Tag Archives: communication

Forever, Marriage Communication & Counseling

What does marital communication have to do with the word ‘forever’: a popular word on YouTube with more than 1 million hits.  A quick scan suggests that it is most often associated with music across a broad range of genres.  My suspicion is that most of those songs  relate to one person’s love for another and that the word that comes to mind is the word “forever.”

So, when we marry we say things like “till death do we part” and “through sickness and health, for richer or poorer” and more.  The words forever, love, marriage, family have traditionally been bound together.

Yet, we now live in a culture where the words are broken out into conditional sentences.  Often words like ‘forever’ are rendered emotional sentiments that have little basis in reality.

Part of this is anchored in our experience.  “Nothing lasts forever” is not only a colloquial phrase; it is the truth.  Then, there are the things that were supposed to last forever, meaning, a person’s lifetime.  When those lifetime things end through death we all understand that the phrase is true: nothing does last forever.

On the other hand, when children see their parents divorce the sense of permanence and stability engendered by lifelong commitments is challenged to reorient itself to words like disposable, temporary, and transient.  So, we do what we can to assure each other that our commitment to each other is ‘forever’ while we work out the pre-nuptual agreements…just in case.  So many couples, now, are foregoing the forever commitment of marriage and opting to live in the same house to enjoy the sweetness of commitment without having made ‘the’ commitment to each other.

Of course, the fear of any forever commitment to someone else entails an acceptance of responsibility that can be severely tested by a car accident, an unfortunate diagnosis, or a mid-life wanderlust.  Perhaps one reason for not wanting to make those kinds of forever commitments is that we have seen too many failures coupled with our desire to avoid the pain of disappointment and regret.

The reality is that there are no risk-free commitments, nor is there an insurance policy to protect us from emotional and psychological pain.  At the same time there are ways to increase the probabilities for success and preventive measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of dissolution when the times get tough…and those times will come.  The pain that will come in interpersonal relationships can provide the impetus for doing the things that will deepen and enrich our appreciation and love for each other if we take advantage of the tools that will open the door to healing and growth.

Among the most useful predictors of success or failure can be found in the basics of communication.  If we can refine and develop the skills needed to talk about tough issues we can navigate our ways through other potential trouble-spots such as financial management, religious beliefs, familial relationships, and parenting philosophies.  Conversely, if the art of good communication and conflict resolution skills are not built into a fledgling relationship early in a couple’s life together, these areas will predictably become problem areas later on.

So, while there are no guarantees for success in relationships it is still possible to make ‘forever’ promises when you know you have taken care of  increasing the probabilities for success.  Coaching in basic communication skills can help and there are wonderful resources available to help people along the way to understanding and appreciation of our similarities and differences so that the whole becomes greater than just the sum of its parts.

Language of Love & Marriage and Family Therapy

Gary Chapman authored a book entitled The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.  Originally published in 1992, the book’s relevance to enhancing relationships is timeless.  Marriage and Family Therapists are specially trained to help couples and families learn how to speak to one another.

When being “in love” moves from becoming a temporary emotional high to a longstanding, enduring commitment the rules change.  When we are ‘in love’ our partner can do no wrong and our desire is to make the relationship last forever.

As we come to know each other over time, however, being in love becomes more of a choice–a decision–than a state of being.  A key ingredient to lasting love is the decision to learn what pleases the other as well as one’s self.

Chapman identifies five languages of love that can be helpful for building and maintaining enduring relationships.  They are:

  • Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation
  • Love Language #2: Quality Time
  • Love Language #3: Receiving Gifts
  • Love Language #4: Acts of Service
  • Love Language #5: Physical Touch

What is needed is for each person to know the expressions of love according to (1) their own preferred language and (2) their partner’s own preferences. Over time many couples learn these languages without enumerating them as we have done here.  For others of us it is an important aid to shorten the learning time needed and to help relationships get off to a good start.

When we don’t know each other’s language we begin the process of elimination that can be rather painful at times.  For example, Sam loves to get gifts for his birthday more than anything else.  His wife, Mary, on the other hand loves to have people do works of service for her.  Over the years Sam keeps giving Mary more and more expensive gifts but he never gets the response from her that he was anticipating.  At the same time Sam never remembers to pick up his socks off of the bedroom floor, forgets to take out the garbage and never helps with the housework.

Conversely, Mary loves helping Sam with various projects such as painting a room or changing the oil of the car.  She always wonders why Sam–who prefers to work alone–always seems short tempered and agitated when she helps.  She thinks she is showing him her enduring love by giving him the gift that she appreciates the most; yet, he repays her with ingratitude.

The key for the couple is to understand that they are speaking the wrong languages to each other.  Assuming that Sam really wants to please Mary, he would expend more energy in picking up after himself, helping with chores without being asked and join Mary when she engages in housecleaning projects.  Sam would benefit with a double benefit.  First, he would be giving Mary exactly what says “I love you!” to her and, second, he would save a lot of money by giving more modest gifts.

Conversely, how differently Sam might respond if Mary would listen carefully and take notes when Sam ‘accidentally’ shares with her his desire for a special tool or accessory while walking through the mall.  Sam might respond very differently to her acts of love when what he merely mentioned 8 months ago suddenly shows up on the kitchen counter for his birthday, set next to his favorite chocolate cake and surrounded by his closest friends.

Outside of our romantic relationships, imagine how listening for each other’s languages could help in relationships in general.  The possibilities are endless.

For more information check out Gary Chapman’s book and surprise your mate as you observe his or her preferences, ask questions that pique their interest and you suddenly start wowing them with unsolicited behaviors that speak directly to their language of love.  To help each of you in your marriage there is a workbook that goes with the material as well that can re-set the love meter in your life as you start speaking each other’s language.


Texting Vs. Face-To-Face

There are many advantages to texting: simple communications, tracking exchanges of information, privacy in public places and more.  Texting is pretty cool for many things.  So, I have grudgingly learned to text.  But it still is not face-to-face!

At the same time, texting can be a negative thing.  Among the things of which texting has limited or no value is conflict resolution.  Sure, it is possible to text about differences of opinion when discussing where to eat or what shirt to wear.

Then there are those times when texting is the preferred way of delivering bad news without having to see the disappointment on someone else’s face or to hear it in their voice.  Even worse is when hard words are said without the careful filtering that usually takes place when we are looking into each other’s eyes.

Like so many things, texting can be very helpful and it can be very hurtful and even destructive.  If you see a series of texts heating up with intense emotion it may be worthwhile to call a time out and recommend a meeting to talk about the issue the old fashioned way:  face-to-face.