Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone – Colossians 4: 6 (NLT)

Poor communication in marriage is often a red flag that the marriage is sailing into troubled waters. The effects of poor communication on a relationship can threaten the existence of the relationship, and the symptoms include feeling like the other person is not listening, arguing constantly, feeling like nothing worthwhile is being said and of course, acting defensively. Poor communication can also affect self-esteem and self-confidence.

According to Kevin Howse, et al, (1988) Family Matters (A Guide to Family Life), 98 -99, the following are barriers to communication in marriage:

  1. Lack of courage. A basic reason behind the reluctance of husbands and wives to discuss innermost problems is fear of criticism. They fear that conversation, by becoming more real, will open wounds to which they are especially sensitive. Aware of his sense of failure and to protect himself, a marriage partner will often denounce the orders shortcomings. This accounts for the mutual recrimination which so often develops in phase two of a marriage when the phase syndrome has set in.
  2. The fear of receiving glib advice. A husband tells his wife about a problem at work, which is deeply troubling him. The wife gives her husband a trite, unthought-through reply: “Sack your partner! Stand up for yourself, or he’ll trample all over you! How many times have I told you? …” Husband is crushed. The wife does not realise the complexity of the problems he faces. She may think him incompetent.
  3. The inability experienced by many to put their feelings into words. Because of background or education, many are accustomed to articulating what is going on inside of them. Equally, because of background, because of limitations in education or because of an introverted personality, an individual or a couple may find it very difficult to find the right words actually to express the turmoil or hurt or the chaos going on inside their minds. In this situation, “communication” too often means rowing. If a couple or one partner has this problem, then they are in with a handicap; but the handicap is also a challenge. However, falteringly, and however difficult they may find it, they must struggle for the words – and speak them kindly, awaiting the other’s response patiently. Good quarrels resolve conflicts while bad ones tear each participant down, leaving more hurt feelings and matters to fight over. Two people can engage in heated and even noisy discussions where they argue without hurting each other, provided they stick to the subject with the view to finding a mutually satisfying resolution.
  4. Assassinate the spouse. James Dobson highlights this barrier of communication. In this destructive game, the player (usually the husband), he notes, attempts to punish his wife by ridiculing and embarrassing her in front of friends. Bonus points are awarded if he can reduce her to tears; “These eggs could have been used to pave the Yellow Brick Road …”
  5. The monologuer. This is the person who always insists on having the last word – as well as being a compulsive talker – and as such, is a one-person handicap in the communications stakes.
  6. Bottling emotion. Conversely, the tendency to feel that it is correct to bottle emotion in silence and hide it behind the poker face is very damaging to marriage (as well as to physical, mental, and spiritual health). Some marriage guidance counsellors say that the “silent husband” lies behind half of the troubled marriages they encounter. Silence bleeds the life from the marriage as by some haemorrhage.

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