– Have you ever found yourself waiting for your spouse to finish speaking so you can offer your rebuttal? Do you sometimes hold back because you think your spouse won’t understand? Why is communication in marriage so difficult? In this video my husband and I will share a conflict that went sideways and then we show how different our outcome would have been, had we learned these valuable communication techniques earlier in our marriage. We are all wired differently, especially when it comes to communication. One processes out loud, and one needs time to process internally. Some think carefully before speaking and others can’t think without speaking. One might be a thinker and one is a feeler. One shares all the details and one just gives the major points.
– And we wonder why it takes work to communicate with each other. The Bible actually has some very practical advice for communication. These words were written by James, the brother of Jesus and they provide a model for communication for followers of Jesus. Listen to what James says. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” But slow to speak or become angry doesn’t mean to shut down and not share any of our frustrations or hurts. That’s not what this verse is saying.
– I know, I know, I’ve learned. What it does mean is to take a pause whenever you’re becoming angry or frustrated in a conversation so that your words can be heard and understood. I thought holding back my words was the loving thing to do. But James says to be slow to speak. He doesn’t say don’t speak at all. Shutting down in an effort not to upset the applecart, only delays the conflict. And sometimes that delay can result in an undercurrent of tension. Also in times of stress, we revert to what we know best. Like being defensive, interrupting, not being a good listener. So putting this advice from James into practice in our communication involves breaking bad habits like these and making new habits. We’ll share more on that later.
– Now, I’m a detailed communicator which can be exhausting sometimes. Especially when I repeat the details. And Danielle communicates at a much higher level, which can be frustrating trying to figure out what she’s actually saying sometimes. We had to learn to be patient with each other’s styles. She had to learn to listen to my details and I had to learn to ask her clarifying questions.
– So what does it practically look like to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry?
– Here are three things that we’ve learned to help communicate better. The first is to express empathy. Now I thought I understood empathy but two years ago, I saw a short video and a light bulb went on. If you want to see the video that has such a radical impact on my view of empathy, then go to YouTube and search “Brené Brown on Empathy” And you’ll see a two and a half minute cartoonish video appear. This short simple video provides the best picture I’ve seen on how sympathy and empathy are different. Now it made me realize that I’ve viewed them the same. Brené Brown says “empathy is feeling with people.” Until a couple of years ago, Danielle would tell me something she was struggling with and needed me to be empathetic. But instead, I just tried to make her feel better by silver lining the situation. I wasn’t feeling with her. I also learned, that I did not have to agree with her perspective to understand why she felt the way she did. For example, she can tell me I ignored her and then I can ask her why she felt ignored. And after hearing her perspective, I can still believe that I did not ignore her but I can also understand why she felt ignored. Understanding our spouse’s perspective is a form of empathy.
– This shifted our marriage so radically that now when I’m hurt, Russ can empathize with me over my hurt. Before he would want to fix it by being Mr positive, which felt pretty dismissive. The next thing we’ve learned for communication is number two, ask curious questions. We’ve made it a habit to have an intentional conversation each week that we call our weekly check-in. It’s a time to discuss our schedules for the week, share our future hopes and dreams but also a time to ask each other curious questions. Including the question, “have I done or said anything to frustrate or hurt you this past week?”
– Now it may sound strange to schedule a meeting with your spouse but for us planning for time like this has helped us to prepare our hearts and hear each other. And it can be hard to really hear each other in the heat of the moment when conflict arises.
– So true.
– This exercise of checking in with each other every week has helped us stay connected to each other. And it has resulted in us feeling even closer than before. Now the third thing that helps us communicate better is practicing active listening. How can you be emotionally safe enough so that your partner feels heard and understood? The key, is active listening. Active listening involves both our actions and our words. In our actions, we must show our spouses that they’re a priority. This means putting the phone down when we’re listening to our spouse. And in other words, this means seeking to understand our spouses and at times repeating back what we’ve heard with a statement like “What I hear you saying is…” Now, we won’t get it right all the time. So when we don’t, we must show in our words and actions that we want to hear and understand them. This is doing what James urges us to do. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. And when we don’t listen well or seek to understand them, it’s only a matter of time before we have a conflict.
– So let’s talk about that. Having always been fearful of conflict, I could have never imagined working through conflict could bring you closer. Successful marriages don’t avoid or eliminate conflict, they learn to navigate it in a way that leads to greater intimacy rather than isolation.
– And while conflict is inevitable in marriage, we don’t need to fear it. All couples have a choice. When faced with conflict, we can turn toward each other or we can turn away from each other. And the last instruction that James provides is to be slow to anger. When you’re angry or frustrated in moments of conflict, how do you respond? Said another way, what does anger look like on you? Are you sarcastic or do you pout or are you passive-aggressive? Or are you aggressive and raise your voice?
– Do you give a look or an expression or do you have a go-to tone? Do you hide and withdraw or do you interrogate and insult each other? For me, I was the classic person who withdrew from a conversation. I pouted and I just didn’t wanna discuss it anymore. And I can have a tone that screams I’m irritated and not even hear it myself. I’m constantly surprised when Russ says, I have a tone and I think to myself, no I don’t.
– Yes you do.
– I think we all have a hard time hearing our own tone.
– And for me, I should have Proverbs 12: 16 stamped on my forehead. It says “a fool shows his annoyance at once.” And when I get angry, I have a disgusted look on my face and I speak with an intense tone. So, no wonder Danielle shuts down. Huh?. As we said, all couples will have conflict. We all will feel frustration and anger. Those things will happen naturally without effort. But it will take effort to work through conflict. One of the things has been most helpful for us has been to learn something called a “Repair Attempt.”
