Takeaway: Communication is the center of marriage. Almost everything, both good and bad, is a result of communicating with our spouse.
One of the best things my wife and I have done over the past year is to lead a small group for newly married couples. We have seven couple that were married from 5 weeks to 1 1/2 years when we started. We are wrapping up the group this month and will start a new group in August. Leading the group has really required that my wife and I have serious conversations about what is good and bad in our own marriage and the marriages of those around us and how it is we can encourage new marriages to become strong. I really recommend leading a group like this.
The main weakness in our current curriculum is that there is not a specific book or study on issues in communication. I, in particular, am not all that good at any communication that has a tinge of conflict. I avoid it at all costs. So I have learned a lot about myself as we lead the group. As we were looking for a book to supplement our curriculum my wife found Now You’re Speaking My Language. This is an easy to read, practical guide to improving communication in your marriage relationship. Formated with 23 short, about 10 page, chapters. This would make a good (but pretty long) small group study. It covers a wide variety of topics, good communication skills, building emotional, intellectual, spiritual and sexual intimacy, but the center of the book is mostly about discovering your own history and then learning how to treasure the differences between you and your spouse.
Chapman has a good example of how you might understand dishes left in the sink and a note that your spouse had to run to church. The way we interpret is related to how we are feeling that day, what we know of our spouses history, our own understanding of roles, etc. “All you have is your present sensory experience: you see the dishes and you read the note. The only way to know his/her true motivation for certain is to get honest feedback from your spouse as to what he/she was thinking, feeling, and expecting when they left the dishes in the sink. If you do not check out your interpretation, then in your mind your interpretation becomes fact, and you feel and behave accordingly. This is a major factor in misunderstandings between spouses. We assume that our interpretation is fact, and often we fail to clarify our interpretation with those who may be able to give us additional information. All interpretations should be held in a tentative way, and we should always be willing to change our interpretation if we gather new information…”
The tone of the book is summarized by this statement, “If you are going to communicate respect to your spouse, you must choose to treat him/her as a human. All humans are people of dignity and worthy of respect. All humans are unique because they are created by a God who is supremely creative. Allowing your spouse to be the person God created him/her to be is the first step toward communicating respect. Trying to argue your spouse into compliance with your views shows disrespect for his/her personhood.”
The curriculum for our group is set by the church, but I believe I will be supplementing our current curriculum with some examples from this book.