famous 55-hour marriage. It’s in stark contrast to our culture’s general value of marriage. I thank God that He provided someone who values marriage as much as I do.
Let me be clear, marriage isn’t easy. In our first month of marriage, we both had been fighting so much and thinking that maybe we had made a mistake. One month! We made it one month before we started questioning our decision! But in comes communication and the willingness to talk honestly. I remember that conversation where we both admitted that we were having doubts. We loved each other, but did marriage have to be this hard? In that conversation, we made a commitment to work it out. Divorce isn’t an option for us. That commitment has led to the amazing.
That commitment has led to two beautiful children, a deeper and constant love for each other, and the willingness to continue being honest. We choose to not allow our small issues to become big ones. We choose forgiveness. We choose transparency. We choose love over hate. We choose to build our life together on Jesus Christ.
Here are seven lessons on communication that I’ve learned in 7 years of marriage:
- Communication truly is key to a successful marriage. We hear constantly about how communication is key, but they aren’t lying. It’s not an overstatement. How can we fix our issues unless it’s talked about? How can we shake those seasons of fighting when we’re not willing to even discuss the core issues we’re actually fighting about? It’s not just about our fights either. How can we truly communicate our love for our spouse when we don’t actually communicate? How will they ever know how important they are to us unless we speak those words? Communication is what truly allows us to build our joined life together.
- Talk like your spouse is your best friend. This was kind of something I learned early on. I remember hanging out with another couple and the wife constantly treated her husband like he was a young child. He couldn’t do anything right, everything he did was wrong or stupid, and it just angered me. Flash forward to my own early marriage and I found myself treating my husband the same way. Is this man my best friend or is he a child? Do you ever notice how, as time goes on, we get really comfortable with our spouse and start speaking to them in such a way that it doesn’t sound like we’re talking to our best friend? We lose that simple respect towards our spouse. When we’re talking to our other friends, do we speak ABOUT our spouse in the same way we speak about our other friends? Do we talk about them with respect?
- Get out in public. We had another season into our relationship where we just couldn’t stop fighting. We’d let our emotions carry us away and not really discuss the root of the issue. I then had an idea, let’s go out and talk about this. We ended up going to Subway. In public, we tend to want to not cause a scene. We tend to speak nicely because we never know who might be listening. I remember sitting there and honestly communicating my own feelings, and listening to my husband communicate what he was feeling through this season. We were able to focus on our issues and work them out with less emotion than at home. I also want to point out that we had put a few rules into place. We were really struggling with our son, so instead of talking about what we were hating about our situation, we talked about what we loved about being parents and what we loved about being married. We focused on the positive rather than on the negatives. THAT was the key to the success about this conversation.
- Fight fair. Fighting fair means not bringing up the arguments that you had already worked through in the past. Don’t bring up the issues that you’ve already forgiven or have been forgiven of. 1 Corinthians 13 talks about how love keeps no record of when it’s been wronged. Don’t keep record. Don’t bring up the past, deal with the present, hope for the future.
- Talking is important. Listening is Necessary. It’s not just listening, it’s hearing. Talking and listening, with relationships you can’t have one without the other. You can’t have a successful relationship if you aren’t willing to talk. You can’t have a successful relationship if you’re not willing to listen. Talk. Listen. Pay attention. Make eye contact, give them your full attention, and be willing to learn something new.
- Applying is just as important to communication as listening and talking. It’s not enough to talk. It’s not enough to listen. At some point, we’re going to have to start putting things into practice in our efforts towards peace and harmony in our marriages. Applying means making changes. Applying means being sensitive to our partner’s needs and wants. Applying means that from this day forward, I’m going to make this change in an effort to love my spouse. Maybe that change means leaving the past behind. Maybe that change means picking up your dirty clothes so your spouse will feel appreciated. Maybe that change means speaking to your spouse as your best friend and not your child. Whatever it is, apply it, fight for change, fight for harmony, fight for peace.
- Constant fighting is usually a sign that something isn’t working right and we need to make changes. Maybe what isn’t working is keeping quiet about how something makes us feel. Maybe what isn’t working is a schedule. One thing I’ve learned in marriage is that marriage is always changing, why? Because we’re not the same person we were x number of years ago. My expectations of marriage seven years ago have been tweaked and reworked to be more realistic for today. Be willing to make changes. Be willing to acknowledge and get to know the “new you” as a couple.
What has marriage (yours or someone else’s) taught you about communication?