Communication: The Life-Blood of Marriage

Cool Hand Luke ChainedWhat we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” This famous line from Cool Hand Luke describes a universal challenge for marriages. Husbands and wives don’t always communicate with each other as well as we should.
iphoneIn this age where everybody carries multiple communication devices, you’d think we’d be better at it. Today we can text, tweet, Face Time, Insta-gram, post on Facebook or Linked-In, email, chat, FAX, call or write a note. With Siri’s help, we can even do it “hands-free”.
But these are not the only ways we communicate. A smile across the room, or simply making eye contact during a conversation communicates volumes. We communicate love by giving each other our time and our undivided attention.
Sadly, we sometimes communicate in unhealthy ways as well. There is a negative effect when we raise our voice, roll our eyes, nag, or use sarcasm. Behaviors like dropping your dirty clothes on the floor, or leaving the gas tank of the car empty also communicate.Dirty Socks on the Floor
But most of the time it is the words we speak and the tone in which we speak them.
Circulatory SystemWhy do you suppose healthy communication is vital to a healthy marriage? Because communication is where we connect. It is the life-link between our lives. Communication is to a relationship, like blood is to a body. Blood flows to and from every cell of the body. It brings life sustaining oxygen and nourishment, and it carries away the hazardous waste. If we cut off the flow of blood, the cells will die. If we cut off communication our relationships will die. But, if we maintain quality communication in our marriages, they will stay strong and healthy, and best of all, we will truly feel connected.
Bible
Here’s what the bible has to say about Communication:
Proverbs 18:21 says: Death and life are in the power of the tongue…
We learn: The health of our marriage relationship is directly affected by the quality of our communication.
Proverbs 16:23-24 says: The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.
We learn: We can teach ourselves to communicate well.
Proverbs 18:13 says: He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.
We learn: We need to be a ready listener. Don’t answer until the other person is finished. James 1:19 says “be swift to hear and slow to speak and slow to wrath.”
Proverbs 15:28 says: The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
We learn: How we answer is just as important as what we answer. It is OK to take time to process before we answer our spouse.
Proverbs 15:1 says: A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
We learn: Stop arguments before they get started. Speak in civil tones and you’ll have much more productive conversations.

Proverbs 21:23 says: Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.
We learn: We seldom regret words we didn’t say.

Proverbs 29:20 says: Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
We learn: Slow down. Think before you speak. We don’t have to say every thought that comes into our mind.

Proverbs 31:26 says: She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.
We learn: Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied. Speak good words that are appropriate. There are some laws we should never break lest we suffer. Unless our tongue is governed by the law of kindness, we should say nothing. Remember love is patient and kind… 1 Cor 13:4
Proverbs 25:15 says: By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.
We learn: We don’t need to be harsh or forceful to make a point.
Proverbs 25:11-12 says: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.
We learn: Choose your words carefully and your spouse will appreciate your help to discover the solution to their need.

Proverbs 18:2 says: A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.
We learn: Acting self-centered, self-willed or self-important is foolish. We already know our own opinion. Spend less energy trying to be interesting, and more energy being interested in others.
Proverbs 27:2 Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.
We learn: Speak well of your spouse. Nobody wants to listen to you bragging about yourself.

Proverbs 25:9 says: Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another.
We learn: If you have a problem with your spouse, don’t complain to other people. Rather, talk with your spouse and together you may solve it. If you need help, enlist a counselor or someone who will be part of the solution.
Proverbs 17:14 says: The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.
We learn: Arguing doesn’t solve problems; it often causes them to escalate. A productive, respectful conversation will accomplish much more towards resolving a conflict.

Proverbs 29:11 says: A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.
We learn: After decades of encouraging people to “vent” their feelings. Psychologists have discovered that God was right all along. “Venting” is unhealthy and unwise…go figure.
Psalm 141:3 says: Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.
We learn: Ask the Lord to help you speak only good words that will enhance your marriage.

Isaiah 50:4 says: The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.
We learn: Ask the Lord to give you words to encourage your spouse.

Ephesians 4:15 says: Speak the truth in love.
We learn: Spouses can help and encourage one another by reminding each other what is true. When we do so, in an attitude of love, we become our spouse’s best ally.
Ephesians 4:29 says Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
We learn: Words hurt and words heal. I wrote an e-book entitled The Weight of Words, based on this scripture. You can find it by clicking this link.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Weight-of-Words-ebook/dp/B00557YS9CConversation

Leanin’

Joe Jr.“Hey, Luce, was he leanin’?” Joey Fusco was the son of the superintendent at Lucy Moderatz’s apartment building. He was always watching to see how close Lucy was getting to guys. Or how close they were getting to her.

