Marriage Enrichment: Strengthening Communication and Affection

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.

Helpful Techniques

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.

References

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.

 

 

Requirements to Attain Spiritual Intimacy In Marriage

couple-reading-scripturesSpiritual intimacy is an unfailing love that has the ability to create a path to admiration, appreciation, and reverence. According to John Fisher, a successful marriage is not dependent on finding the right man or woman rather the ability of both mates to attune to the actual person they certainly recognize they are espoused to. To be spiritually intimate, couples need to;

  1. Live according to the standards set forth in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13,” Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (NRSVCE). This scriptural passage simply informs us that love does not flop; rather it boosts faith, hope, and love. It is evident that being spiritually intimate help couples grow into spiritually experienced unified entity that are willing to look beyond their male/female variances and gain knowledge and growth from these unique variations. For instance, a spiritually experienced couple will not take offense to or misconstrue the calling on the grounds of male/female variances for husbands to love their wives and wives to be submissive to their husbands as stated in Colossians 3:18-19. A spiritually experienced couple would understand that both calling entail love, humility, and obedience not a show of dominance and defiance.
  2. Leave, cling, and intertwine to each other as clearly written in Genesis 2:24 that, “therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (NRSVCE). Leaving ones father and mother implies a mental, monetary, and physical departure. When we cling to each other, we move our key allegiance to our spouse and become conjoined in all things. Becoming intertwined to each other involves a sexual and emotional union. Becoming one flesh also symbolizes Christ love for the church. It demonstrates the scale of love that a husband should show his wife as expressed in Ephesians 5:25 “husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (NRSVCE). Husbands are called to selflessly protect their wives from internal and external forces irrespective of any associated discomfort like Christ exemplified on the cross of Calvary.

The presence of spiritual Intimacy in a union makes the marriage God’s harbor. Any marriage built on God’s solid foundation will surely weather any storm. Spiritual intimacy allows couples to learn how to sacrifice for each other, show appreciation towards each other, and suffer together as a personification of love.

Reference

Allender, D. (2015). Coaching couples in spiritual intimacy.

“Pope to allow all priests to forgive abortion during Holy Year”

divine_mercy_confessionThe headline “Pope to allow all priests to forgive abortion during Holy Year” is an inaccurate and misleading statement. The pope cannot allow priests to forgive any sin, abortions included or determine which sin needs or does not need forgiveness. This is because;

  1. Our Lord Jesus Christ already commissioned priests with this responsibility as His representatives on earth. John 20:19-23 states, “then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled,[a] for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (NKJV). The sacrament of reconciliation, penance, or confession is one of the beauties of the Catholic Church. It was the above stated biblical passage that established the grounds on which priests hear confessions and remit absolution. It is noteworthy that any penitent individual will have their sins forgiven if they are sincere and contrite in their heart. It is immaterial whether absolution is granted or denied, God is the one who forgives us our sins and faults. However, Christ not the pope specifically handed the responsibility to hear confession and absolve sins to his apostles which priests represent.
  2. Our sins can only be forgiven if we humbly confess them, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). An individual can decide to go directly to God in prayer for forgiveness of sins, however, the Catholic Church also chose to adopt the practice found in John 20:23 hence it is a command from our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ alone knows why He gave the apostles this responsibility. It is our responsibility as followers of Christ to be hearers and adherents of the word of God especially those explicit commands. The fact that some Christian denominations don’t have this practice should not negate or invalidate the instructions specifically handed down by Jesus Christ.
  3. In 1 Corinthians 11:27 Christ instructed that we should examine ourselves before we receive the body and blood of Christ(Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion) lest we bring condemnation upon ourselves, “whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” When we go to confession, we hold a conversation with the priest who in turn counsels us and encourages us to live a Christ like life. God’s forgiveness can never be denied to a person who has genuinely repented especially when they have come to partake in the sacrament of reconciliation in order to be truly reunited with God the Father. In its bid to save souls, the Catholic Church thought it wise that mortal sin needs to be confessed before a priest. It is the responsibility of every priest not to deny any penitent soul absolution when seeking God’s face during confession. Likewise, an individual guilty of venial sin equally needs to be in a state of grace before receiving the body and blood of Christ.

