Few things are as critical to a vibrant marriage as communication. Ironically, in a world of constant communication with the explosion of social media, communication between spouses remains a great challenge for many couples.
In this four-part series, we’ll discuss the brief but powerful illustration for creating and fostering healthy marital communication channels with the abbreviation PAC (Parent, Adult, Child), which suggests that generally speaking, husbands and wives fall into one of these forms of communication on a regular basis. Now while the “A” in the abbreviation is optimal, the more frequent use of “P” and “C” are almost guaranteed to create challenges in communication.
P: The “Parent” Mode:
Starting at birth, all people depend on a parent to care, instruct, and provide for them in every area of life. For an infant and elementary age child, it’s healthy for a parent to maintain control of virtually everything. Good parents direct, instruct, correct, guide, and discipline their children. Attentive parents make decisions on everything from what the child will eat to how the child will dress, and set rules to govern the child’s activities, sleep schedules, relationships, and education.
The first few years of life, kids are incapable of even surviving, so having an adult to control, order, and dictate their lives is necessary to ensure safety and learn basic skills. In healthy homes, as the child ages, they gain the maturity and experience needed to make some of their own decisions. However, even for the most responsible teens, the challenges and pressures of navigating adolescence, experiencing puberty, dating, operating a vehicle, choosing a college, etc., still requires a parent to exert considerable influence, set boundaries, and offer guidance.
A: The “Adult” Mode:
In healthy environments, eventually people become adults and communicate on an “equal” footing. Authentic adult communication can be a beautiful experience. Families can have rich and meaningful dialogue; workplaces can be filled with creativity; friendships can ponder the meaning of life; individuals can become responsible contributors to society; relationships can reach heightened levels of trust and intimacy. Indeed, when mature adults are able to share their wisdom, experience, education, and dreams, beautiful moments occur.
C: The “Child” Mode:
It doesn’t take long observing children to realize sharing, cooperation, and healthy dialogue isn’t something we’re born with. Kids argue on the playground over whose turn it is, siblings fight about everything, toddlers throw fits, etc. Further, teenagers are often plagued by the inability to see beyond the moment. Drama abounds, balancing moods is a struggle, and for most of one’s developmental life, decisions are made solely from a self-centered and shortsighted perspective.
If a marriage is struggling with communication, chances are the “P” or the “C” of this abbreviation is occurring. It’s a common occurrence for spouses to operate out of the “Parent” or “Child” mode of communication, where dialogue is either an exertion of power and control or an overdramatic, reactionary response, both of which create impossible settings for healthy communication to occur.
For a further exploration, select the next part of this series on the shortcomings of the “Parent” and “Child” mode, as well as the steps to developing healthy “Adult” communication. For a more detailed Podcast, click here.