While You Were Sleeping“Was he leanin’?” It became a family joke after we watched “While You Were Sleeping” as our daughter, Monica, moved into her dating years.

To lean means “To bend or slant away from the vertical.” – to relax and not be so rigid, proper, and perfectly aligned.

Leanin'John and I have a place in our kitchen where we do a lot of leanin’. We stand and talk and lean. We lean against the sink, and we lean toward each other. More than once, I remember Monica walking in and looking at us and saying (in her best Joey Fusco voice), “Hey! You guys leanin’?”

 Sometimes you have to bend or slant away from the vertical. And relax.

leaninWe always say there’s probably a groove worn in the kitchen floor, where our feet stand at that place we lean against the sink.  If you added together all the minutes we’ve stood there, it would probably be more than 100 hours.  

What do we talk about? This and that. Everything. Anything.

As Billy Joel put it, “I don’t want clever conversation. I never want to work that hard. I just want someone that I can talk to. I want you just the way you are.”

Sometimes we just talk about our day, or family stuff or jokes or a cool bible verse we came across. Sometimes we talk about what we’re reading, or something we heard on the radio, or what’s in the news.

Sometimes more than other times, we bend away from the vertical…both physically and emotionally.

These are the times we call M.I.M. – Mouth In Motion.

I might be overwhelmed with some problem that I can’t clearly sort out for myself, so as we lean against the sink I’ll start talking. I’ll usually begin with a disclaimer – “This is just M.I.M.”  Translation: “I’m just going to say everything in my mind, sort of dump it out on the proverbial table in a big pile. Don’t take it too seriously…well, yes, take it seriously, but don’t hold me to it.”

Totally honest talk to a non-judgmental, listening ear.

So I talk – mouth in motion – I dump it all out in a haphazard heap, and John helps me pick up each piece, shake it out and see if it’s real, or where it fits into reality.  He helps me bring order into the issue, and reminds me to get rid of whatever is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable — and if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, to think about such things.  He reminds me to toss out the garbage thoughts. He helps me make sense of the problem, and maybe figure out a solution. Or he promises to pray with me as I go through whatever it is.

And it works both ways. John has the M.I.M. and I help him sort it out.

I’m not talking about interpersonal issues between the two of us. That would be another blog.  John touched on it here.

M.I.M. – “Mouth in Motion” – Obviously we can’t go around venting, and pouring out our every thought to everyone we know.  The bible has plenty to say about guarding our tongue and choosing our words carefully.  But when a man and woman are married, God says the two have become one. If there is anyone in the world with whom we can be completely transparent and spontaneous it must be our spouse – our other half. (If you are reading this and you’re not married, ask the Lord if there are one or two people in your life who are very close, true friends, and give each other M.I.M. permission. I actually learned M.I.M. from my room-mate, Barbie, before John and I were married.)

The bottom line is that it will help you keep your sanity and think clearly if you have …someone that you can talk to…someone good at leanin’. Jack and Lucy

Special thanks to my wife Andee for contributing this post. I so appreciate her help and insight. If you’d like to read more, check out her blog, Paladini PotPie.

