One day, when a conversation about completing chores quickly turned into a fight resulting in criticism and blame, I realized something:
Although I had no problem expressing myself or my feelings about a situation, I didn’t know how to communicate in a way that created a positive solution as a result. Often, our fights would leave in hurt feelings and awkward silences, but rarely did anything change after they occurred. After many years of feeling stuck, I decided to figure out how he gave and received information. I decided to look at myself rather than my husband to figure out how best to deal with the situations where we felt stuck.
Here are some of the things I discovered about how to communicate with my husband:
Dealing with Unmet Expectations
First, I had to get rid of unmet expectations. In marriage, each of us comes with expectations and assumptions about how the other person will or should act. But when that person doesn’t live up to our standards, it makes it more challenging to have the marriage that we desire. I had to get rid of my unmet expectations for him. It wasn’t fair I was expecting him to act and behave in a way that was contrary to who he truly was. When I could get rid of what I expected from my marriage and instead focus on what I had, it made it easier for me to communicate. As I analyzed my expectations, I realized my expectations were rooted in some idealized version of what a husband should be. Instead, I needed to figure out who he was and communicate in a way where we both left the conversation satisfied.
Stopping the Blame Game
Second, I stopped placing blame. Although in every situation, both parties have played a role in the breakdown of the marriage, I had to stop blaming him. When I can express my feelings about how I feel about a situation, rather than attacking or accusing, we both communicate more effectively. No one wants to feel as if they are responsible for every bad situation in the marriage. But both parties have contributed in some way to having an unhealthy marriage. When I come to grips with the fact that I am partly to blame, I can resolve my own issues and change my communication to achieve the result I desire.
Discovering a Solution
Third, I communicated the resolution in a way where both of us could take a role in resolving the problem. For example, if I found too much money was being spent out of our bank account or we weren’t sticking to our budget, I would communicate a solution in such a way that both of us could compromise and make the necessary changes to have a healthier financial situation. For example, I would agree to buy only what we needed if he would agree to pay attention to how much money was being withdrawn from the bank account. This way, both of us could take responsibility for being a part of the finances and come up with a solution without resulting in character assassination.
Reflecting on the Core Issue
Fourth, I asked myself what the underlying issue was behind our fights. When I discovered we were often fighting about the lack of love and acceptance we felt from each other, we were able to resolve what was really going on. For example, we might get into a fight about one of us doing more chores than the other. But what was underneath was the resentment I felt when it seemed like one person didn’t care for the other. When I understood the actual issues underneath the fight, I was able to discover a compromise that both parties could be okay with. This helped us not feel like we were spinning our wheels, never getting anywhere in our conflict, but rather we were able to communicate in such a way as to communicate each other’s need for love and acceptance instead of just a better distribution of the household responsibilities.
Meeting in the Middle
Fifth, I embrace compromise. In every situation where we come to a communication impasse, I can think of a compromise where both of us can be happy with the results. Although sometimes a situation calls for one of us to sacrifice for the other, we are able to give a little. When we are able to do that, we find we have more in common than we have differences. Marriage is a two-way relationship. Both parties must give themselves for the relationship to function at optimal capacity. It can’t be one party doing something and the other following blindly along. Both parties must feel valued and appreciated in their relationship. That means one spouse must give to the other even when they want to be selfish and focus on their personal needs or desires.
Sixth, I gave up control. I stopped trying to control things that were out of my control, and I started to work on myself because it was the one thing I could truly change. During my daily quiet time, I worked on the issues that might be hindering me from a vibrant relationship with God. I asked him to recall old hurts, wounds, disappointments, fears, or unforgiveness that might be standing in the way of a good relationship with my husband. God, in his faithfulness, brought to mind each and every situation I needed to deal with. It was a long process, but once I was done, I felt lighter, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Once I was able to let go of everything in my life holding me back from the freedom Christ wanted for me, I was able to change my communication style to communicate both what I needed but also what I wanted. Sometimes we think our communication is clear; however, what we say and what others hear can be two completely different things. I made sure I was clearly communicating both my needs and wants to my husband. I also give him ideas for how to meet those needs. When I could do these things, my relationship got much better. And I ultimately realized that the only Person who can fill my needs and wants is Christ. Instead of controlling relationships in my life, I had to learn to let them go and care more about my reaction to the situation rather than how they were behaving in this situation.
Marriage is one of the most difficult relationships you’ll ever have. But it can also be the most rewarding experience because that person knows you the best. The other person sees you both at your best and your worst. When both husband and wife can learn how to communicate in a way that communicates both their concerns with the situation and their underlying needs, wants, and desires, it can be a stilling relationship for both parties. Above all, when we function properly in a marriage, we give Christ glory because it is the mirror of Christ and his Church.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Ivanko_Brnjakovic
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.