GOOD COMMUNICATION CAN HELP SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In 1778, Robert Barron patented a double-acting, lever-tumbler lock that remains the basis of the modern key lock. His design called for the use of a single key capable of raising the lock's two tumblers together.

SIMILARLY, a successful marriage depends on a husband and wife working together in unison. To unlock and experience the precious joys of a good marriage, one essential is wholesome communication.

What Wholesome Communication Involves

What does wholesome communication involve? One dictionary defines communication as "the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs." Communication therefore involves a sharing of sentiments and ideas. And wholesome communication entails things that are upbuilding, refreshing, virtuous, praiseworthy, and consoling.—Ephesians 4:29-32; Philippians 4:8.

Wholesome communication is made possible by confidence, trust, and mutual understanding. These qualities result when marriage is viewed as a lifelong relationship and there is genuine commitment to make it work. Commenting on such a relationship, 18th-century essayist Joseph Addison wrote: "Two persons who have chosen each other out of all the species, with the design to be each other's mutual comfort and entertainment, have, in that action, bound themselves to be good-humored, affable, discreet, forgiving, patient, and joyful, with respect to each other's frailties and perfections, to the end of their lives." How happy such a union is! And these jewellike qualities can adorn your marriage, for they can be yours through wholesome communication.

Obstacles to Wholesome Communication

Most couples approach marriage with optimism, even euphoria. For many, however, the euphoria soon evaporates, and the optimism fades. Assuredness may be replaced by a bitter mixture of frustration, anger, hostility, even strong dislike. The marriage then becomes a situation of mere endurance "till death do us part." To improve or sustain the wholesome communication necessary for a good marriage, then, certain obstacles must be overcome.

A real obstacle to wholesome communication can be fear of how a marriage mate would react to certain information or expressed desire. For instance, fear of rejection may arise after one learns that a serious personal disability is developing. How does one explain to a mate that an upcoming procedure will drastically alter one's appearance or ability to function? In such cases, honest communication and thoughtful planning for the future are needed as never before. Verbal assurances of continuing love, along with frequent acts of tenderness, would communicate a personal interest that would help to promote a truly satisfying marriage. In marriage this proverb should find its richest expression: "A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress."—Proverbs 17:17.

Resentment is another obstacle to wholesome communication. It has fittingly been said that a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. To fit that description, a married couple would make every effort to follow the apostle Paul's practical advice: "Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state." (Ephesians 4:26) Applying this counsel instead of nursing anger or resentment certainly calls for humble communication. Partners in a good marriage do not persistently succumb to anger, quarreling, and holding a grudge. (Proverbs 30:33) They seek to imitate God, who does not harbor resentment. (Jeremiah 3:12) Indeed, they forgive each other from the heart.—Matthew 18:35.

A definite obstacle to any kind of communication is the silent treatment. This may involve glum expressions, heavy sighs, robotlike actions, and a one-sided embargo on speech. A marriage mate who acts in this way is communicating some form of displeasure. But vocalizing personal feelings in a frank and winning manner does much more to improve a marriage than does remaining silent and sullen.

Failure to listen well or at all when a mate speaks is another hurdle that must be overcome for good communication in the close quarters of marriage. Perhaps we are too tired or just too busy to muster the mental and emotional energy needed to listen to each other carefully. Arguments may erupt over misunderstood arrangements that one mate thought were clearly spelled out but that the other insists are being heard for the first time. Obviously, poor communication is responsible for such difficulties.

How to Promote Wholesome Communication

How important it is to take time for loving, wholesome communication! Some spend so much time in front of the TV watching other people's lives that they have little time for their own. Hence, turning off the television set is often a necessary step toward wholesome communication.

Couple conversing over a cup of coffee Turning off the TV allows more time for communication

Just as there is a right time to speak, however, there is a time to keep quiet. The wise man said: "For everything there is an appointed time, . . . a time to keep quiet and a time to speak." Indeed, there are also proper words to say. "A word at its right time is O how good!" notes a proverb. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7; Proverbs 15:23) So determine when it is the best time to make your point or to express your heart's concern. Ask yourself: 'Is my mate tired or in a relaxed and refreshed frame of mind? Is the subject that I wish to broach potentially explosive? What did my spouse object to in my choice of words when we last spoke about this matter?'

It is good to remember that people react best when they can see how cooperating or complying with a request would benefit them. If some stress has developed between mates, one of them might be inclined to say, "Something has been bothering me, and we are going to get it straightened out right now!" Of course, exact wording would depend on the circumstances, but it may be better to say something like this, "Dear, I have been thinking about the matter we discussed earlier and how things might be worked out." Which approach would your mate be more likely to appreciate?

Yes, how something is said is very important. The apostle Paul wrote: "Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6) Endeavor to be gracious in your tone of voice and choice of words. Bear in mind that "pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones."—Proverbs 16:24.

For some couples, working together on projects at home can provide a fine atmosphere for communication. Such cooperation can promote a sense of sharing while affording time for wholesome conversation. For other marriage mates, a quiet time alone together without trying to do some work is better and is more conducive to wholesome communication.

Much can often be learned by taking note of how compatible marriage mates communicate with each other. What has made them that way? Most likely, their harmony and the ease with which they communicate have resulted from personal effort, patience, and loving consideration. They themselves apparently had a lot to learn, for good marriages do not happen automatically. How important it is, then, to consider your partner's viewpoint, to appreciate his or her needs, and to defuse potentially stressful situations with a discreet word. (Proverbs 16:23) If you are married, then, work at being pleasant to live with and easy to apologize to. That will go a long way in making your marriage a good one.

Jehovah God wants people to enjoy happy, lasting marriages. (Genesis 2:18, 21) But the key lies in the hands of those united in wedlock. It takes two loving people who really work together to unlock the door to a successful marriage by mastering the art of wholesome communication.

Older couple and their wedding pictures

Wholesome communication helps bind hearts in lasting

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