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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friends & Lovers - Chapter 2 part 2

Now we know what not to do. This, however, is just half of the story. The other half is much more positive. How can a husband and wife create a relationship with great communication? What can be done to start it up and keep it going? How can we talk like never before?

How to Build Communication

1. Seek to Synchronize

Communication is an all-the-time thing, not just something we do in times of crisis. Too many of us get out of tune with our spouses and wait for problems to force us back into harmony. Instead, we should develop an ease and constancy of conversation that is rhythmic and instinctive.

How can we develop this kind of daily dialogue? Work at it all the time, every day: Talk as you dress for work or church, as you drive together, at mealtimes and during other regular activities. Much good can be done during "coffee time" or any time when we can get a few minutes during the day. Such times form the fabric of a great marriage.

2. Spend Special Seasons

In addition to daily times conversing, we need to regularly carve out larger blocks of time to spend together. Take walks or go bike riding with one another. Get the kids to bed early and spend a quiet evening alone at home. Busy schedules make this a challenge, but we strongly urge that you retire for the evening at the same time. This provides a natural opportunity to wrap things up by spending a few minutes catching up on the day's events - this can also lead to other exciting forms of communication as well! Get away together overnight. You don't have to wait until anniversaries or birthdays - just pack a bag and go! It doesn't take a huge amount of planning or money to spend an evening at a nearby hotel or bed and breakfast. And even one night away can seem much longer when you learn to relax and enjoy yourselves.

3. Be Refreshingly Real

To have a friendship, couples must talk heart-to-heart. When we lose the deep bonding of our souls, marriage becomes stale, empty and lifeless. We may perform a daily routine, but that's all it is - a performance-there is little or no satisfying intimacy and friendship. Somewhere along the way we become superficial. We no longer talk with each other; we merely exchange information. And when we reach this point, both of us are prime candidates for adultery.

4. Learn the levels

In this book The Friendship Factor Alan Loy McGinnis points out that there are three levels of communication: facts, opinions and emotions. To have a close marriage, it is imperative that we learn to communicate truthfully and openly on all three levels. To help understand this, consider this scenario:

Fact: Husband is late for a lunch date with his wife.
His opinion: "This is my secretary's fault. She always hits me with something just when I'm ready to leave. But, I still might have made it on time if I hadn't stopped at that stupid newsstand on the way to the car."

Her opinion: "Late again! He could have left work sooner if he really wanted to. He just takes me for granted. This is just another example of his lack of love and consideration for me. And he's not even going to listen to me if I try to tell him how I feel. I wonder if he even loves me anymore. Oh, maybe it is all my fault-I'm always nagging him about something."

His emotions: (1) anger at his secretary (2) anxiety about his wife's possible reaction and (3) guilt brought on by his opinion that he could have been on time.

Her emotions: (1) anger (2) hurt (3) hopelessness caused by her opinion that he will not listen to her (4) fear that he does not really love her anymore and (5) guilt caused by her opinion that she may be too critical of him.

Are you as lost as I am on all this? Is it any wonder that the simplest of human events can become so terribly complex and that a minor problem can erupt into a major crisis?

Many situations become more difficult because men and women usually communicate on different levels. Facts and opinions are paramount to a man; whereas emotions and opinions are vital to a woman. "Can't we just stick to the facts?" protests the husband. "Why are you so unfeeling?" replies the wife. To argue this way is futile-it is attacking the person, not the root problem. Instead, we need to work with our spouses. We should recognize and understand on which level they are communicating and then help them to understand where we are. When we do, we are on our way to a marriage blessed with outstanding communication.

5. Lighten up

Many of you believe that anything to do with communication is by nature negative. In your minds it always means dealing with something difficult, tedious, unpleasant and hard. No wonder you dread anything akin to deep conversation! Or, if you are the "heavy," this is why your spouse groans whenever you want to "have a talk."

"Deep" doesn't have to be draining or depressing. Honesty is far more than just gut-wrenching confessions or an exploration of the dark side of your soul. Communications goes beyond talking about problems, disagreements and unpleasant experiences. It also means expressing out love, our appreciation and our respect for each other. It includes sharing the good news and good things in life with each other. Enjoy some laughter, share some memories, talk about your dreams, share your hearts...and lighten up!

6. Speak Silently

Words, phrases and sentences form only a small part of how we communicate. We convey much more with our attention, our expressions, our tone of voice and our touch.

Attention. Gaze at your spouses when you talk to them. Give them your complete attention. Look into their eyes-not just in their general direction. This let them know you are listening and care. It is frustrating to speak to someone who is preoccupied-reading the paper, staring at the TV, stirring something in a pot, or drifting aways in thought. If the conversation is light, then we can afford to listen as we go about doing something else, but we must be sensitive as to when to stop what we are doing and give our full attention to our spouses.

Expression. Look at your spouse with a warm, friendly expression. A blank stare communicates boredom. The tight-knitted brow conveys preoccupation or weariness in listening. The sarcastic sneer indicates disrespect. Need I go on? Get your heart into the conversation and a good expression on your face!

Tone. The same words spoken in different tones can have different meanings and different effects. This is the place so many of us stumble in our communication skills. "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24).

Touch. Since we who are married are "one flesh," we ought to touch freely and frequently.

7. Show Common Courtesy

Life is not lost by dying! Life is lost
Minute by minute, day by dragging day,
In all the thousand, small, uncaring ways.
Stephen Vincent Benet

Little things make a big difference. Life does not consist exclusively of great events-it is made up of a myriad of small, seemingly unnoticed moments. Often it is not the one big injury that ruins a marriage-it is the accumulation of small hurts and discourtesies over time. Solomon said it long ago: "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom" (Songs of Songs 2:15). Let me suggest some ways to catch the "little foxes" of discourtesy:

Express appreciation.
Do small, unexpected favours.
Lighten the load
Compliment appearance.

8. Share the Spiritual

"For where two or three come together in my name, there
am I with them"
(Matthew 18:20)

Help each other spiritually. Share encouraging verses from your own study of the Scriptures.

9. Practice the Praise Principle

Finally, brothers, whatever is true,
whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable-if anything is
excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8)

Focus your thoughts on the good qualities in your spouse. If you occupy yourself with the pure, the lovely, the admirable, the excellent and the praiseworthy characteristics in your mate, then you, and they, will reap a benefit.

It has been observed that it takes five compliments to offset the effect of one criticism. When you give compliments, watch your spouse-and your marriage-blossom before your eyes.

10. Faithfully Forgive

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances
you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you
(Colossians 3:13)

~ *;* ~

These are the basics on communication. Understand them. Work on them. Master them. Communication takes work and commitment. Those who are lazy will have no success. But when you care enough to communicate, you help your wife or husband feel your love. Listen to Paul's great statement about love in 1 Corinthians 13 and notice how so much that he says is directly related to communication and the principles we have talked about in this chapter:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

If you don't communicate, you don't love. If you don't embrace these qualities of love, you will never communicate. According to a best-selling book, men seem to be from one planet and women from another, but God has a plan for us to share our lives with one another, and his plan will produce rich and rewarding results.

Friends & Lovers chapter 2 Can we Talk? part 2

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