The Most Important 20 Minutes

We woke up early this morning to a beautiful crisp March day. Both of our To-Do lists are a mile long with all those things that have to be done on our “day off”. There never seems to be enough time during the week to tackle those bigger projects. My list would have me outside tending to the long-neglected yard and Andee’s list includes catching up on a pile of paperwork. Although today is Saturday, and we will actually be in the same zip code, our projects will have us geographically thirty yards apart. Having a Saturday to do our own thing is good, unless we neglect connecting with each other. It is so easy to let a whole work week pass, only to realize we haven’t had a meaningful conversation all week. We’ve had this happen in the past and we don’t ever want it to happen again. Saying “Hello” and “Good-bye” and talking about our schedules as we come and go is not enough to sustain a healthy marriage. We can’t allow the calendar page to flip, only to realize we haven’t talked about the things that are really important.
Johns Shoes Looking DownThere is a place just to the right of our kitchen sink where the flooring really should be worn out. I don’t know why it isn’t. It is a favorite place of mine. True, it’s where the coffee pot is located but that’s not the reason. That spot is the place I stand and lean against the counter when I come home from work at night. Andee is usually busy preparing a meal. As soon as I come home, I put away my jacket and computer and go stand in my favorite spot. That is the place I learn about my wife. She tells me about the victories and blessings of her day. She also tells me about the struggles, technology problems and family news. I even get a little update on her Facebook friends. Sometimes I leave my sacred spot to take care of a “quick fix” that has been concerning her all day, if it takes less than a minute. Then I hurry back. I don’t want to miss anything. Conveniently the plates and silverware are right behind me so I can set the table while she puts the finishing touches on dinner.
Hour GlassThrough all the years of raising a family, the first twenty minutes I’m home we’ve spent together. Now that our children are grown, and on their own, we still do this. It helps us feel connected. Gone are the days of homework and diapers, but they have been replaced with meetings, projects and other commitments.
Gift of TimeThe bible tells us to redeem the time because the days are evil. (Eph 5:16). Every day will provide enough challenges to keep us too busy for each other…if we let them. But instead, let’s build healthy habits of staying current with our spouse. Then when our projects have us working in different locations, we will still feel “together”. That is much better than being together and feeling all alone.

Love Handles at DEFCON 5

Seal of the United StatesIn the interest of Homeland Security, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces has developed the DEFCON System. It prescribes five graduated levels of alert and combat-readiness ranging from DEFCON 5, which is the least severe, to DEFCON 1, which is the most severe.

How long has it been since you and your spouse dated? In the early days we worked very hard to put our best foot forward. We groomed ourselves meticulously, and we kept our bodies trim so we would be attractive to our spouse. We engaged them in conversation to get to know them better. We listened carefully to discover the things they liked and disliked, and then we’d surprise them with something special to win their heart.

I noticed an interesting phenomenon a few months after we got married. My shirts didn’t fit as well as they had before, and my belt was getting a bit tight. People would say “It looks like marriage has been good to you.” They were referring to those bulges just above the waist that are playfully called “Love handles”. (They are a kissing cousin to the “Freshman Fifteen”.) They’re an obvious indication that we have relaxed and settled into married life. Since we are no longer pursuing our spouse, we slack off from the attentiveness we once employed to be our best for them.

I noticed this tendency in myself. When Andee would speak to me, I would hear her talking but I was not always listening to what she said. I would give her about ten percent of my attention and the rest to the TV program or the article I was reading. Then it would suddenly get very quiet. Nuclear ExplosionI have never experienced a nuclear explosion, but I can imagine that one minute before it detonates, everything seems very normal. I say that in jest because Andee is not the type who explodes. She is even more dangerous. If I stop listening, she’ll simply stop talking to me until I am ready to listen. But what if I am never ready? What if I develop a habit of “tuning her out” whenever she speaks? God said It is not good for man to be alone. Well, right about that time I began to feel very alone; and it was my own neglect that got me there.

James 1:19 says:  So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…

“Love handles” is a great name for a growing waistline. But in my mind, love handles are up a little higher. I know I can be dense. I also know that I can get preoccupied with my own thoughts and plans. It is never in my heart to exclude my wife. But the truth of the matter is that I can be unattentive to her and I never want to be. So I have resolved that whenever she is speaking to me, I try to stop what I’m doing and give her my full attention. I try to look her in the eyes and turn my body toward her. If I’m in the middle of a project that can’t be stopped, I tell her, “Give me 3 minutes to finish this, then I’m all yours.” But what about those times that I’m preoccupied and I don’t “get it”? Is there a remedy for that?    Yes, that is where Love Handles come in.Collar True Love Handles are those two little flaps of fabric just under either side of my jaw. Sometimes they are referred to as a collar. I know the importance of communication, and I know that I am not always as attentive as I want to be. So early on in our marriage I told my wife, If you’re ever trying to communicate something to me and I’m just not “getting it”…grab me by the collar until my face is about 2 inches from your face and say: THIS IS IMPORTANT! Then I guarantee I’ll “get it”.

If there is a war brewing in my own home, I don’t want to be that last to know.  And I certainly don’t want it to escalate to DEFCON 1, nuclear war, especially if it is due to my neglect or inattentiveness.

There are two parts to communication.  One speaks; the other listens. Then the other speaks and the one listens. Communication has not occurred until the message is received and understood.

The Amplified bible says it this way: Let every man be quick to be a ready listener, slow to speak and slow to take offense. James 1: 19

That’s good counsel for marriage.

Listen well…and you’ll love being married.