By Stephon Chaney
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in marriage is the importance of effective communication. It’s a fundamental necessity that can determine the difference between experiencing a thriving relationship, or one where both parties are merely going through the motions. But while many of us have heard that “communication is key” as it relates to successful marriages, we seldom hear the harsh reality that communication is a multi-layered equation that can never be solved. The reason it can never be solved is because the husband and wife – if they’re human – are always evolving. Therefore, effective communication in marriage is not something that is finite, but rather a mutual study and adaptation that is forever ongoing between husband and wife.
When Christina and I got married 3 and a half years ago, we were 2 individuals coming together as one. Our primary concern was getting our marriage off to a good start, and enjoying one another for the first year. We are now parents of two amazing boys (a toddler and a newborn), which means Christina has experienced two full term pregnancies - both of which led to her giving birth naturally in the privacy of our home (yes, she’s a warrior!). I won’t get into the nuances of hormonal imbalances and how postpartum emotions impact communication in marriage, but just know that we are not the same people who got married back in 2015. Our responsibilities have been upgraded, as our decisions now impact the lives of children that are depending on us. So it's imperative that we operate in alignment. Christina and I went from newly weds to family of four in the blink of an eye (I could seemingly wink at her and she would end up pregnant!). However, our communication did not evolve at the same rate of expediency. We went from married, to pregnant, to a family of three, and then four – all within a span of 3 and a half years. And while this level of growth and evolution necessitates an intentional focus on communication, we shrugged off several fundamental breakdowns in communication as non-issues, assuming they would correct themselves. But I've learned that effective communication between husband and wife doesn’t grow and evolve by happenstance, and that was a tough pill to swallow. The silver lining is that communicative challenges revealed an area of opportunity for us: If our marriage was going to thrive, it would take both of us being intentional about finding common ground in the most uncomfortable moments. It's easy when my wife and I are on the same page. The challenge in communication is presented during times of disagreement. And I've discovered a few tips that have helped (and are helping) me personally in the pursuit of effective communication.
In most cases, my wife and I want the same things. But while in disagreement, we’re too emotionally involved to actually hear each other out. The desire to “be right” will lead to ineffective communication simply because each person is just waiting for their chance to prove a point. Taking the time to listen, with the intention of actually understanding your spouse – especially during a heated discussion – is a game changer.
Fight For, Not Against
As mentioned previously, Christina and I want the same things: love, appreciation, peace, respect and glorious sexual relations. The challenge is reminding yourself to fight for the things you want, as opposed to fighting against your teammate over something irrelevant. It’s not worth missing out on a good night of love thrusting just because you wanted the last word.
Get Over Yourself
I’ll be the first to admit that I occasionally suffer from LWS (Last Word Syndrome). Sometimes I just have to have the last say in the matter. But even if I “win” the argument, I ultimately lose – because my wife also suffers from LWS. Simply put, NOBODY WANTS TO SHUT UP IN MY HOUSE! If I can get better at swallowing my pride during disagreements, I will be more effective in seeking understanding. And this will set the tone for effective communication going forward.
Marriage can be a beautiful thing. Marriage can also suck. The difference between the two could be as simple as establishing and maintaining an effective communication strategy. My wife and I are 100% committed to the never ending journey of effective communication, because we actually prefer that our marriage not suck. Plus, the future is depending on us.