My brothers and sisters there is no issue here. The pope isn’t promulgating a new law. He is only improving upon an already existing order. The catholic church has always practiced mercy as instructed by our Lord Jesus Christ. A penitent sinner can never be denied forgiveness. This has always been the practice of the Catholic Church. All it takes is to ask for forgiveness, seek God’s face, and knock on God’s door and it will be rendered to you according to your word. There is nothing wrong in going to confession before a priest, Christ commanded it. It is neither a doctrine or pope sanctioned authority. If we can share our darkest secrets on live television broadcast, confide in counselors, therapists, friends, and pastors etc. we shouldn’t be outraged that Christ expressly gave his apostles the authority to forgive and retain sin. When we attend confession, we are not confessing our sins to Fr. John or Fr. James because they are God. If that’s what you’ve had at the back of your mind, then that mindset needs to be changed immediately. It is God who forgives. Priests are Christ’s representatives on earth. Christ handed down the command to forgive or retain sins on His behalf because He knew that He was no longer going to be physically present on earth. It was Christ who gave the apostles this authority and not man.

Building Spiritual Intimacy in your marriage

bi_spiritual_intimacyIntimacy encompasses undertakings that foster a sense of unison or attachment. An enduring marital bliss demands that couples become soul mates in addition to being sexually and emotionally intimate. Becoming a soul mate entails spiritual intimacy. Spiritual Intimacy is “feeling that partners experience a sense of unity in things spiritual such as worship, prayer, private devotions how much they talk about spiritual issues, ways they react emotionally to spiritual things, ways they use their faith to cope with adversity, ways they use religious beliefs and values in daily life and the amount of emphasis they place on religion in their family and in their private life” (Worthington, 1999, p. 232-233). Therefore, it involves a meeting of the mind by couples regarding spirituality as it pertains to their matrimonial union and acting upon that agreement. Spiritual intimacy is characterized by joint participation in prayer, scriptural study, mass/church service, scriptural reading, fasting, corporal works of mercy, suffering and redemption etc. It is a never failing love that unlocks the gate to admiration, thanksgiving, and reverence. However, spiritual intimacy does not bring about a dispute free relationship; rather it brings about a relationship where couples mutually influence each other for the better. The presence of spiritual Intimacy in a union makes the marriage God’s harbor. With God’s presence in a marriage, couples display physical, emotional, and spiritual bond that deepens every passing day and tackle spiritual and religious matters amicably devoid of quarrel.

What are your thoughts on spiritual intimacy in marriage?

References

Allender, D. (2015). Coaching couples in spiritual intimacy

Worthington, E. L. (2005). Hope-focused marriage counseling: A guide to brief therapy. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Creating a Safe Haven Marriage

24970-ThinkstockPhotos-482229547_1200w_tnThe uniqueness of each individual in a marital union makes it imperative that a 100% commitment is needed in order to sustain the relationship. Although teaching couples to build a foundation of trust and safety in their marriage is essential, it is the responsibility of couples to continuously invest in creating trust which ultimately leads to emotional safety. When couples relate to one another in a trusting, emotionally available, and responsive manner their union becomes a safe haven. Their relationship becomes a secure base from where they venture out into the world (May, 2015). Creating a safe haven marriage is one of the strategies for strengthening marriages. This strategy is very meaningful because when a marriage is a safe haven, other difficulties faced in time will become more manageable (May, 2015). Creating a safe haven for each other in a marriage can enable couples weather any storm. However, the question becomes, can couples trust each other to be available when they reach out for one another? Will couples be emotionally available to and for one another? Will couples respond in a loving and attentive manner that is in the best interest of the union? The qualities of a safe haven are more about ways of being emotionally and physically available for your spouse. These qualities mean you are someone with whom your spouse can feel safe, loved, accepted, and understood. Marriage was meant to be an intimate relationship, thus a union open to vulnerability. How we respond to each other’s failings, short-comings, and self-doubts can build or destroy the trust that is essential to the intimacy of marriage. Acting with empathy and understanding creates an atmosphere of comfort, safety and trust. Creating a safe haven marriage leads to happy marriages which ultimately affects a person’s overall wellbeing. It has the capability to prolong life. It is ideal for couples to strive to nurture their friendships and relationships towards growth every passing moment. Couples should work on ensuring that their gaze is fixated in a forward mode, looking straight ahead as a union. They should ensure that time is allocated to talking to each other and enhancing their love maps. Couples should ensure that they move from selfishness to service, embrace laughter and humor, and parent with pleasure. According to Parrott and Parrott (2005) the most important thing a couple may ever do for their children is to work on their marriage, thus “nothing provides more security and peace in a child’s life than knowing that mom and dad are deeply in love” (p.80). Your marriage will be stronger, because as a spouse, you play a high-ranking role that is inimitable; therefore, it is important to learn how to be our spouse’s safe haven.

