Copy
You are receiving this message because you subscribed to receive email updates from me on brianjlindner.com.
View this email in your browser
Everything in relationships involves communication. It’s how you first got to know your spouse and their favorite flavor of ice cream. It’s how you convinced them to go on your first date and how you say “I love you” every morning. Communication is how you learn what your spouse is thinking. It’s how you share the details of your day and how you show your spouse how special they are. You are always communicating in marriage, even in silence, especially in silence.
 
When communication misses the mark, interacting with your spouse can feel like fingernails on a chalkboard. You know you are communicating clearly but your spouse doesn’t understand what you are saying. You may wonder why you stopped connecting the way you used to. When communication falters in marriage, it can feel like your spouse will never understand you.
Sue and Chuck finish dinner and stack the dirty dishes in the sink. They look through the kitchen window and see their two kids playing outside. Their four year old comes inside proudly holding a dandelion for her mother. Sue says “thanks for picking me a pretty flower” and their daughter runs back outside to play.

Chuck says to Sue “great, she picked you a weed, where did she find it in my yard anyway?”

“I’m glad SOMEONE will get me flowers”

“Come on, what’s that supposed to mean?” Chuck says.

“This may be a weed” Sue says, showing him the yellow dandelion “but at least it’s a flower, you NEVER get me flowers.”

Looking away Chuck responds “Flowers are pointless, they die the next day anyway.”

“Flowers are always nice. They would make a nice centerpiece for our table.”

“Yeah, nice and expensive” Chuck says.

Turning to look directly at Chuck, Sue says “That’s all you care about? money?”

Chuck quickly replies “Well money IS important, you are the one saying I don’t make enough money.”

“I didn’t say it like that.”

Getting more upset Chuck says “Yes you did! you said I didn’t make enough money so we can’t go on vacation this summer.”

“That’s because you didn’t get the overtime you thought you would get” insists Sue.

Chuck says “You said I was working too much! I can never please you!”

“I hate it when you yell in front of the kids” says Sue.

Continuing on Chuck says “You want more money, then you want me home all the time, now you want flowers too!”

Walking away Sue says “Geeee Chuck, I get it, you don’t care, forget it then.”

“I wasn’t yelling, I was just trying to explain because you don’t understand” Chuck says.
Woah.
 
Chuck and Sue got off track and missed the opportunity to really understanding each other. Their communication didn’t allow for connection. Learning to communicate more effectively is critical to developing a wonderful, well connected marriage.
 
Unfortunately the above scenario is common in marriage. If you asked Sue and Chuck they may not even remember what they were arguing about. If they were able to remember the content of their argument they would likely say it was about flowers or his work. The words of their conversation remained surface level as they discussed logistics of purchasing flowers and his employment. 
Communication consists of only two main parts.
  1. Logistics. The words* you say to each other. The purpose is to relay information.
  2. Emotion. The feelings you experience when you hear the words. The purpose is to give meaning to your words within the context of relationship.
*Nonverbal communication (body language and tone of voice) also contains logistics and emotion. The logistics of nonverbal communication is the literal observable action, like rolling his eyes or folding her arms. The emotion contained in nonverbal communication is often even more powerful than words. For example, feeling distain while rolling eyes and feeling attacked and defensive when folding arms.  
 
In addition to logistics, the conversation between Chuck and Sue involved underlying emotions. Their behavior, including snarky comments, and raising their voices suggest raw emotions. The conversation was not simply about flowers or money. It contained emotions related to the connection each desires in the relationship.
 
If Sue and Chuck were able to communicate more directly about their emotions Chuck might share how disappointed he is with his career and the shame he feels because he isn’t making as much money as he hoped. Sue might share how she feels abandoned and lonely.
 
All communication contains meaning beyond logistics both for the talker and listener based on their unique past experiences. Most communication problems come from ignoring or inaccurately identifying the emotion of the conversation. Many arguments stem from a misunderstanding of what is really going on emotionally. When emotions are not acknowledged spouses feel hurt and not understood. They respond defensively which elevates the tension and conflict. 
Lets go back to the previous scenario.

Sue says “I’m glad SOMEONE will get me flowers”

Chuck says “Come on, what’s that supposed to mean?”

“This may be a weed but at least it’s a flower, you NEVER get me flowers.”

Rather than getting into a logistical surface level conversation about flowers, Chuck, suspecting his wife is experiencing an emotion, will address the emotion he feels she could be experiencing. He may respond differently by saying

“You feel like I’m neglecting you when I don’t get you flowers?”

When his response addresses her perceived emotion in the moment, Sue is likely to respond by describing a bit of what she is feeling, she may say

“Yeah, here I am alone with the kids while you are always gone working.”

It could be easy for Chuck to get side tracked again into the logistics of his work schedule but when he is focused on responding to the emotion he could respond by saying

“You work hard caring for our kids, I appreciate you.” Then in continued response to her desire for emotional connection he gives her a hug. 
Attending to the emotion in a conversation results in better connection. When connection is strong in marriage logistical problem solving is possible because each person in the relationship feels secure.
 
Most couples can improve their communication by paying more attention to the emotional content of the interactions. However, just because every conversation contains emotion, not every conversation has to be about emotion. The emotional content varies greatly from conversation to conversation. Sometimes you really can talk about normal things like flowers, hunting, computers, or work schedules without a mushy emotional scene. Not every conversation will touch raw hurtful emotions. But the more you become aware of the emotion part of communication the more you can avoid needless conflict and pain.
 
In most marriages husbands and wives differ in the way they experience emotions and to what extent their emotions are expressed. The differences, which can be extreme in some marriages, often become a source of great conflict and struggle. Many authors have written insightful books containing their observations and generalities about the differences in the emotional expression of men and women. Learning about your spouse including their unique raw spots and strengths is the best way for you to navigate better connection.

Communication in marriage consists of two parts, surface level logistics and emotional level content. The logistics part of communication is about relaying information. The emotion part of communication provides meaning and depth to the words used. Understanding the two parts of communication will help you communicate ideas clearly while connecting deeply with each other. 

Want more connection in your marriage?
 

Go deeper.
Learn more about communication in marriage with my new email course,

 

30 Days of Better Communication in Marriage.

 

Reduce nagging, defensiveness, and conflict in your marriage while building deeper intimacy with your spouse.
 

Available Now.

Yes! I want to learn more.
Forward to Friend
I’m Brian, a regular guy with an awesome wife and a great marriage. The purpose of this blog is to show how you can have a wonderful marriage. Make Some Wonderful blog posts don’t waste your time with impractical jabber. You simply get solid guidance for deeper connection and hopefully a laugh or two.
Comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2016 Brian Lindner Counseling, All rights reserved.