To avoid the unhealthy “P” and “C” (Parent and Child characteristics discussed previously) of unhealthy marital communication, this final installment of this series shows keys to developing healthy, mature “Adult” communication in your marriage (the “A” from the original PAC abbreviation).
Honor Your Spouse
Your spouse came from God; Your spouse is made in God’s image; Jesus died for your spouse. Your spouse is important to God and should be of utmost importance to you. Strong and healthy adults communicate out of a shared honoring of one another that flows out of a theological understanding of humanity. Remember, wedding vows include promises to God as well as to another person. Unhealthy communication is not only a broken promise between two people but a broken promise to Almighty God as well.
Healthy communication never misses the importance of timing. Right after work, spending a weekend working on taxes, during the game he’s been waiting all week to see, while she’s getting ready for the monthly Bunko girls night out… these are terrible times to have difficult conversations. Unless it is life or death, mature adults have their most difficult conversations when they are not fatigued, the kids are content, recreation is not interrupted, and issues at work at not pressing.
Focus On The Issue
Healthy marital communication stays focused on the issue at hand and doesn’t venture off into other issues, doesn’t go back in the past and bring up other previous areas of pain, and always works towards a solution. I’ve seen some marriages put a time limit, such as no longer than one hour, that they will spend talking about an issue. Another couple gave themselves a 3-day window on major issues and if they couldn’t work it out and re-enter marital bliss, they sought help from a mentoring couple at their church. Focus on the issue, work towards a solution, and then look for something fun to do.
Don’t Try And Win
Marriage is a not a game you try to win, it’s a relationship to bring you to the highest levels of love, joy, intimacy, and trust in God and another human being. Approaching marital communication as a competition will not create a winner and a loser, but two losers.
Express Gratitude And Affirm
In majority of situations, both parties will contribute something significant and of benefit to the conversation. Again, it’s not a game you’re trying to win. When your spouse makes a good point or articulates something of great value, affirm their contribution. Have you heard the phrase…I hear what you’re saying…BUT? Change that to “I hear what you’re saying and I affirm its importance to you.” Further, in some scenarios, the issue might even be something to be grateful for, such as: I hear your concern and I’m grateful you’re so organized,; I see you’re anxiety and I’m grateful you’re good with money; I know your having fun and I’m grateful you’re so laid back….often what might be a struggle at the moment could be a tremendous virtue in other areas of the marriage.
This is probably the most neglected part of developing healthy communication between spouses. After every conversation, spend some time in prayer, re-connect spiritually, offer/accept forgiveness if needed, and give God thanks for each other. Mature adults know that developing healthy communication flows out of spiritual formation and discipleship rather than self-help books or dogged determination.
If your marriage is struggling to communicate, chances are one of the spouses is communicating like a controlling “Parent” or an immature “Child.” However, the preceding 6 ways are tools for all marriages to communicate in a healthy, Godly manner. The analogy PAC is a great visual to remember ways communication can be enhanced or hindered. My prayer is this material will help all marriages become more aware of the “P and C” shortfalls and move towards the healthy and vibrant “A” style of healthy and holy communication!