By Dr. Lisa Dunne.
“God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us.” 2 Peter 1:3
MARRIAGE: REBUILDING YOUR FOUNDATION OF COMMUNICATION
Communication, as one author puts it, is like plumbing. We only notice it when something goes wrong. Communication that seems perfectly plain to one person can have a totally different meaning to another person, as evidenced in these headlines:
“Cat Catches Fire Just in Time”
“20-Year Friendship Ends at the Altar”
Good communication requires a recognition of our differences, a realization that words and actions might not mean the same thing to one person as they do to another. We are different.
When you first married your spouse, were you fond of his/her differences? Sure. It was cute that she was constantly losing her keys or that he always left the cap off the toothpaste (okay, maybe that wasn’t cute). Later in life, though, those differences can become a source of extraordinary frustration if we don’t humbly allow God to sharpen us through them.
When I first met my husband Adrian, I loved the slower pace of his culture, the laid-back, accepting nature, and the lack of hyper-emotionalism generally displayed in the British. Later, that became a source of frustration as I wanted his stride and style to match mine.
It’s important to note, though, that we different are by design: When we look at the biology of the brain, we see that each of the brain’s four lobes differs between men and women in size, in neuro-chemical makeup, and in function. This doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to understand each other, it just means that understanding may not come naturally. Often, instead of finding joy in the diversity, we allow differences to become annoyances.
For example, Adrian is far more patient than I, a quality that keeps us from rushing into decisions too quickly. I tend to be driven and visionary, which means I am sometimes looking so far ahead down the road to the future that I miss the beauty of the present. Adrian once observed that together, we are a fully-functioning car; I am the gas and he is the brakes. Both components are necessary for the team to survive and to thrive.
A healthy team is “organized so that the strengths of some compensate for the weaknesses of others” (Covey, p. 153). In a healthy marriage, as in a healthy organization, we recognize that our differences as individuals actually make us stronger as a team.
In addition to differences, some of our communication challenges stem from our own view of self. How we view ourselves is how we view others: Research on critical communication, that is, communication intended to wound or destroy, demonstrates a common thread: critical words usually originate from a critical spirit, people who are highly critical of themselves. People with LSE (low self esteem) are more likely to disapprove of others, to expect to be rejected by others, and to feel threatened by people they view as superior.
The reverse is also true. If we are to love our spouse fully, we must have a sense of inherent value and worth for our own selves first. As our 6 year old reminded me one day when I was frustrated with myself for not meeting a deadline, “Mommy, you are a holy princess of God.”
If we are to succeed in marriage, we must see ourselves through the light and love of Christ, and we must commit to the process of ongoing growth and development that is birthed of two diverse personalities being joined and jointed together.