Let me paint a mental picture for you…
It’s been a busy week, and you’re weary. Weary of the seemingly mundane tasks of life: laundry, dishes, cleaning. And a little frustration is creeping into your heart because your spouse doesn’t seem to be that helpful. They’re either busy at work or distracted by their own life stuff (while we are one, we are still individuals)..
One particular night you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, and you feel a small explosion about to occur. When your spouse walks through the door you get very expressive:
“Can you not see how tired I am? You aren’t the only one who is busy, but I feel alone in doing everything at home! Why can’t you pay attention to me? Why don’t you want to help me? Are you that selfish?”
And he quite possibly responds just as expressively, or maybe he’s quietly hurt or offended by your word-explosion.
Then you’re both highly emotional and it’s probably a little messy, and takes longer to make right.
This is a random example of a instance, but I think these conversations happen in relationships more often than we think. In any relationship, not only marriage.
I have never blown up at J before, but that’s not because I haven’t felt those explosive emotions, I just internalize things. Instead of shouting, I get silent. Not healthy all the same.
Even in my short (but still kind of long?) 3 years of being with J, whether it was from a mentor’s advice, or a book I read, or simply experience, I’ve learned characteristics of both helpful and hurtful conversation. I’ve also, with the help of the Holy Spirit, been reminded that the little choices greatly affect our relationship in the long run. So here we go…
2 goals of conversation :
Intimacy. Being honest (brutally and beautifully) with each other builds a special kind of trust. Chatting about the tiny details of your day bring laughter and joy. Being vulnerable about what is on your heart establishes an intimacy with your spouse like nothing else does. My husband knows my deepest struggles and longings, the food I’m craving and the projects I’m working on, and is in my corner, knowing specifically how to pray for me. That gives me such peace to tackle whatever life throws at me.
Learning. Conversing with your spouse is how you learn about them. Ask them about their work, about their relationship with Jesus. Inquire about their goals, their fears, their hopes, and what they want for dinner. Ask them how you can help them best this week, or how you can love them differently. A goal of your conversation should be learning more about your spouse, and them learning about you. We are ever-changing people, and continually seeking out your spouse will show them how much you love them.
2 hindrances of good conversation:
Criticism. In my 23 years of life, I’ve felt constructive criticism and rude criticism, and while sometimes it cannot be escaped, it can be a hindrance to good conversation in my marriage. Spending more time complaining or criticizing your spouse than you do helping them understand can do more harm than good in the long run. Does that mean we shouldn’t say anything when we have a complaint? No. But there is a better way to do it than a negative put-down as an opener. Criticism comes across as belittling, and that’s not helpful for anyone.
Poor Listening. My feelings are quickly hurt if I am talking with J about something relatively important and he’s not giving me his full attention. But that’s not all — I have a tendency to interrupt him when he’s speaking, which I understand, doesn’t feel that great. It’s a little disrespectful, if I can’t be patience enough to give him the space to process, no matter how slow or jumbled. We can respect and love each other by listening well. Being patient while the other one speaks, and then asking thoughtful questions.
Hmm… another solution to the above scenario?
Honey (term of loving endearment, always helps, haha), can we talk about life lately? I’ve been feeling a little weary with handling most of the housework by myself. You are being diligent with work and that is great, but it would mean a lot to me to have a little more help around the house. How do you think we could tackle this together?
It might seem a little cheesy, and it looks different for everyone, but these have been vital lessons for me. Not terribly easy things to do or even remember, in the moment, but important all the same. And we do our best, right? And honestly, after thinking about these, I was challenged with applying them to my other relationships as well – with friends, family, coworkers.
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