Marriage is a unique institution that involves the coming together of two separate individuals to form a single union. The task required to sustain the marriage union can be daunting. However, with nurture and enrichment as part of everyday marriage regime, a marital union can be blissfully sustained. The importance of communication and the ability to show affection in marriage cannot be overemphasized. Clinton and Trent are of the opinion that communication is about verbalizing or writing a message to a recipient who attaches a meaning to it. How couples choose to communicate or not to communicate has the tendency to connect or disconnect couples in any marital relationship. Furthermore, Clinton and Trent indicate that “90% of couples seeking counseling say communication issues are at the root of their problem.” The ability to listen carefully, learn to make adaptations, avoid changing one another, and expand the way a person listens makes communication more effective. A Nigerian adage states that marriage is like a gift with an unknown content. This simply means that a wife or husband is a gift that might contain a few surprises. However, good communication can help overcome the tough obstacles that every couple faces. Good communication does not come naturally without work, but strategies to improve it can be learned. In the words of Karahan, there is a considerable link between communication, conflict resolution abilities, and congruity in marriage and divorce and one avenue for advancing cordial relationships between couples is to teach them simple communication skills. These simple skills have been found to be effective in helping couples prepare for marriage, repair their marriage, and maximize marriages. Marital satisfaction has positive outcomes for couples and the society at large. Couples who report more fulfilment in their marriage are more likely to testify to being fulfilled in their marriage, Carroll asserts. Carroll states that marriage appears to be “beneficial for individuals; married people report living a healthier lifestyle, having better mental health, experiencing greater sexual satisfaction, being better off financially and being better parents.” This is indicative of the benefit of having a fulfilled marital relationship. Marital communication is associated with marital satisfaction. The way happy couples relate is different from the way struggling couples relate towards each other. It is evident that a couples communication pattern is indicative of how fulfilled they are in the marriage.
There are various reasons that might lead couple to develop communication issues. The major reason is poor listening skills. Listening involves being able to accurately restate the content and feeling of a message. However, barriers to listening abound. Some of these barriers include; defensiveness, personal biases, different listening styles, Inner struggles, habit of interrupting, mental overload, bad timing, physical exhaustion, selective attention. These barriers impede communication which negatively impacts marital satisfaction.
One of the techniques I found that will benefit couples as they strive to become better at communicating is the “I said, you said technique’’ as illustrated by Parr. This technique involves a couple going through a cycle of communication trainings that stresses the influence of spoken and unspoken cues. The goal is for couples to concentrate on the lucidity of the verbal message. One of the steps in this technique involves a conversation between the couple on a subject they have differing opinions. The subject cannot be a topic that has just initiated a disagreement or fury between the couple. According to Parr the exercise begins by the assigned speaker-couple clearly stating his/her opinion about an issue. The listener-couple then repeats what he or she has heard the speaker say. Then the listener changes roles and becomes the speaker, and the process is repeated with the new speaker and listener. The purpose of the exercise is not to escalate conflict between the couple, but to let both speakers an opening to express their view devoid of having to back their stance.
Accordingly, helping couples communicate love by listening is another intervention that teaches couples guidelines for changing their communication. Worthington states that marriages become problematic when couples stop listening to one another rather they listen for rebuttals. Couples need to learn to use “minimal encouragers (that is, ums, head nods, uh-huhs), repeat words or phrases, reflect content, reflect feelings and summarize larger blocks of information” Worthington, asserts. Furthermore, when couples show genuiness, empathy and respect during communication it goes a long way to improve and prolong the relationship. Couples should spend more time talking, should not allow anything to interfere with their communication, should be careful with nonverbal communication, and should end poor communication strategies. These suggestions serve as techniques for effective communication. Accordingly, marriage was instituted by God in the Garden of Eden, thus “therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, NKJV). Therefore it is vital to invite God into marital unions to guide and to reign supreme. In this case biblical verses are useful tools that can assist couples reach their goals. In the book of James 1:19 we are called to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”. God calls us to willingly listen yet slow to speak and to get angry. This passage summarizes every therapeutic or coaching technique that tackles communication related issues in marriage. Also, scripture tells us in Ephesians 4:31 that “all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice”. This verse shows that it is the reaction from our buttons being pushed that creates conflict. God is asking us to put aside anger, arguments, and all negative vices that hamper marital growth.
The way we communicate is habitual. In other to effect change in that area we need to form a new habit which calls for practice and perseverance. In the words of Clinton and Trent communication involves “both sending and receiving messages. Of these two, listening respectfully to the entire message is the most important.” Listening entails putting down what one is doing thereby signaling to the other person that they are significant and indeed valuable.
Carroll, S. J. (2013). Couple communication as a mediator between work-family conflict and marital satisfaction. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 35(3), 530-545.
Clinton, T. E., & Trent, J. (2009). The quick-reference guide to marriage & family counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Karahan, T. F. (2009). The effects of a couple communication program on the conflict resolution skills and active conflict tendencies of turkish couples. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 35(3), 220-229.
Parr, P. L. (2008). I said, you said: A communication exercise for couples. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 30(3), 167-173.
practice. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.