Friday, February 22, 2013

The Communication Factor: 5 Steps to Better Conversation Between You and Your Spouse

Rick and I have been married 25 wonderful years this year, but I would have to say that our early days of marriage were the most difficult.  For one, I was not prepared as a cop's wife for the break-down of communication within our relationship.  Typical, by the way.

We went from two fun-loving, talk-about-everything people, to almost virtual shutdown.  There were no books or articles to explain to me the switch from my fun, easy-going guy to a more serious, suspicious-of-everyone man who took on a silent-is-golden philosophy.

Yet, what I've learned over the years is, for one, the officer has dealt with folks and their situations all shift long.  They're tired physically, and are emotionally spent.  Often they've seen or experienced things that people should never see in an entire lifetime, much less within a 12 hour period.  The stress levels of high to low to high again, take a toll.  So, when our spouse comes home, his need for immediate meaningful conversation simply is virtually non-existent.  Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

Often the officer will park themselves in front of the television or computer to aimlessly de-fragment.  Even a simple question of "Where do you want to eat tonight?" can be too much to ask.

It's at this point the communication line between between husband and wife begins to break down - he wanting to soak in solitude, and she wanting to reconnect after hours of being apart.  Throw into that mix a few little people needing the immediate attention of their parents, and voila!, you have a recipe for total meltdown.

So what do we do?  How do we keep the lines of communication open without creating more conflict? 

1.  Listen more, speak less.  This was a hard one for me to learn.  I felt the need to reconnect and to share my day.  It was my expectation that he should share as well.  Not happening.  What I didn't realize was that he needed a little space; some time to unwind, get out of his uniform, take a shower, have time to mentally change hats from officer to husband/father, etc.

Understand that he will open up when he's ready, but there are going to be things that, by the nature of the beast, your spouse will not be able to reveal to you.  He probably will not give you the play by play on everything that happened at work; some things for legality, confidentiality and sensitivity sake, will not be able to be shared.  Be ready to listen for those moments when he does want to open up about something, and listen attentively.  There will be times when he needs a sounding board.  At those moments, thank him for his openness.  It will reinforce his trust in you and display your willingness and desire to be there for him.

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." James 1:19

2.    Be open and honest.  When something is not quite right in your relationship, be honest enough to share those thoughts with your spouse.  Remember, however, the key to this is love.  Be mindful of your tone and body language.  Find a time when the two of you can sit down uninterrupted and share your heart.  Be honest enough to tell him your fears.  Let him know (kindly) when you are feeling unloved or need something specific within the relationship. A loving husband is going to respect your feelings and try to find a way to "fix" whatever is wrong.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14

"Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them." Colossians 4:6

3.  Take note of your spouse's body language.  Cops are trained on this, so why not cop's wives. ;)  Recognizing body language is key in any relationship.  Crossed arms could mean defensiveness or feeling threatened in some way.  Lack of eye contact could be from disinterest in the conversation, a difficult subject matter, or even feelings of shame.  A loud tone could mean they're just trying to get their point across or strong emotion towards a subject matter.  Having a back to you could indicate that they're not ready to discuss the subject matter any further.  It may be time to drop it for now, and pick it up later at a more God-ordained moment.

As an example, I could always tell when I struck a nerve in my husband - a reaction I was working towards.  Not stopping there, I would push on to make my point, regardless of his feelings.  That is not good communication, but rather selfishness and a prideful heart, not to mention disrespect towards the wonderful husband God gave me.

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

4.  Stick to the point and be specific.  Don't hunt rabbits in other towns.  If the problem is something simple as a task around the house that hasn't been done yet, then stick to that subject, and ask if there is a way you can help him accomplish the project.  Don't drag up other things "he's failed to do" into the conversation.  Leave the past in the past.  It has no place in the present.

If a matter of discussion has to do with a lack of affection towards you, then help him by offering specific ways he can show his love.  We all receive and perceive love in different ways.  He may not realize that your love language (the way you perceive love) is through words of affirmation, physical touch or receiving gifts.  Help him out! :)

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." 1 Corinthians 13:1  

5.  Keep your emotions in check.  I hear more comments about women and drama.  Though I hate to admit it, there's a lot of truth to those two things.  We just naturally tend to bend towards the emotional side.  When we are feeling unloved, unappreciated or our relationship threatened in any way, it's easy to allow our emotions to get the best of us.  Unfortunately, men don't know what to do with all that raw expression.  They tend to listen and respond better if we can keep our emotions in check.  I'm not saying you have to be cold and calloused, or that there is not a time to cry.  What I am saying is begging and pleading while tears are streaming down your face, is generally not as effective as a woman who can hold a conversation without all the emotional overspill.

"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 31:11

After 25 years of marriage, Rick and I have very little conflict.  By now, he knows that I am always right (JUST KIDDING!!).  No, in all seriousness, we've learned over the years to respect one another's opinions and ideas, and to accept each other's God-given differences.

Marriage can thrive without much conflict as long as both people are willing to work towards that goal.  I pray that as you journey through your marriage, that it will become one of peace and an unending source of joy.

Blessings to you!
Kristi

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the advice. Thank you for sharing what you have learned so that others may benefit.

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  2. You are so welcome! Hope it helps, even if in a small way. :)

    ReplyDelete