Sunday, 7 February 2016

Fight For Your Marriage Part 4: Delivery

Read Part 1Part 2 and Part 3  first if you haven't yet.  

Now comes the hard part.  Actually bringing up the topic and delivering the message you need to send.  There are a number of different options and you will have to make a judgement call on what works best.  You may find your first choice to be not as effective as you hoped and switch to something else, but don't stop trying.

Just remember that you must not make them feel accused, blamed, judged, or threatened with any kind of consequence.  The objective is to develop mutual understanding so mutually satisfying solution can be found.  You two are a team, not opponents.

Rhetorical Tools

There are a few rhetorical tools that will help to get your message across in a positive way.  These can be used no matter what method is use to communicate.  These tools are:

Feel Statements
Anytime you feel inclined to make an accusation or lay blame, change it to a feel statement.  A feel statement describes the effect on you that their behaviour has.  For example:

"When you refuse to be intimate with me saying you are too tired, and then spend the next hour watching TV, I feel like you were not honest with me, avoiding me, and don't care how I feel."

That sounds a lot better than saying "You lie to me to avoid being intimate with me and don't care how I feel".  With a feel statement the only objection they can make is to claim they don't recall doing such a thing.  You may need to remind them of specifics.  

With an accusation you create a confrontation and force them to go on the defensive which will make it a lot harder to make progress.  A feel statement gives them an opening to explain what their thinking is, what their motives and reasons are.  When they do that it could drastically change your perspective, or make them aware of how their actions are impacting you.

Emotional Word Pictures
Emotional word pictures are a very useful way to help somebody relate to the feelings you have about something by comparing it to an emotional situation they already relate to.  You paint for them a picture with your words that evokes in them the emotions you want them to connect with what you are trying to explain to them.  To do that you need to know them well enough to know what kind of situation would have that kind of impact on them (even though it may not have that kind of emotional impact on you).

Say for example your spouse just can't understand why being refused for sex causes you to feel hurt (after all, it wouldn't hurt their feelings), but they have a great empathy for the feelings of little children.  You could say something like:

"Imagine you are a 2 year old and it's Sunday and you've been in Nursery for 2 hours.  You mother comes into the room and you are so happy to see her you run to her to give her a big hug, but she steps back and puts out her hand to stop you and says she doesn't feel like being hugged.  How do you think that child would feel, how do you think that child would feel if that happened a lot of the time?  That is like how I feel when you refuse my advances.'

By setting up a situation they relate to on an emotional level, then comparing it to a similar situation they don't relate to, they can come to understand things from your perspective better.

Once on my mission my companion knocked on a door and woman answered and  quickly turned us down, saying she was Catholic.  I suddenly asked her why she was a Catholic.  I hadn't planned on doing anything like that, the question just came out.  I felt I had been rude but she took the question seriously and hesitantly replied it was probably because she was raised Catholic.  I then asked (again without having planned to do this) if that was a good reason to be Catholic or not.  I could tell this was a question she had never asked herself, and after a pause she said it wasn't.  We invited her again to hear our message and although she turned us down again, you could tell it was because she needed time to think about our exchange.  Perhaps later on other missionaries got to teach her.

Questions are powerful tools you can use to get your spouse to look inside themselves and figure out what their own motives, beliefs and objectives that create their behaviour.  A lot of what they do may be nothing more than an unthinking habit, like that woman's Catholic faith.  Questions like:  What do you gain from that behaviour?  How would you feel if you acted this way instead?  What do you think needs to change? can get them to look inside themselves and open up to you.  Be sure to ask yourself the same kinds of questions.

When there is something that is hard to wrap your head around, you need to hear it a few times before you really get it.  The mind has patterns of thinking about things that can be like a mental rut.  Even if someone manages to get out of the rut after a conversation, they can easily slip back into the same rut the next day.  It takes time and repetition to replace an old rut with a better rut.  It takes time and repetition to replace an old rut with a better rut.

Methods of Communication

Different methods of communication have different levels of 'richness' to them.  For example, written communication doesn't convey facial expression, tone of voice, or the emotion of the writer as easily as a face to face conversation does, so it doesn't have the richness of the a live conversation.  There are benefits and drawbacks with every method.  We'll start with the least rich methods and work our way up the scale.

Texting is a great way to send a short, quick message of affection, praise or gratitude to your spouse.  It is a terrible way of trying to explain complex emotions and work through challenges, don't even try to use it for that, but do send your spouse texts that affirm your feelings for them or uplift them in other ways.  It can also be used to set up a time later on for a conversation, chat or call.

There is nothing wrong with sending your spouse highly erotic texts, including photos or videos of a sexual nature if you dare, as long as you know your spouse will respond positively to them.  If you do this I would strongly recommend that you use one of the many apps out there for couples that helps to ensure the privacy of your messages and also helps prevent anything accidentally being sent to the wrong person. 

Email / Written letter
The written word can be an extremely effective communication tool and you may want to consider it as the first option to try.  You can take as much time as you need to compose your message and put lots of thought and prayer into how you phrase things.  You can make sure you hit all the points you want to hit and don't have to worry about being sidetracked by a remark from your spouse.  You can sleep on it after writing it, pray for guidance in writing it and for and confirmation that it is ready before you send it.  Your spouse can read it on their schedule and take time to think about things before either sending a reply or having a conversation.  This can all help keep things from getting out of hand emotionally and it makes it much easier to avoid or handle passive aggressive behaviors like denial,  blame shifting, revising history, guilt trips, and avoidance.

