By Dr. Gary Chapman
We talk a lot about the importance of communication in relationships, but we don’t often evaluate our communication. You see, communication is not enough because how we talk greatly affects the quality of our conversation. Many have developed unhealthy patterns of communication, and wonder why their conversations seem to go down hill. Below are a few of the most common patterns…
“That’s fine with me.” Or, “Whatever you want is fine.” It’s really not “fine”, but this person does not like arguments, so, on the surface they simply agree, but inside they resent the attitude of the other person. We will never have an authentic relationship until we learn to share our honest thoughts and feelings. You might begin by asking, “Would you really like to know my thoughts?” If they say, “yes”, then share them.
There are many unhealthy patterns of communication, but none as deadly as “The Blamer.” “It’s your fault.” “If it weren’t for you everything would be fine.” “You never do anything right.” “I don’t know how you could be so stupid.” No matter what it is, the blamer will blame their spouse and in the process destroys intimacy and make communication impossible.
An ancient Hebrew proverb says, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions.” If you are a blamer, I urge you to apologize to the person you so often blame. Your relationship will never improve until you admit your destructive words and seek to understand the other person’s perspective.
If you are married and you take pride in being reasonable, and you see your spouse as being unreasonable, you are in the process of destroying your marriage. The person I’m talking about is calm, cool and collected. He believes that if you will listen to his arguments, you will be forced to agree. Any sane person could not disagree.
“Let’s be reasonable,” they say, as they envision themselves as being a person of logic.”Let me explain this to you one more time.” The implication is that if you will just listen, you will understand and thus agree. This person makes no room for emotions. All that matters is logic. But I remind you that God made us emotional creatures and if you don’t allow for emotions, you will never create an intimate marriage. Learn to listen. Treat your spouse as a person of worth. Ask for their opinions and be empathetic with their feelings.
The Statue and/or Subject Changer
This is the person who doesn’t talk. “Ignore her and she will go away” is his philosophy. Such a person will never enjoy authentic relationships. In healthy relationships, people must talk about the things that irritate them. They must seek to negotiate solutions which will respect their differences. Put your head in the sand, and your problems will get worse.
The key is not to ignore your spouse or change the subject when your spouse brings up a topic that you think will start an argument. Simply ask, “Do you want us to share our ideas and look for a solution? If so, I’m willing to talk. If we are simply going to argue, I don’t have the energy to do that. If we can respect each other’s thoughts I think we can find an answer.” Speak the truth in love and you can solve your problems.
Working Towards Healthy Communication
If you see yourself in any of the unhealthy communication patterns above and desire to change, talk with your spouse and develop healthy ways to identify these patterns when they arise. Then, set in place a plan to work towards healthy communication. And healthy communication leads to healthy relationships.