By Pastor Royston Smith
One myth perpetuated by the media is the idea that “love is a matter of chemistry with intense passion, an overwhelming sense of romantic love.” This promotes a romanticised view of relationships, focussing more on sexual excitement whist minimising good communication. For deep intimacy to thrive, there needs to be good communication. If this all-important ingredient is missing the relationship will eventually die. Life coach Tony Gaskins taught that, “Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life. Without it…it dies.”
Speaking from an open heart creates vulnerability which is necessary for building relationships. For most of us, it can be quite a scary experience however, it is crucial. So many relationships are suffocated by the weight of unspoken issues, accompanied by a looming fear that speaking from the heart has the potential to destroy. However, the ability to communicate with an open heart and mind will make you a better spouse by increasing your ability to show empathy and love. Openness and honesty usually evoke support and strengthen the communication channel. King Solomon asked God to “Give me the gift of a listening heart,” I Kings 3:5-15.
Another essential factor in creating a warm, intimate and sustaining relationship is the ability to use clear messages. No matter how well you know and love each other, you cannot read your spouse’s mind. Too often we expect our spouse to know what is wrong without being told. Say what you mean and make your feelings and your needs clear. Otherwise the happiness and intimacy initially shared will gradually erode, taking the relationship with it. Clear communication minimises and prevents misinterpretations which would otherwise cause hurt and confusion. If you want to avoid heartache and stress, you need to make your messages clear and simple. This will encourage your spouse to be more engaging. Make your speech specific, succinct and simple.
Nagging, sarcasm, and put downs, are all communication killers. These will cause your spouse to disengage, creating resentment and eventually, silence. Furthermore, a growing mountain of evidence shows that these habits lead to withdrawal. This is a natural response used by a spouse who feels under attack. As one recoils and refuses to talk the other becomes confused and sometimes demands a reason for the stalemate. The more one spouse complains, the more the other stonewalls. Subsequently, communication within the relationship diminishes. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].” Self-awareness is important. Spouses need to be able to recognise when these behaviours are poisoning their relationship. A more caring approach must be used to resolve conflict and strengthen your conversations.
Communicating with an ‘absent-present’ person can be difficult and fraught with frustration. In this world of work and survival many relationships are under great strain. Wife is too tired; husband works long hours; they are physically at home but mentally elsewhere. These are excuses, not reasons for neglecting their relationships. Counsellors suggest that spending at least 3 1/2 hours a week (as little as 30 minutes each day) interacting with your spouse can strengthen your relationship. This must be time dedicated exclusively for conversations. Asking about one’s day is the conversation starter that opens the door into each other’s soul. Deep, regular conversations are the building blocks of trust, love and Intimacy. Hebrews 10:25 (ESV) reminds us, “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” Seize every opportunity, spend quality time together talking in a healthy manner and your relationship with your spouse will grow and flourish.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for my spouse. Help me to be willing to apologise and ask forgiveness. Please help me to treasure her/him and seek only to do that which is for our best. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.