Unpacking + Communication
As far as I know, every marriage can benefit from better communication.
There are different degrees of communication and (in my limited experience) cycles of communication.
Sometimes you both are on the same page, and you can even finish each other's sentences. Sometimes you are so in sync that words aren't even necessary. All you have to do is give each other a knowing look and without a word you know exactly what the other person is thinking, and you confirm it with a shared laugh or smirk.
Other times. It can seem like no matter what you do, you're just not clicking. You're just not understanding each other no matter how much you try to explain.
Effectiveness Requires Effort
But whether you're on [the same page] or off, the moment a couple believes effective communication no longer requires active effort, is usually the moment miscommunication takes place, and more often than not, conflict ensues.
For the last month or so, Danny + I have been experiencing these moments where we're saying the same thing, but for some reason it seems we're talking past each other. We end up repeating what was already said several times before we finally understand and acknowledge that we both "get it."
It's SUPER annoying. lol. And thankfully its led to laughter more often than not. But most of all, I'm happy we haven't let those momentary hiccups stop us from continuing to attempt to communicate correctly, even if we end up stumbling through it.
Communication in marriage is composed of several different components including (but not limited to):
- language (word choice)
- how each person listens (attentively vs. passively)
- how each person process information
- how/when a person responds to information
- what each person values (e.g. love languages, timing, etc.)
- and the baggage (past experiences) each person brings to the marriage.
Danny and I most differ in the way we process information. He is one who likes to address things immediately. I have been more of the delayed responder.
Sometimes it was a matter of finding the "right" words. Other times I just wanted that time for a self assessment (e.g. how does that make me feel? Why does it make me feel like that that?)
However, in the past, I delayed responses to a fault. Rather than address something in a timely manner, I would hold it all in and there would be a snowball effect. Then, I would explode over the straw that broke the camel's back.
I've been working on that, and I'm still very much a work in progress. But with a little effort and much practice (implementation) I've become much better at addressing things immediately.
Every so often something may come up that I just can't process immediately for whatever reason, but at least I am able to say to Danny, "Hey, I need a moment. As soon as I figure out how to articulate what I'm feeling, I'll let you know."
It's made a BIG difference.
About a month ago (early December 2016) I realized that I still had more "unpacking" to do. The baggage I had brought into our marriage was still weighing down my efforts to communicate.
The realization was triggered by my visceral reaction to a normal, common request for a display of affection by Danny. The moment preceding it was vaguely similar to a past bad experience and it had immediately triggered negative emotions (and consequently a negative reaction). I told Danny the reason for my response.
Unpacking requires being honest about how past experiences have painted our current perspectives.
In order for communication in marriage to work unhindered, unpacking every time something within us is triggered is necessary.
Anything can be a trigger—tone, body language, certain words or actions. Men and women alike have triggers.
During our first year of marriage, I would walk away from intense moments of disagreement to process + escape the rising tension. It was an act that I thought was harmless, and even helpful (since usually at that point neither of us were open to really understanding the other person's perspective).
But for Danny it was a trigger.
A trigger that translated to disrespect.
I had no idea. And for a while I couldn't figure out why he was completely shut down when I was ready to talk.
It wasn't until he told me how he perceived my walking away that I was able to make an adjustment. And he was gracious in return, in the moments when I forgot.
Grace as the Solution
For communication to work optimally in marriage, we have to be willing to unpack our baggage with our spouse and be honest about our triggers, and most of all we need to be grace-filled (gracious).
Grace will look differently depending on the situation and the trigger.
Obviously, if it is a serious and traumatic trigger, a loving spouse will do everything within their power to avoid that trigger at all costs.
In other situations, grace may look like getting over and letting go of certain triggers tied to bad past experiences, because there is an understanding that THIS is not that.
(We should always approach communication with a grace-filled posture that seeks to understand rather than be understood.)
In the end, the goal is the same—better communication, and a healthy + thriving relationship.