Why Communication Is NOT the Key to Your Marriage

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Someone who only speaks German cannot communicate with someone who only speaks Spanish. Each needs to learn the other's vocabulary. Communication can only happen when there is mutual understanding. Communication is not the key to marriage.  

Mutual understanding is the key to a successful marriage.

Based on Ephesians 5:33, wives speak the language of love and husbands speak the language of respect. When the husband speaks love to his wife and the wife speaks respect to her husband, they understand each other and communication follows.

Why love for her and respect for him?

In Ephesians 5:33, husbands are commanded to love their wives and wives are commanded to respect their husbands. The assumption is that a wife needs love. Since she needs love she is certain to hear words of love and negatively react to unloving tones.

Likewise, a husband needs respect.  Since he needs respect he is certain to respond to words of respect and be less than positive when hearing disrespectful expressions.

In my marriage, as I speak Sarah’s mother tongue of love and Sarah speaks my mother tongue of respect, there is mutual understanding and our communication is successful.

Like many, for years we had been like the German and Spaniard, speaking our different languages. In our attempt to communicate, we got louder.

But as we learned each other’s vocabulary, amazing things happened.  

We experienced mutual understanding.

In my book, The Language of Love & Respect, I tell of an FBI agent who confided in me that the amount of time he spent on his job was causing his wife to complain and question him even though he actually thought he was balancing things “pretty well.” He would get defensive and lash back at her, saying he was trying his best to do a good job and he didn’t appreciate her questioning.

They would slip onto the Crazy Cycle from time to time because he heard her questioning the manner in which he tried to do his best at work, and he felt disrespected. His wife, however, was simply feeling unloved because she saw him spending inordinate amounts of time away from her.

His letter continues,

 “This got us into the Crazy Cycle with a lather! Not until we discussed it in the light of our Love and Respect study did we truly understand the feelings of each other on this issue. While I couldn’t do much to readjust my schedule (as a matter of fact, it soon got even more demanding time-wise), what changed for us was the ability to understand each other’s intentions and needs, and with that understanding came a release from the tension that blocked our communication.”

With mutual understanding came better communication!

The FBI agent and his wife made two crucial choices:

  1. She chose not to interpret his long hours as unloving abandonment, and she learned to trust that he was making it a high priority to arrive home as early as possible considering the unpredictability and high demands of his job.

  2. He chose to accept her occasional words of admonition reminding him to prioritize family and home time because he could see she was consciously speaking words of affirmation and respect for his position and decision-making responsibilities.

He adds, “When the light bulb turned on...we literally laughed with relief at having our impasse defined so clearly."

Here is what you can do right now to create mutual understanding:

  1. As a husband, when you observe your wife react negatively, ask, "Am I coming across in an unloving way?"

  2. As a wife, when you see your husband shutting down, ask, "Am I coming across in a disrespectful way?"

Though asking this question may be unfair to you, your spouse will feel understood and soften, and seek to be more understanding.

Communication is underway!

This week, speak these words and watch what happens.

-Dr. E