Is your marriage safe?? Is it safe for you to express your inner thoughts and feelings? Do you allow your spouse to express theirs without getting offended or defensive?
I am blessed with a great guy who lets me express my feelings whenever and about whatever I want. I am not shy to share what I am thinking and have been able to do this since day one. However, in the beginning, our relationship wasn’t to the point where Nate felt like he could share his true feelings, and I wasn’t at the point where I would accept his feelings in a productive way.
We got great marriage advice before we got married: make sure you have check-ups periodically to make sure things are going well. We were in college when we first got married so we decided to have our “check-ups” at the semester breaks. In our earlier years we would ask a simple “How are we doing?” and our answers would be a simple, “Good” or “Pretty Good.” That worked for the beginning part of our relationship. We were still getting to know each other and building our relationship. Building trust. At this point we weren’t necessarily lying, but we were refraining from telling all our complete feelings.
A couple years later as we continued to have our check-ups our answers started to change.Now our response to “How are things?” expanded to “Good, but if you could help pick up the house a little that would be helpful.” “Good, but if we could have a date more often that would be great.” We were starting to feel a little more comfortable with sharing a few of our frustrations.
About year 7 we started to feel a little more tension. The “little things” that had been bugging us that we didn’t want to bring up started turning into frustrating, annoying things. Suddenly we didn’t have as much grace towards each other. We started making indirect comments about how the other one was lacking or how we were frustrated about different things. This was starting us down a road of negative communications. Luckily we saw how this was only leading to hurt and negative communication and decided to do something about it.
So I decided to take my “big girl pill” and give Nate the opportunity to speak from his heart. It was hard at first hearing his frustrations and suggestions. It took everything in me to not become immediately defensive and hurt. Nate did an excellent job of speaking in “I” statements instead of “you” and not accusing me of wrongdoings but of explaining why he felt the way that he did.
This really was a turning point in our marriage. We were finally able to speak our complete feelings. We were able to calmly explain why we were frustrated or why we felt one of our needs was being unmet. This way of communication takes time and it took us many years to get there. We were able to get to this point where we could communicate our concerns in a healthy way because we had been building into our relationship. We had proven time and time again that our relationship is secure. Neither one of us was going anywhere; we were committed to each other.
Tips to help you communicate areas of need in a positive way:
1.) You both need to be secure in the other person’s love. Communicate this love directly and often.
2.) You both need to be confident that no matter what you fight or talk about the other person is not going anywhere. It is so important to never threaten divorce or walking out.
3.) Pray before you bring up a frustration or annoyance. In this moment with God ask Him to show you the correct next step of action. Do you need to just let it go? Is there something that you need to change or start doing to make the situation better? Or is God giving you the green light to bring up this topic for discussion with your spouse?
4.) Don’t initially assume that the other person is trying to hurt or frustrate you. Try to keep in mind that they might just be unaware or misinformed about the situation.
5.) Try not to speak out of hurt or frustration but instead keep your main goal in mind: we are discussing this so that we can better understand each other and build a better, closer marriage.
6.) Speak in “I” statements not “You.” Say, “I feel neglected when you work on the computer at night.” Instead of “You are always on the computer and that is not fair.”
7.) Keep in mind that you could be at fault. Admit your part in the situation or what you need to work on for the future.
8.) Try not to be offended or hurt when your spouse points out an area of weakness. Remember their intent is to help you become a better person, not hurt you. One easy step towards this goal is to take a breath before you respond to their constructive criticism.
9.) Remember there are always two sides to a story. A lot of times there is just a miscommunication at some point that lead to this frustration.
10.) Always speak in respectful and loving words.
Remember that in talking about your “little frustrations” in a healthy way you are building a deeper foundation where needs can be met. You will know your spouse on a deeper level and frustrations will be kept to a minimum. Arguments and discussions will be shorter and more productive. It will also help you allow God to change you into who He created you to be.
This week ask your spouse if they feel safe to express their full and true feelings about your relationship. If they can’t say “Yes!” then talk about ways to work on your relationship so that they will feel comfortable sharing in the future.
Our posts are not meant to show how we have it all together. On the contrary, we are work in progress! We have been at it for 11 years and have tried a few different things: some have worked and some have not. We are constantly seeking advice from our mentors and from books. Our goal is to share what we have found to work for us in hopes that it will start a good conversation between you and your spouse to figure out what will work for you.
Our posts are also not meant to be used as ammunition to throw at your spouse’s face to “teach” them how to be a better mate. They are to challenge you to become a better lover, helpmate, admirer and partner. They are not to give you a list of things that the other one needs to work on. Our hope is that as you learn about yourself and start becoming all that God created you to be, you will start having healthy conversations with your spouse. This will then lead to a deeper understanding and knowledge of the other person’s needs and give you the tools need to love and respect well.