Is Communication Really the Key to Marriage?
According to a survey conducted by Focus on the Family for the Love and Respect Ministries the answer certainly would appear to be yes. Respondents were asked, “What was (and possibly still is) the biggest problem affecting your marriage?” For men and women the biggest problem by far was lack of communication. These findings coincide with our own at Love and Respect Ministries. As we study letters and e-mails from thousands of spouses, the common thread that runs through almost all of them is that, in one way or another, the major challenge for the typical couple is communication.
It would be easy enough, then, to deduce that communication is the key to marriage, but I don’t agree. To say that communication is the key to marriage is to assume that both spouses speak the same language.
After more than three decades of pastoring, counseling married couples, and conducting marriage conferences, I have learned that, in fact, the wife speaks a “love language” and the husband speaks a “respect language.” They don’t realize this, of course, but because he is speaking one kind of language (respect) and she is speaking another (love), there is little or no understanding and little or no communication.
As I have shared in Love & Respect, my wife, Sarah, and I learned that we speak different languages through practical personal experience. While we had a good marriage, we still struggled with irritation, anger, and plenty of hurt feelings. Often we just couldn’t communicate, but we didn’t know why. A lot of the time it seemed that indeed we were speaking different languages, but we had no idea what to do about it. It was frustrating—and embarrassing. After all, I was a pastor and should have had the answer to something like this!
Fortunately, I finally found the answer—or, more correctly, God revealed it to me—in a single passage of Scripture, Ephesians 5:33: “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (NIV).
As I pondered God’s clear command (not suggestion) in Ephesians 5:33, I uncovered what I came to call the “Love and Respect Connection.” I am commanded to love Sarah because she needs love; in fact, she “speaks love.” Love is the language she understands. But when I speak to her in unloving ways, her tendency is to react with disrespectful words. Sarah is commanded to respect me because I need respect; in fact, I “speak respect.” Respect is the language I understand. But when she speaks to me in disrespectful ways, my tendency is to react with unloving words. Round and round we would go in a Crazy Cycle, each saying things that were the exact opposite of what was needed!
In the next days and weeks, I will explain in more detail how Ephesians 5:33 gave Sarah and me what we needed to start speaking each other’s language. Stay tuned to share in our discovery of how to go beyond communication to mutual understanding and connection!
Excerpts taken from the Introduction to The Language of Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.