On the downside, sometimes the depth of emotion doesn't come across in the written word, likewise for humor or sarcasm or just the tone of the message.  Words can be misunderstood, mail could be ignored and left unread.  You may get a reply that is a emotional reaction rather than the result of thoughtful consideration. 

For some people, a handwritten letter caries more weight than a typed letter or email.  If you are giving them a written letter, it may be best to deliver it in person, and ask them face to face to read it and get back to you after thinking about it, and follow up in a few days asking if they have read it yet.

Online Chat
Online chats are a bit better than texting or sending mail as you get quicker feedback, but it is still a written form of communication and prone to the same weaknesses as letters and texting.  On top of that, while you can take a bit of time to think about your response to something, you can't take too long.  I it also more prone the the challenges that come with a face to face conversation.  You might as well go with a phone call or face to face conversation.

Phone / Video Call
A phone or video call is nearly the same as a face to face conversation, both in terms of advantages and challenges.  It is still preferable in most cases for there to physical proximity though.  If talking face to face, or waiting until it's possible to get together to do that is not practical, or if you feel unsafe having these kinds of discussion in the physical presence of your spouse than this is a good substitute for getting together.

Face to Face Conversation
This is the richest form of communication, and also the most challenging.  You won't be able to avoid it however, at some point you are going to have a heart to heart talk with your spouse.

Obviously this should happen in a private setting where there is ample time to talk.  In the evening together in the bedroom works for most people.  You can use physical touch to help keep the situation calmer.  Cuddle up to your spouse, or hold them, or just hold their hand.  Physical contact releases the bonding hormone Oxytocin putting you both in a better frame of mind for such a conversation.  Starting with a prayer wouldn't hurt either.

You need to think through what you are going to say ahead of time, have a plan.  Be prepared with the messages you intend to deliver and for likely objections.  If you need to, you can make some point form notes to cover but it may work better if you can avoid that.  You will need to open up to your spouse and don't be afraid to let you feelings show a bit. Saying something hurts you but looking like everything is fine can undermine the message.  Don't exaggerate or fake anything though, and don't let your emotions get in way of delivering your message.

Don't leave them feeling like they've been taken to the woodshed.  Express your love, appreciation, desire and respect for them and be sure to frame the conversation as the two of you working together on a common goal.  You need their help, they need yours. Express your needs as simple statements of fact, not demands or expectations.

In spite of your best efforts, the conversation may reach a point where there is contention and things are too heated.  Or it may just be going on for too long.  You may have to end the conversation for a time, and either go back to it later (the next night or soon after) or change methods and write them a letter instead.  In some cases it may be helpful to have such conversations in the presence of a professional marriage counselor who can help keep things on track and defuse harsh emotions so the conversation can continue to be productive.

One of the hardest things about having a face to face conversation is how easily the discussion can get sidetracked or bogged down in side issues.  If your spouse is bringing up concerns, don't shut them down to plow ahead with what you want to say, but don't let the conversation drift into unproductive areas. 

Your spouse may react in a defensive way, denying there is a problem or denying their acted in certain ways.  They may try to shift the blame to you, saying that their misbehavior is a result of something you did wrong.  They might claim events happened in a different way than you recall, or try to make you feel guilty for hurting their feelings by starting such conversation.

It can be hard to not get distracted by any of these and it may take some practice.  Don't apologize for trying to make your marriage better, don't apologize for seeking mutual sexual fulfillment (it is a righteous desire after all)  or for taking on the emotionally difficult task of addressing the issues rather than risk the marriage by ignoring them.  Do apologize for anything you've done that has contributed to the problem, but don't accept it as an excuse for their actions.  Be clear in your mind about past events.  You may need to point out (with kindness) when the same kinds of things happen again in the moment it happens if they have trouble believing they acted as you described.

Something else that may come up is them claiming they have a need to not fulfill your need.  If that happens, dig deeper.  What is it about your need that makes it something they feel they need to avoid?  If they went and fulfilled your need what would the cost be to them?  If you can get below the surface you can find the real need.  For example:

    Wife:  I need to limit having sex to once a week at most.

    Husband:  If we had sex 3 times in a week, how would that affect you negatively?

    Wife:  I would lose too much sleep and be tired all the time.  I usually don't orgasm so you leave me all wound up and I can't get to sleep for hours after and it is so frustrating.

    Husband:  If we had sex three times a week and you had an orgasm each time so you slept well, would there be a problem.

    Wife:  No, that would be great, but it doesn't happen like that.

    Husband:  Would you be willing to look for a way to make it like that?  I would love to give you orgasms every time.  Can you help me give you that?

The same situation could have a variety of causes, her issue could have been that having sex gave her needless feeling of guilt, or was physically painful, or doing it that often was something she considered being carnal, or some other reason.  The point is to get down to what is really needed.  The same goes for all needs, for both of you, look deep inside and see what is driving those needs, then you are in a position to find solutions you are both happy with.

Lastly, understand that this is not a one time thing, it is a long term project.  It will take several conversations before things start change.  You'll likely have to address the same concerns and objections a number of times.  As long as there is positive communication, there is progress being made.  The hardest part is at the beginning.  Once there is some progress it will fuel the desire and faith to go further.  But even after you reach the point where your intimate life is wonderful, you will both still have to fight for your marriage, but by then you'll have learned to fight together and that makes a world of difference.

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts. :) I think that communicating properly is totally important in marriage.