References

May, S. M. (2015). Coaching couples in safe haven marriages.

Parrott, L., & Parrott, L. L. (2005). The complete guide to marriage mentoring: Connecting couples to build better marriages.

The Challenges Facing Today’s Christian Marriages

I can't take this anymore
I give up…

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). God’s intention for marriage was for man and woman to become a single united font rather than a divided font. It is sad that this division has crawled into the space of the faithful who are supposed to be custodians of God’s words. A study by Baylor University indicates that evangelical Christians have higher than average divorce rates than Americans with no religious affiliation. However, several factors have put a huge dent in the intended unity that was supposed to distinguish the institution of marriage from other unions.

Clinton and Trent (2009) state that financial issues is often the reason why 50% of new marriages end in divorce. Furthermore, a report from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project showed that couples without assets are 70% more likely to divorce within three years than couples with $10,000 in assets. However, Gottman and Silver (1999) view financial issues as solvable problems that require “clearheaded budgeting” (p. 195). Couples who divorce due to financial issue do not successfully resolve the problem rather the issue develops into perpetual problems about emotional needs and power.

What other challenges do you see facing today’s Christian marriages?

References

Baylor University. (2014, February 5). Evangelical Christians have higher-than-average divorce rates, new report shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 14, 2015 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140205103258.htm

Clinton, T. E., & Trent, J. (2009). The quick-reference guide to marriage & family counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Miller, A. (2013). Can this marriage be saved? Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/04/marriage.aspx

Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. Three Rivers Press: New York, NY.

Effective Listening Strategies for Premarital/Marital Relationships

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The importance of communication in any relationship cannot be overemphasized. The ability to listen carefully, learn to make adaptations, avoid changing one another, and expand the way a person listens makes communication more effective. However, a communication concept that has had the greatest impact on me is the importance of listening. Listening is when another person is talking to you, you are not thinking about what you are going to say when they are done talking rather you are totally tuned into the other individual. The implication of this description is that a listener is totally connected to the speaker. Therefore, one can accurately state that communication is nonexistent without listening.

Men and women are created differently and their communication patterns differ also. Every so often couples are faced with mistranslations regarding the messages they send across. In other to avoid these mistranslations, listening is vital. Couples should listen to themselves in other to discover how they actually speak. A tape recorder can be used as a communication tool to capture both the content and tone of the message being conveyed .This is essential because people have the capability of taking a sentence and giving it multiple interpretations or messages. Consequently, being able to listen to what one has said in a recording will help make changes where needed. It helps both the listener and speaker communicate with accuracy and not on misconstruction. Couples should listen and give each other full undivided attention. This entails putting down what one is doing which then signals to the other person that they are significant and valuable.

Furthermore, listening involves being able to accurately restate the content or substance and feeling of a message. This prevents misconstructions, assumptions, and mistranslations which often create tension in relationships. Without listening, there is no communication. A marriage without communication loses life. For that reason, it is important for couples to work on their listening skills in other to connect with each other and begin to work as a single union. When couples work as a single unified font life is restored into the union.

What other listening strategies have been effective in your relationship(s)?

 

Reference

Wright, N. H. (2015). Coaching couples in good communication

Hello Readers!

ID-10098944-SilhouetteFamilyWelcome to the blog, lifemarriageandfamily. This blog will focus on topics centered on the concept of life, relational (premarital/marital) issues, and family related topics. However, some posts may veer outside the listed topics based on trending current events. New topics will be posted weekly or monthly. The posts would be in varying formats like; Q&As, biblical insights, inspirational quotes, and discussion posts. Please, I urge you to be active participants by responding to posts. I also encourage you to let me know your likes, dislikes, and areas of improvement regarding the blog. Thank you for making out time to read this initial post, I am truly humbled.