It can happen to the best of us. The lines of communication can become blurred, especially when love and feelings are involved. Even those who think they are immune to the confusion of conflict can find themselves drawn into a communication breakdown when they least expect it.
Consider John and Karla (Yes, I made them up). It was a silly argument over something as simple as a misplaced item in the house. But to John, the incident represented something much deeper that had been simmering for a couple of weeks. He gets frustrated at having to search for something when it is not where he expects it to be. This happens when Karla has shifted things, and he doesn’t know the first place to begin searching.
Fragrance, car keys, covers for the outdoor chairs, all were examples of instances where John had to turn the house upside-down. A simple answer from Karla when these things were shifted would have saved him a lot of time and frustration. But the answer he got? “You need to open your eyes and organize yourself better.”
John was stunned. When he comes home from work he exercises the dog and cooks dinner so it is on the table by the time his wife gets home. The house is always spotless and warm, as he likes coming home to a tidy environment.
John saw this as a fundamental part of his role since he gets home from work first. But it takes a lot of his time. To imply that he needs to “organize yourself better” really hurt. John didn’t expect praise, but he did hope his efforts were recognized. Karla says, “I don’t expect you to cook my dinner every night.” That was interpreted by him as ingratitude, and grieved John even more.
Karla felt guilty at coming home every night to the perfect household, and John felt guilty if it wasn’t perfect. It was never about his trying to make her feel guilty, but it seems it did. And so we have a communication breakdown. Karla misinterpreted John’s efforts, and he misinterpreted her response.
Communication, communication, communication. John needs his wife to keep him informed of where things move to. He needs to voice his frustration before it gets to a boiling point. They both need to talk about their feelings more, and how each of their contributions to their home and relationship make them feel, and how they interpret each other’s contributions.
Just because something isn’t spoken about, doesn’t mean it’s not important. A relationship or marriage is not a competition, but for many couples it can feel like that.
When people feel guilt or stress, it leads them to act in funny ways. Often stress and guilt are barriers to communication. The key to overcoming them is to recognize what it is, and have the courage to talk about it. You might be able to do it as a couple, or you might want the help of a trusted friend who can listen to the way you are communicating with each other and offer insights and advice.
Sometimes you get so wrapped up in your own emotions that you forget to think of the other person. You also need to entertain the possibility that you are misinterpreting each other. Talking about it can expose the miscommunication and let the healing begin.
Has a communication breakdown raised its ugly head in your marriage? Or perhaps some other issue is jeopardizing your marriage. Marriage is a blessing from God, but both partners must be committed to making it work. You can’t afford to give your marriage 50%. You need to give 100%. For additional insights on marriage, click here.