– Or as I like to say repair, instead of swear because you know you want to when things get heated. before we dive into this “Repair Attempt”, let me show you a picture. This is Russ and me in Miami, a few years back. We were on an all-expense-paid awards trip with Russ’s work. It sounds great, right? It looks like paradise. Well, what you don’t see in this picture is the huge fight we had two hours before this picture was taken and all the tension that was actually between us in this photo.
– Now let me set the stage. We were in Miami, Florida for a company awards trip that included spouses. And the first evening event was important to me because it gave us the opportunity to mingle with my CEO and other executives. So earlier in the day, Danielle and I coordinated our schedules and we talked about what time we should be getting ready to make sure we were at the event on time. Danielle said she needed about an hour to get ready. Shortly before her time to get ready, Danielle’s cousin from the Netherlands called. And after talking for 30 minutes, I knew we would now be at least 30 minutes late to our event. So I was very anxious. And I tried to get Danielle’s attention with a very disgusted look on my face. She immediately gave me a mean look and tried to dismiss me away with her hand. Now, I was really angry. So was she.
– We ended up going to the event on time, but neither of us could enjoy it. I did my typical shutdown and didn’t want to talk to Russ. The worst part was having to fake it among Russ’s colleagues which was exhausting. And what was going to be a great night, ended up with us feeling very distant from each other. We’ll now give you an example of how to repair using the sequence from our communication discussion by asking curious questions, practicing active listening and expressing empathy. You may be thinking, well why couldn’t you just get over it and move on? But what you’ll see is, there was more going on than the risk of us just being late to a party. It took us several conversations to finally see why this was a fight in our relationship. Here’s what our conversation ended up looking like after many months and several do-overs.
– Okay, is now a good time to talk through the fight in Miami?
– Sure. Let’s give it a try.
– All right. Give me your perspective first, if you don’t mind.
– Okay. My conversation with my cousin was lingering on to a point that I knew it was eating into my time getting ready. And when you walked into the room and appeared really angry, I wasn’t sure what was going on. I had already adjusted my time to do the express version of getting ready. And I found that you wanted to get me off the phone so abruptly and I wasn’t sure why. And so when you kept trying to push me to get off the phone is what really upset me.
– That makes a lot of sense. I can understand why you were so frustrated. I’m really sorry for the way I approached you. Can you help me understand what would have helped or if I would’ve done something differently.
– Right. And thanks for sharing that. I don’t know maybe next time you could ask me if I was gonna be ready on time. That would really help.
– That’s a great reminder to assume the best which is not what I was doing.
– Well, thank you so much for sharing that. Can you tell me your perspective of that evening?
– Sure, from my perspective, this event was really important to me. Was that once a year opportunity to get to spend some time with our executives. And remember I have a strong desire to be validated because of my childhood experiences with my dad. And I think subconsciously, I was hoping to get some recognition from my CEO. So that’s what was going on inside of me. I’d gotten, I was getting really anxious because this wasn’t just a casual event for me. And when your conversation with your cousin went 30 minutes and I thought we were going to be 30 minutes late, I knew that you knew this was important to me and I thought you were choosing to prioritize your conversation with your cousin over what was important to me.
– Oh, that makes a lot of sense. Wow. I am so sorry. I am sorry for not communicating to you that I had changed my plans and being able to get ready on time. Cause I knew the event was important to you. And I’m so sorry for that. Can you tell me what I could have done differently next time?
– Well, thank you for understanding my perspective first. But I think what might help in the future is when I get so anxious, it’s to say something like you seem really anxious is there something I can do to help?
– That’s a great suggestion. I’ll do that. And I know for both of us we wish we could have a do-over of that evening. And it sounds like if both of us would ask more questions it would really help prevent this from happening again.
– And I know that my anxiety can be really exhausting. So I appreciate you being patient with me and talking through this.
– Yeah, same. Thank you.
– Thank you
– When we repair correctly, we seek to understand each other’s perspectives and take responsibility for our role in the conflict. Not position ourselves on who’s right or who’s wrong. This has been a game changer for us. Now, some of you may be thinking, do they actually do that after every little disagreement? And no, we don’t. There are some disagreements we have that are minor and we can extend grace to one another. But there are times when a conflict creates disconnection and the longer we go without addressing the distance between us, only serves to widen the gap. A “Repair Attempt” is a tool to use when conflict has created distance. The end goal is a reconnection.
– You really only have two options, to move towards each other or to continue moving away from each other. A “Repair Attempt” provides a pathway to move back towards one another. But choosing this path does require one thing of us. We have to surrender our pride. It can be so easy to be blinded by our view of conflict. We have to choose to put our spouse’s perspective ahead of our pride. We can attest to the fact that it isn’t always easy to choose this path. But we can also say that it’s completely worth it.
– True. Conflicts aren’t fun but they are inevitable. Addressed in healthy ways, they become opportunities to bring us closer together. Remember to be empathetic. Ask clarifying questions and be an active listener. This will help you be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. Our communication style and conflict resolution skills reveal themselves during challenging conversations. “Pay attention to the tension.” Why is, if you’d like to have better communication in your marriage, check out wiveswhothrive.NET and at the very bottom of that page, be sure to leave your email address on the waiting list and I’ll reach out to you. And if you liked what you just saw, check out this next video. Remember to have an extraordinary marriage, be intentional.