The #1 Thing That Wrecks a Good Marriage
Marriage has been seen as the ultimate milestone in a person’s life. The idea of finding the person you love and want to spend our life with is a beautiful vision, one we see in many a story book. However, a glance at statistics remind us that around 40% of marriages still end indivorce. In other words, the fairytales portrayed by modern media and on the cover of magazines in no way reflect what marriage truly entails. As one who’s been married for 13 years, I am a witness: marriage is not easy. In fact, it would be fair to say this “milestone” requires lots of prayer, intentionality, and perseverance. Yet, I believe, in most cases, married couples will find they can triumph through “sickness and health,” “better or worse,” and “death do us part,” if they are willing to do that work.
Many researchers have attempted to answer the question, “Why do people divorce?” There are various websites that give tangible reasons to why things don’t quite work out. Marriage.com lists a few of the most common reasons:
- Constant arguing
- Unrealistic expectations
- Lack of intimacy
What Is the #1 Thing that Wrecks a Marriage?
Though these reasons are all valid, I am convinced: The number one thing that wrecks a good marriage is poor communication.
Research on communication is not a new phenomenon. In the 1970s, the first study marital communication study was conducted. Within this study, married couples were recorded speaking to one another over a prolonged time. It became evident that certain couples had high risk factors for divorce by simply listening to their communication patterns. Since the 70s, these studies are now more precise than ever. In fact, Dr. John Gottman has created an algorithm that can predict with 94% accuracy if a couple will stay together by only spending 30 minutes with them. By asking questions, observing how they interact with one another, body language and words, relationship sustainability can be measured. In other words, good communication is not just a good idea, it is vital.
Poor communication can be what separates a “good marriage” from a “bad one.” According to the author of Fighting For Your Marriage, “communication is the lifeblood of a good relationship; it keeps all good things flowing and removes blockages that most couples experience day to day.” In other words, without good communication patterns, it will be very difficult for most couples to survive.
There are many areas that couples tend to lack of or miscommunication in. This typically starts early in the relationship of the couple.
Common Areas of Miscommunication:
1. Finances: Who should manage the finances? How are big purchases made? How is debt handled by each person? How is money spent or saved?
2. Expectations of Marital Roles: Who should be the breadwinner? Is the wife mainly responsible for household affairs/chores? What should a Godly husband look like?
3. Sexuality: How often should the couple be intimate? What are the desires of each partner? How can each partner meet the other one’s needs? What is appropriate for interactions with the opposite sex?
4. Parenting: When should the couple have children? Will the children be homeschooled, private, or public? What things are appropriate or inappropriate for children? What actions or words are expressed when one parent doesn’t live up to the other’s expectations?
5. Communication: What tone of voice is considered respectful? What is the balance between discussing business and regular conversation? What is the manner in which each person handles disagreements? Is silent treatment or nagging the way to settle disputes?
6. Self-Autonomy vs Dependency: How much should each person depend on one another for everyday needs? How much pressure does each person put on the other to fulfill them? How does the weight or physical health of the other person affect the couple?
7. Religion: Should the couple go to church? What is the expectation for prayer? What will children within the home be taught about God?
These questions, I’ve seen on many occasions as a Professor of Social Psychology and pastor’s wife, are vital for couples to work through and share understanding in. In fact, those who are considering being married should take time to go through this list with their partner. The more each person has a clear idea of the other person’s desires, the easier it will be to create boundaries, standards, and fair compromises for the relationship.
There are several keys to successful communication among a couples. Even a couple with the most difficult marriage can see their homes turned around when both parties make choices to be intentional.
8 Keys to Successful Communication between Married Couples
1. Allow one person to have the floor at a time.
The first step of communication is listening. It’s essential to listen when it’s time to listen and speak only when it’s your turn. In my own marriage, this is extraordinarily difficult for me. In many cases, I know exactly what I want to say to “prove my point.” However, this is very destructive in communication. Always listen to gain understanding of the other person’s opinion. When you choose to listen in this manner, you are listening in hopes of solving a problem versus winning a case. However, if you happen to be the speaker, be sure to also make your point in a way that is quick and not full of complaints. In other words, state your ideas and allow the other person to have the floor.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
2. Paraphrase what was said.
Paraphrasing what’s said by your partner is a very essential skill in active communication. Often, counselors use this as a tool to seek understanding. This also allows the speaker to hear what they said or how it came across to the listener. Start your paraphrase with responses like, “What I hear you saying is…” or “Is it fair to say you are feeling...” This gives the speaker a chance to correct what they said. If you happen to be the speaker in this situation, the key is to NOT get frustrated if the listener misunderstands, simply choose to explain again.
3. Ask questions for further insight.
When in doubt, ask questions. This shows the other person you are fully interested in learning the truth of the situation. Questions are not asked to incite more frustration or in a sarcastic tone. Instead, every question is simply to show that you care to have a complete understanding.
4. Allow the other person to answer.
When you are no longer the speaker, remember to allow the other person to receive the same honor. Model how you would like to be listened to. Remember the “golden rule” and show a level of care and attentiveness to allow the other person to feel valued.
"Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31)
5. Practice the pause.
It’s ok to be silent. In fact, if you know your next phrase will be hurtful, mean-spirited, unnecessary, or will “push your spouse’s button” choose to not say it. Silence also gives times to reflect and create phrases that will bring healing versus hurt. Remember… just because you are speaking, doesn’t mean you’re communicating.
“Intelligent people think before they speak; what they say is then more persuasive. Kind words are like honey - sweet to the taste and good for your health.” (Proverbs 16:23-24)
6. Acknowledge the hurt.
Rather than skipping over the tough moments in the conversation, acknowledge the hurt. Be willing to pause the conversation and apologize for the pain caused. Even if you did not directly cause the hurt, taking time to say, “I’m sorry that happened to you” or “I can see how that really hurt you” can soften your spouse’s heart towards you in a tough moment. Be willing to put your frustration aside to care for the other person.
7. Ask God to give you “eyes to see” and understand the other person’s perspective.
A prayer that I pray often is, “God give me eyes to see.” In other words, “Lord how to do you see my husband?” What does my husband need that I can’t see because of my frustration? Lord, how can I be a vessel of love and hope to my spouse, even when I’m unhappy. When you ask God for this radical insight, He will start to give you wisdom and strategy on how to communicate and pray for your spouse.
8. Pray about it.
At times, an easy and “fair” solution may not be reached in the moment. At these times, make a choice to pray. Pray together and separately that the Lord will help you come to an agreement. Ask for His wisdom on the matter. Rather than rushing to make a quick choice to “band-aid” the issue, seek the Lord.
I believe with eight steps in place, God can completely transform a hurting marriage into one that is restored. Communicate well, love well!
Victoria Riollano is an author, blogger, and speaker. As a mother of six, military spouse, Psychology professor and minister’s wife, Victoria has learned the art of balancing family and accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose for her life. Recently, Victoria released her book, The Victory Walk: A 21 Day Devotional on Living A Victorious Life. Her ultimate desire is to empower women to live a life of victory, hope, and love. She believes that with Christ we can live a life that is ALWAYS winning. You can learn more about her ministry at victoryspeaks.org.
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