Can You Hear Me Now?

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I’m happy to report that our small group marriage ministry started this month and seems to be off and running. Paul and I really enjoyed our group’s first meeting; it is enlightening and a bit humbling to be able to hear others–whether they’re just starting out or have half a lifetime’s worth of marital experience under their belts–share from their own deep wells of dearly bought wisdom. It’s a relief to lay our struggles out in front of each other and recognize their common threads. We’ve all been there.

Anyway, I had an idea. Though our meetings are, of course, confidential, I thought it might be fun to post a copy of our discussion guide questions every month. I always love reading your thoughtful comments, and I know a lot of you have much to share when it comes to relationships. So let’s try it. If you’d like to answer any of the questions, or just posit your own theories on the topic, cut loose! I’m sure there’s someone out there who will benefit from your thoughts (me, for one!)

September’s topic is Communication.

1. Take a few moments to think about your goals for your marriage in the area of communication. How would you like your communication with your spouse to change or improve? (For example: “I’d like to be more clear in expressing appreciation to my spouse”, or “I want us to be able to talk about difficult topics without arguing”, or “I wish we could spend more time just enjoying each other and talking about something besides the kids.”)

2. What do you find are the most common roadblocks to clear communication with your spouse?

3. There are three basic levels of communication. At level one, we share facts and information. At level two, we share our beliefs and opinions. At level three, we let our guard down and share our emotions, our weaknesses, and our dreams. Drawing on your own experiences, what does it take for a couple to get to level three communication on a regular basis?

4. In our hurry-up culture, we’re often racing around from sunrise to sundown to accomplish our day’s to-do list. Much of a married couple’s communication revolves around brief scraps of essential information: when the plumber is coming, what bills are due, how Johnny did on his report card. How can we build time for unrushed communication with our spouse into our daily lives?

5. According to marriage counselors Les and Leslie Parrott, one essential rule for good marital communication is “Seek to understand before being understood.” Sometimes it’s difficult, in the middle of an emotionally charged conversation, to look at the issue from your spouse’s point of view, and yet good listening skills are perhaps even more essential to effective communication that talking. What are some ways we can make sure our spouse feels understood when we’re communicating?

6. One of the biggest communication mistakes we make is to read an imagined meaning into our spouse’s words. (For example, he says: Why don’t you treat yourself to some new clothes? She hears: I hate the way you dress, it’s so frumpy. He was actually thinking: I appreciate her and I’d love to give her something nice.) How can we avoid falling into this trap?

7. What’s one concrete change that you, yourself, can make today in the way you communicate with your spouse that will have a positive effect on your relationship?

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8 responses »

  1. Okay, as a woman who is has been dating someone for four months: (read: I have the tiniest fraction of experience of you and most of your readers) we have great talks after/during doing something fun together. So I think playfulness plays into good communication. (Oh, and don’t think just because I’m a babe in the woods I don’t get how hard it is to get to a playful mode/place.)

    Oh, and did I mention I’m a sucker for a good question and answer session? I was compelled to answer. You sucked me in…

  2. At our church here, we have a Couple’s Retreat each year. The couple’s who want to participate go to a camp for a weekend about 3 hours away. We have Bible Studies and one-on-one Bible Studies with our spouse and get to know other brethren. All in all it is really a great time and good learning experience. As a matter of fact, we are leaving tomorrow to go learn some more. I’m very excited! Anyway, I tell you this to share one of the things we did last year. We both had to write a letter to each other. In the letter we had to include several things. 1-how you first met, 2-what attracted you to each other, 3-things you like about your relationship, 4-things you would like to improve upon in yourself and how you intend to go about doing that, and anything else you would like to include. Then we had to read them to each other. That was pretty neat because it really let you see what the other person thought and it’s a letter I have kept in my Bible since.

  3. Dear Husband To Be:

    I’m not sure where you are, but I won’t scold you for being late when you finally show up, I’ll just be grateful to have you in my life.

    I won’t nag at you to do all those little things around the house that you promised you’d do; I’ll be grateful for even one, as I’ve been doing them all on my own for so many years now.

    I don’t care if you want to sit on the couch and watch football all weekend, so do I!

    And if you’re a little pudgy, and a little baldy, and a little less cautious about your manners, I’m okay with that. I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking for intimacy.

    But when you do finally show up, can we take notes from Katrina and Paul? I had a great first marriage, I really did, and we did a lot of things right, but I still think I have a lot to learn from people who are doing it very well indeed!

    Thanks,
    Eliza

  4. Sarah Louise–Spot on! Doing fun things together is definitely one of the bricks in a strong foundation (and the lack of fun is one of the first signs that you’re losing that friendship element of your relationship!) Great advice!

    Tawn–That couples retreat sounds like a wonderful time! I wonder if we could incorporate something like that into our marriage ministry somewhere down the line–I bet we’d get a lot of interested people. The letters you were talking about sound very similar to some letters we had to write as an assignment during our premarital counseling; I think it would be a good exercise to repeat every so often!

    Amy–That was so awesome. Thanks for the encouragement! We have definitely been blessed by God and are in a harvest season in our relationship right now; it feels wonderful! I think part of the joy of the harvest is remembering the times of toiling under hot sun and of fending off swarms of locusts that it took to get here. I’m sure there will be more dry seasons in our future, but hopefully they’ll be less difficult now that we have the proper tools to deal with them! (And that was my first ever agricultural metaphor; how was it?)

    I am praying that you find your football buddy soon, my friend! (Go Colts!)

  5. Thank you so much for posting these questions. Good conversations to have with the spouse. We have made a goal that we spend fifteen minutes when I arrive home from school to talk and listen to each other. I try not to just vent about my day, but focus on each other. That has made a world of differece. Another piece of advice my therapist gave me was to write spending time with your spouse on your calendar with appointments, meetings, etc. It is then appropriate to get up and leave a conversation at work and say,” I have an appointment and I am almost late”. It makes the spouse feel loved also.

  6. Thanks for posting this. I wish print later and read thoroughly. Then maybe I’d come back with a comment (or I’ll just apply what I learned 🙂

  7. I think that is wonderful. It is a wonderful thing to be able to be around married couples because you get to realize that “hey, we’re not the only ones who go through that.”

  8. As did Sarah Louise, I feel a babe in the woods compared to many here…I am a newlywed of five months. However, we did spend five years together before that, so in many ways we are an “old married couple”. We frequently say, after one our marathon gab sessions that that is why we got married. It is so critical, and our good friends who are considering divorcing say they never talk when they are home alone.

    We don’t have children in the house, which I know makes every form of communication more difficult, but we are just as guilty as everyone else in that we get caught up in the day-to-day “what’s for dinner?”, “did you pay the rent?” non-conversational talking rut. But at least once a week, we have a deep, “what are our dreams?, what are we working towards? what is important in our relationship?” kind of conversation, usually into the wee hours of the morning. These usually get started spontaneously after some outside situation spurs a topic of conversation, but we also “schedule” them, in a way, by asking the other, “are you in the mood to talk?” And a gift I got at my bachelorette has actually helped a lot — it’s a deck of cards that has a lot of life’s deep (and some silly) questions on them — you draw and talk! We’ve only gotten through a few of them because we’re so quick to jump off track — but it’s a great way to start, and we’ve actually come across some questions we’d never thought to ask one another!

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