Successful Communication in Marriage

I am an emotional, experience oriented person. I am constantly looking at how I can connect with my kids, my wife and my closest friends. This is a great personality to have, especially for what I do: ministry. The problem lies in the fact that I don’t see the details. At home, it is as if I have tunnel vision and I only see what I want to see. I’d rather be in the moment, or even sometimes in my own head, than to search out or look for responsibilities I could get done at home.

Alissa, on the other hand, seems to see everything that needs to happen. She is great at balancing, time spent with kids and making sure things get done around the house. She also works outside the home. She is doer and great at making sure we function well as a family.

Alissa’s dad, Scott, was a doer. From sun up until sundown, he was working as a postal carrier or accomplishing something around his house. I always felt so lazy when we would visit and I was just sitting down watching TV while he was out re-roofing his own house or changing the oil in my car. He could accomplish more in a day than I could in two weeks. It was amazing to watch. Alissa is just like her dad. She sees what needs to be done, almost instinctively. She doesn’t need a list, because it is all in her head. It’s almost as if she has bionic vision that scans a room and detects the disorder.

I could clean the house and miss huge piles of clothes or several dishes just because they were in a place I’m not use to them being. Alissa, however, covers every detail and seems to know where everything is all the time. She sees everything it takes to run our house smoothly and effectively. She is looking ahead while I am trying to just live in the moment. She sees the messes made, the floors needing vacuumed, kids needing to be bathed, the dinners needing to be cooked, and the events we need to attend or plan. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Understanding her dad and where she comes from, helps me communicate with her and better see the world (and our house) the way she sees it.

If you are an emotional, experiential person like me, I am not knocking us. I have recently discovered part of the reason I am the way I am is because I don’t want to miss any experience with anyone. I have a drive to be better than my father. I want to be present for my kids, my wife, and my friends. I feel like I am giving my family the best life by simply being present. Being present these days doesn’t come easy. With our need to be connected to the world, phones and social media feed that need, I’m not always great at experiencing the moment in the way I should.

We help bring balance and peace, at least sometimes, to doers. Doers bring balance to us because they have a perspective we don’t see. They also don’t allow their emotions to take over. I can get all bent out of shape because of a conversation, I just want people to love me, but then I can talk it over with Alissa and she is able to show me where I may have read to much into a statement or an action made by the other person.

What I have to do is be better at helping Alissa accomplish the tasks she sees. If I slow down enough to try to see things from her perspective, it allows us to talk out all that needs to be done and for us to finish the tasks that she sees so that she can be present in the moment with the kids and me. It allows her to experience what makes her feel good and come alive.

There are times where Alissa let’s it all go and relaxes, but then its double time from both of us to complete the tasks later. We bring balance to one another.

In order for us to get to a point where we fully understand each other, we have to take the time to listen to understand, not to respond or defend.

Frustrations in our relationship usually stem from how we communicate. Sometimes, we can be saying the exact same thing, but in two entirely different ways. We butt heads trying to get the other to see the our side, only to later realize we were saying the same thing.

My insecurities make our communication ugly, because I constantly get defensive. Most of the time, I can’t help becoming defensive. I can’t figure out what it is inside of me that builds the wall, brick by brick, whenever Alissa doesn’t see things the way I do.

So you have two people saying the exact same thing in two different ways and one of them is becoming overly defensive because his insecurities and emotions take over.

There is a technique I once read about and have heard others talk about called, “active listening.” This is where you listen, understand, and then repeat back to the person what they said in your own words. You do this, not to build a five step resolution to their problem, but just to show them you were listening and are trying to understand their perspective. There are a lot of hurting and lonely people in marriages where the “fixer” just wants to make the problem go away. Which, if you think about it, is pretty presumptuous and arrogant to think we can fix it.

I’ve come to realize, Alissa doesn’t need me to fix her or her problems. She needs me to feel what she feels and process through her emotions with her. That is active listening. Putting myself in her shoes and exploring how it would make me feel. Not fixing it. Just sitting in the moment.

We are living our best life now, because we are beginning to understand each others perspective. As Alissa says, “we will never fully know one another, because we are always changing.” We have a lifetime to fully discover one another.

Listening to understand takes knowing where each other comes from and how we were raised. Listening effectively takes great perspective and time to cultivate. To be great at anything, we have to be willing to put in the work.

The way to effective communication is to stop and listen. It sounds incredibly simple, but is increasingly difficult in a culture where we need to constantly be busy. I can only truly listen if I am doing so in order to understand, rather than listening to build my defense. My insecurities have to be made to realize, complaints are not a reflection of how anyone feels about me, but are usually just a need for clarification.

Listening to understand brings clarity. Listening to understand and being aware of where each other comes from brings you closer to one another.

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