Well after writing last week’s post on communication, I was reflecting a bit and thinking that there might be lots more reasons why communication in a marriage might be difficult, beyond the ones that I identified, and beyond character. (Because of this, I later went back to amend the title of the post to suggest that character might not always be the reason for communication difficulties). Firstly, thinking still about character, in last week’s post I made it sound as if the character issues might always be on one person’s side. I think it would be more realistic to admit that neither you nor your spouse will be perfect, so in terms of “character issues” it might be a case of character issues from each of you clashing against one another. So insecurities from one party might bump against manipulative behaviour from the other party and together they might cause communication deadlock.
As human beings it is so easy to be blind to our own behaviour. We might not see how we are behaving, and we might not realise how it is wrong. Or we might actually know exactly what we are doing – and yet we still feel justified in flinging accusations at our spouse, because we feel that their behaviour is so much worse. Sometimes I think that if one party were perfect then there might be a chance to rebuild communication – but then pride gets into the way – “Why should I always have to be the one to back down?!!!” So firstly, in many marriages, it will be unlikely that character issues (which might affect communication) occur solely on one side. The advantage in these situations is that there is at least something you can do in these situations. You can swallow your pride. You can be the bigger person. If you are a Christian and you don’t want to swallow your pride, you can pray first, then swallow your pride!
Even as I write this, I’m wondering to myself “hmm, is this all just overly simplistic?” But then I think that the issue in marriage and communication is that a communication difficulty can seem overwhelming, because communication is about everything – it is about money, and it is about managing stress and frustrations at work and then also the kids and in-laws and then also different aspects of money – savings, retirement, spending priorities. Where the parties cannot communicate I can imagine that everything gets drawn together and twisted together into one convoluted, ugly mess. And yet, many marriages where there is excellent communication, where the spouses are excited about one another and happy about their marriage – will have exactly these same issues to deal with – sometimes their issues might be worse. The difference is that they view one another positively, they feel as if they are united in their team of two – and that their spouse is not actually the enemy, but that they can rather face and overcome the issues together. Where this teamwork and unity does not exist then each of these issues can be just another way in which the tensions present in the marriage are aggravated until finally, perhaps, the whole thing just explodes.
So I think that if this is you, and if this is what your marriage looks like, to make progress, to remain married, to work towards healing in your marriage, you have to be willing to take responsibility for your own legitimate character issues, and deal with them, so that you stop doing whatever it is that is proving destructive or unhelpful in your marriage. However, you might also have to take responsibility for your spouse’s failings. This means that instead of blaming your spouse for whatever they are doing – even if they are truly doing it, you have to find the most positive way of interacting with them, elevating and magnifying their positive attributes, while seeming not to notice their glaring faults (for which you will actually be praying desperately). Sometimes your spouse might still be blaming you, heaping scorn and ridicule on your head, and you just have to be as meek and as gracious as possible (as these do not represent my own natural characteristics, I am really hoping that I never have to face this situation!)
I was also thinking of a few further reasons why communication might be difficult in your marriage.
1. If, before marriage, you were not totally open and honest about who you were. I think it would be easy to appreciate why your marriage communication might be difficult if you had previously lied about having children, or about how successful you were in your job. However, what if it is not really about lying as such but rather not really being fully yourself? I know myself for a fact that if I were to date someone I would go out of my way to be as vivacious, charming, physically attractive, glamorous, alluring, captivating as I can possibly be, teetering around on four-inch heels all the time (in fact just today, I was reflecting that getting married and having someone to dress up for would finally give me a reason to wear my beautiful collection of shoes which I otherwise never really get the occasion to wear!) The thing about all of these attributes is that they genuinely, genuinely, reflect me and are representative of who I am. So I would not be lying when I present myself like this. However, I know that I would also make every effort to hide the parts of my personality which are phenomenally quiet….serious…thoughtful…reflective – and which are also genuinely part of me – in fact this if anything is my innate personality, the “outgoing” parts of my personality are learned behaviour, but are now second nature. Somehow, I have managed to persuade myself that my natural quietness is not really romantically attractive. So if I were to do the whole “dazzling personality thing” and get married on the basis of that, after marriage it make me feel too vulnerable to admit that this is my real self, and I might feel too scared of rejection to share this part of myself with my husband. However this might be just silly because it might be that very quietness that he might connect best with or that he might find most compelling about me.
So I think it really makes sense to practise honest communication before marriage, so that you both know what you are really getting. Yes I am often bright and bubbly, but I am also immensely quiet – and I’m deep, damnit!
I think this kind of honesty requires immense vulnerability – especially if you’re trying to explain that you’re scared that someone might be put off by this part of your personality, or if you’re worried that they might think that you’re boring. As I write this I honestly don’t know how you would deal with this before marriage, as on one hand you do want to build a foundation of honesty between the two of you. However, on the other hand you do not necessarily want to share absolutely everything about yourself with one another before you actually get married. I guess it’s something you have to keep mindful of, and if you realise that you have given a false impression of yourself, you have to go back and correct it. Because the tendency before marriage will be to give overly exciting impressions of yourself, you have to be ready to keep going back and making corrections and clarifying.
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Photo of antique telephone by James De Mers on Pixabay