When we promise to take one another, we promise to take all of that person – body, psyche and spirit. We take one another with all the beliefs, thoughts, feelings and attitudes that each has.
We take the biases, prejudices, fears, and anxieties as well as all the dreams and expectations we each have for ourselves and for us as a couple. In order to know who this unique, special individual is whom we have married and are marrying each day of our wedded life, it is necessary to communicate all these things to one another.
We live in a time when the communication of information is one of the technological wonders of history. But communication of persons is lagging far behind, and we are more isolated and solitary than united. The news brings us the global information so effectively, we know much more about what is happening ten thousand miles away than we do about what is going on inside the heart and the spirit of our husband or wife.
Good Communication Builds Oneness
Chances are that when you were dating, you shared a great amount of intimate conversation as you talked about yourselves, your hopes, dreams, and most especially your feelings. Then you had an urgency for one another. You wanted to know all about each other.
Unfortunately for most people, after they’ve been married a while, they assume they already know all about one another, and there’s no further need for deep sharing. Yet we are all continually changing. The feelings we have when we get up in the morning are not usually the same as those we have by dinnertime. In fact our feelings are continually changing throughout the day as we respond to the events and people in our lives. Each of us has these feelings even though we may not be conscious of them. Our attitudes are slower to change, yet they are continually evolving as we gain new insights and new information. Even the decisions we made a few months ago may not be the ones we would make today.
Couples who fail to communicate over long periods of time eventually experience loneliness in their marriages. It is literally true that they become strangers to one another. That’s when they turn to friends or relatives to fill the gap. A husband’s secretary may know more about him than his own wife. A woman’s mother or sister may know more about her than her own husband.
The call to oneness in the Sacrament of Matrimony is not being fulfilled.
Difficulties in Communicating
Even in a good marriage, many people find it difficult to communicate on a deep level. Communicating on this level requires a great deal of trust. It may seem strange to talk about trust between a husband and wife who love each other in a profound way. Yet the question remains, do we trust our spouse enough to totally reveal ourselves in areas that are difficult to talk about?
One reason people fail to talk with one another is because they are not sure what kind of reaction they will get from their spouse. All of us fear rejection, especially from someone we love. In order to communicate, we need to create an atmosphere – a regular time just for the two of us – and a regular place where we can be alone. We don’t need a lot of time – 10-20 minutes a day is good, and our quiet place should be somewhere in the house where we are free of distractions.
Then we need to become a good listener as well as a good revealer. Listening isn’t easy; it means setting aside whatever we’re doing to focus only on our spouse. We have to look at our partner, read the body language, listen to the tone of voice, and reach out to touch one another. Listening to someone is not necessarily agreeing with what they say. Listening is attentiveness to the other and calls for generosity of spirit because sometimes it means we have to set aside something else we’d rather be doing.
Many people think they communicate well when they don’t really communicate at all. You cannot assume your husband or wife can read your mind and understand what you mean when you discuss something. You must speak clearly and carefully, and say what you mean. For example:
Speaking in code. Teresa was willing to visit her husband’s family every Sunday for a few hours, but she didn’t want to stay for a long evening. Rather than say so directly, she continually made excuses about why they shouldn’t stay. Each time she said something, her husband rushed to get whatever she needed (headache tablets, baby formula, nappies etc), while Teresa fumed that her husband didn’t read her signals correctly.
The fear being accused of nagging. – Rather than asking her husband directly to help her, Lucy would say, “The living room needs vacuuming”. Jim would glance up from the TV long enough to agree with her, but didn’t move to help her.
Feeling inadequate. Michael had an inferiority complex about fixing things around the house. Whenever Nancy asked him to do something, he always put it off. Finally he got up the courage to tell Nancy how inadequate he felt, and they came to a new arrangement.
Manipulating each other. Sam felt strongly that they should not spend a lot of money for Christmas gifts, but Gloria wanted to buy lavishly. Rather than sit down and discuss the issue, Gloria said, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll pay for it with my own money.” In this way, Gloria got her way without having to listen to Sam. But Sam likes to play golf with his friends. Gloria doesn’t mind a short game once a week, but is unhappy about the three nights of golf that is Sam’s schedule. So Sam tells Gloria he will take her out to dinner in exchange for his golf games. He tells himself how gracious he is to give her this time, but she feels used and overlooked, and views the weekly dinner date as patronising. Neither Sam nor Gloria are listening to each other. They need to communicate their feelings, thoughts and inner needs to each other.
Most people marry one another because they believe they have found someone who fully understands and accepts them as they are. They have a great deal of trust in this person. After marriage, we keep trust and love alive by honestly and openly confiding in one another everyday and fulfilling our call to become one in mind and spirit.
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Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders and principal authors of the SmartLoving series. They are passionate about living Catholic marriage to the full and helping couples reach their marital potential. They have been married since 1988 and have five children.
Their articles may be reproduced for non commercial purposes with appropriate acknowledgement and back links.