In our previous post we wrote briefly about God’s design and purpose for marriage. It’s important to remember that when BOTH individuals within a marriage understand and desire to fulfill God’s purpose within the marriage relationship, good communication is much more likely to happen naturally.
As a brief refresher, our understanding of God’s specific design and purpose for marriages comes from Genesis 2. It’s in Genesis 2 that we read about the first marriage that ever took place.
Gen 2:18; 21-24 (ESV) 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” … 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Verse 24 is absolutely crucial to understanding all aspects of marriage…including communication. You see, when we think about the marriage relationship, it’s no longer two individuals making decisions for each of their lives. It’s one relationship. It’s one unit in the eyes of God. All decisions made by him, and all decisions made by her impact the marriage, for better and for worse. What he decides to do with finances impacts the relationship and what she decides to do with finances impacts the relationship. What he decides to do (or not do) around the house impacts the relationship, and what she decides to do (or not do) impacts the relationship. Everything, and we can’t emphasize this enough, everything you do, every decision you make during every moment of every day can and will impact the marriage relationship. Why? Because, you’re now “one flesh.” This is why creating and cultivating communication is so vastly important in your marriage. You both need to be on the same page, and when you’re not, it’s disrupting the very essence of God’s design and purpose for marriage.
Now, there are essentially three different types of communication that are essential in the marriage relationship. These include, non-verbal communication, verbal communication and third party communication. During the remainder of this post, we’re going to focus solely on the area of non-verbal communication.
Marriages don’t suffer from a lack of communication. They may suffer from lack of healthy communication but no matter what you’re doing, you’re communicating something. We’ve all heard that a large percent of all communication is non-verbal. It’s true. What makes non-verbal communication tricky is that it is based on our own perceptions and assumptions.
Here is a simple example of something that may happen frequently in your marriage. If your spouse goes to bed before you do and you choose not to join them – it communicates something. That non-verbal action may be translated by your spouse in one of two ways. It may be translated as, “He/she isn’t tired yet, so they’re not coming to bed.” Harmless, absolutely harmless. But it may be translated as, “Is that TV show, book, video game, facebook conversation, (or whatever it is) more desirable than me? Why is my spouse putting so much time and energy into something other than me?” If you don’t know which translation your spouse may have, well, that’s a communication issue and you’d better ask. Because if it’s the latter, their emotional stress – stress that you aren’t even aware exists – will have a toll on your marriage. So, how you/your spouse perceive non-verbal cues is important. As individuals we all may be fluent in our own communication language. We don’t have to think twice about our motives. Our perceptions and assumptions make complete sense to us. We know what communicates love, gratitude and appreciation to us and that is how we are most comfortable showing it to our spouse. Unfortunately, they speak a completely different language and we have to learn to communicate in a way that they understand.
We’ve mentioned this book before on the blog, but Gray Chapman wrote an entire book about the way we speak different languages. In his book, The Five Love Languages, he explains how we can come to understand and communicate in a language that is foreign to us.
To give a very brief overview, you have a love language, and your spouse has a love language. Here’s how it looks in our marriage: I know how I best RECEIVE love from others, so I’ve been tempted to GIVE love, or SHOW love to Megan in that same way. And Megan knows how she best RECEIVES love from others, so she’s tempted to GIVE love or SHOW love to me in that same way. And this just isn’t what’s best for our marriage. It’s better for ME to know how Megan RECEIVES love…and I give it to her that way, and vice versa.
And while we can’t really get into these in too great of detail, here is a list of the Five Love Languages. (In fact, if you follow this link you can even take your own personal assessment to discover what your love language is.)
1. Words of Affirmation – If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments, encouragement, and hearing the words, “I love you,” are important. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
2. Quality Time – Quality Time means full, undivided attention. Some who have this love language may even think, “I don’t care if we’re doing two completely different things (TV vs reading). As long as we’re in the same room more often than not, I’m good…”
3. Receiving Gifts – If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
4. Acts of Service – Vacuuming the floor, doing dishes, or anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.”
5. Physical Touch – This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. One thing to note about this is that those who have this love language, their marriage relationship can suffer if this language is being met by the children and not from the spouse.
Again, this is a very brief overview of the 5 Love Languages. We can’t recommend enough the benefit of reading through Gary Chapman’s book. Understanding your spouses Love Language will greatly improve the non-verbal communication in your marriage. Of all the books on communication and how you may be able to verbally and non-verbally communicate to your spouse in a way that they feel loved, this is the best one out there.
1. How have you misinterpreted your spouses non-verbal communication?
2. Do you agree that “everything” you say and do can and will impact the marriage relationship?
3. Have you learned one another’s love language? If so, how has this helped communication in your marriage?
We’ll discuss Verbal Communication in our next post. Thanks for reading!