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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friends & Lovers - Chapter 2 Can we talk? part 1

Can We Talk?
How is the communication going in your marriage? Do you know and understand your spouse? Do you talk on a deep level, or do you limit your conversation to the superficial and mundane? Do you find yourself holding in what you would like to say? Are you frustrated? Are you afraid to talk about what is most important? Do you have difficulty putting your thoughts and feelings into words? Do you find that you are not even sure what your feelings and thoughts are? Is your idea of an open exchange limited to having an intense confrontation? When is the last time you had a heart-to-heart discussion with your spouse that was more than an angry scene? Are there things you have lied about to your spouse or deliberate withheld from him or her? How often do you just sit down and talk?

Let's face it: it is usually men who hold back in communication.

Our message to you is that is does not have to be this way. You can change. Your spouse can change. You can build a relationship in which you communicate openly, consistently and deeply. It will take work. It will call for humility. It will demand self-denial and persistence. In a word, it will be challenging. But the rewards of a revived and renewed marriage are infinitely greater than the effort it will take to change.

But how do we do it? What are the attitudes, actions and habits that prevent real communication? What must we overcome to open the way to a true sharing of our hearts and lives? We will discuss in detail ten of the most common problems that can and will kill communication within our marriages.

Communication Killers

1. Failure to Listen
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Communication is a two-way street. It is far more than merely saying what we want to say and getting our point across - it means listening as well.

The way to change is ... just change! Pledge that when your spouse addresses you, you will stop what you are doing, change your train of thought, look him or her in the eyes, and listen lovingly and attentively to every word. (Husbands: In preparation for this change, buy some smelling salts to use in reviving your wife when she faints from shock!)

2. Defensive Listening

He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame

( Proverbs 18:13)

Defensive "listening" is done not to hear and consider the words of our spouses, but merely to give ourselves time to prepare a response. We never really give their opinions or feelings serious consideration. We even finish our spouses' phrases for them, as if they needed our quick minds to help them make it to the end of a sentence.

The root of this problem is pride. We are defensive because we assume we are right most of the time.Have you ever stopped long enough to consider that your spouse could have a glimmer of insight? That he or she might even be right or have a better idea?

Learn how to respectfully and patiently listen to one another.

3. Disrespect of Viewpoint

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding
but delights in airing his own opinions
(Proverbs 18:2)

Many of us have the attitude that we are always right, and that we know more than everyone else, especially more than our spouses. We snap off quick answers. The main exercise we get is by jumping to conclusions! We feel free to contradict and correct our mates - often in front of others. We say things like, "What she really means is..." or " Forgive my husband, he's so..." This is rude and embarrassing, and reveals an attitude of disrespect. If you find yourself repeatedly improving or altering what your husband or wife is saying, you have a real problem. Actually, you probably won't "find yourself" doing it at all - it is a longtime habit hidden within a smug superior disposition. In all likelihood, this communication flaw will need to be pointed out to you; you are not likely to see it on your own.

4. Cutting, Critical Remarks

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according
to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen
(Ephesians 4:29)

The tongue that cuts, slashes and wounds is one of the most common, hurtful and lethal problems in marriage. It has many forms. It speaks with tainted tones of sarcasm and muffled mutterings of bitterness. It expresses itself with phony sincerity and with hurtful shouts, name-calling and cursing. It disguises its criticism with cruel humor, mockery and subtle jabs. And it shows itself in our body language of smirks, rolling eyes and shaking heads.

We justify ourselves in the name of honesty: "I always say exactly what I think." Or we subtly turn the tables: "Oh, I didn't realize you were so sensitive." In spite of how reasonable our excuses may sound to us, they right hollow as we consider the inspired words of Scripture, " not rude" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

Whatever the reason, there is never an excuse to speak in such a way as to retaliate, humiliate or denigrate. We must radically repent of such sinful speech.

5. Hinting

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things
grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
(Ephesians 4:15)

If rudeness is the weakness of some, obliqueness is the weakness of others. By this I mean an indirect, subtle hinting around what we really mean to say. We drop a hint here and there, then expect our mate to be a psychologist and mind reader rolled into one. And to top it off, if he or she does not figure it out, we get upset! We need to stop playing this selfish, immature game. It unfairly puts the burden upon our spouses to figure out what we already know and could express if we chose. It is a form of control and manipulation. If we are afraid to say what we mean, we need to muster the courage to speak our minds, remembering that our fears are usually fears of how we, not our mates, might be hurt.

6. Clamming Up

...Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and
do not give the devil a foothold
(Ephesians 4:26-27)

Some of us have a great way to avoid conflict - we clam up! We go for hours or days without really talking. When we are angry, hurt or afraid, we withdraw into a shell of self-protection. We simmer in anger, quiver in fear or wallow in self-pity. We solve nothing by this behavior. Shutting down can become a form of manipulation.

If something is troubling you, you should let your spouse know. You need to pick the right time and place, but you must talk it out, or it will degenerate into bitterness and resentment. You must trust God's plan, which I would describe this way: Get it out in the open, talk about it, solve it, and go on with life.

7. Blowing Up

A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control
(Proverbs 29:11)

Anger is a dangerous emotion. Losing our temper, flying off the handle, and erupting into a volcanic rage is a serious and grave matter. How many times have we wished we could have reached out and seized our angry words before they struck their mark? How many times have we had to apologize for the wounds we have inflicted?

Some of us excuse ourselves with "Well, I do have a bit of a temper. It runs in my family, you know." Others of us are genuinely sorry, but feel enslaved to our anger. Still others of us use anger as a tool to intimidate, bully and get our way.

8. Grumbling, Griping and Complaining

Do everything without complaining or arguing,
so that you may become blameless and pure,
children of God without fault in a crooked and
depraved generation, in which you shine like
starts in the universe
(Philippians 2:14-15)

It is unpleasant to talk to someone who always complains. To continually complain about life - how unfair, how rotten, how difficult - can quite effectively drive our beloved away from us. Griping, like many other communication problems, is actually a deep-seated character flaw to which we are often blind. If we knew how unattractive it is (even though others sometimes join us in our griping) we would retreat from such talk with horror. Perhaps it will take a marriage partner or another person to help us see the ugliness of this awful habit. When they point it out we need to listen. They are speaking truth we need to hear.

9. Lying

Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue lasts only a moment
(Proverbs 12:19)

We can have no relationship with anyone to whom we lie. Our spouses cannot be close to us, nor we to them, if there is deceit of any sort between us. We may believe that we have gotten away with our deception, but it still separates us. Down in our hearts we know that he or she does not truly know us.

Are you careless with the truth? Do you lie about anything - even "little" things? We may think that a minor fabrication is fine, but if we lie about anything - no matter how large or small - we have undercut our relationship.

The best policy is to simply tell the truth - even if it makes us look bad. "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No', 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37).

10. Distractions

Listen, for I have worthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right
(Proverbs 8:6)

By distractions I mean the clamorous telephone, the ubiquitous TV, the intriguing Internet, the blaring radio and the isolating headset. All of these high-tech conveniences can prevent us from real and relaxing communication with our spouses.

Radical steps must be taken to protect our relationships from all these competing intrusions.

But just reading through this list will not change your marriage. You must take these things seriously. You must treat them as a threat to your relationship and make sure they are put out of your life.

Friends & Lovers chapter 2 Can we Talk? part 1

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