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?