As we begin the third part of our ongoing posts on communication among couples, we will discover how our emotions and behaviors can derail our attempts to get our needs met in our relationship communication department.
A problem arises when we take our mate’s communication defensively. This is especially true if what they are sharing is negative—and even more so if it is true. How many times do we hear something that offends us and our listening abruptly shuts down? Many times the other person will say something that triggers a “hot button” in us, especially when the relationship has been on shaky ground. That’s when we stop listening and start to riffle through our imaginary backpack and pull out as much ammunition as possible. We lie in wait, anticipating the second they will take a breath, and then we pounce, unloading our full arsenal of defenses against our spouse. It matters not whether what is being said is accurate; we feel attacked and hurt and therefore we attack. Communication will never be effective if we take everything personally. We need to practice listening, not defending.
Understand that when someone expresses how they feel about something, it’s how they feel! If someone expresses how one of your behaviors led them to feel hurt, listen. It doesn’t necessarily matter what your motivation was for the behavior (if it involves you
at all). Sometimes we hurt people without meaning to. If your husband gets hurt because you didn’t get around to reading the paper he wrote for his college class, don’t get defensive; it’s how he feels. As discussed earlier, just because a particular situation elicits a certain feeling does not necessarily mean the feeling is appropriate, but we can acknowledge that it still exists. Allow this understanding to move you to a place of non-defensiveness.
Each person is responsible for their own feelings and how they behave with regard to those feelings. All too often, the other person takes responsibility for their spouse’s feelings. This is why one person, usually the husband, may feel obligated to fix their wives. Even though you may have elicited a negative emotional response in someone, you are not responsible for what they do with it. Our obligation is to do what is scripturally right.
Be aware that there are ways to express yourself without causing your mate to feel backed into a corner. Presentation is everything. When you want to express how you feel in a particular situation, use neutral words to make the point, and don’t accuse. When you start a sentence with the word “You,” understand that now you are blaming the person for how and why you feel the way you do. In many cases, when someone does something that hurts you, they are not even aware of it. Remember, the world does not revolve around you. Sometimes all it requires is the practice of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Other times you may want to discuss the issue, but be sure to take responsibility for your own feelings.
How effective are you at being assertive when it comes to your spouse? If you are not, what prevents it and what will you need to do to change that?
We will continue our discussion on communication in my next post. We will move deeper into the topic of assertiveness and active listening.
Until next time, be blessed!
©2018 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design
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