“If you want out of that tube, you’re going to have to work on those communication skills.” Fifth Element
I sat next to a young lady on a jet at 30,000 feet recently headed to Miami from Denver. I had the window seat, she sat in the middle, and my wife Linda had the aisle seat. She was in her mid 20’s, career minded and successful, and engaged to be married. She wanted to talk, and I was willing to listen and ask a few questions to see where the conversation would go.
I mentioned that I was writing a marriage book and we entered into a conversation about marriage and what it takes to have a good one. Since I have a lot to say about that, Linda was fearing I would wear her out. I would stop talking and she would ask another question. I would politely answer and we would go again. I was loving it!
As usual, the topic of communication came up, along with the need to talk about feelings and the life of the heart in order to stay connected in the relationship. The refrain I hear over and over again is,
“communication is our biggest issue in our marriage.”
This young lady had the same report about her man,
” He won’t emote.”
Unfortunately, the definition of this is a commmon complaint many ladies have about their men. This isn’t to bash us men, but to understand many of us are wired differently than women and don’t have as great a need to get into the feeling pool. I’m different as a man, and desire talking about feelings and connecting over them. Linda tends to avoid the feelings and I have to drag them out of her. Not all the time, but she generally will not initiate the “feelings” conversation. We all have to figure out ways to get each other to talk and engage.
To emote means to express emotions, ususally through facial expressions, tone of voice, or body language. Unfortunately for some women, the only emotion they get from their man is anger. Of course we know anger shuts down the positive emotions immediately and love cannot be felt. (Love is patient and Kind)
The meat and potatoes of emotional intimacy for a woman is the ability to access the feelings and deep heart of her man. Yum. No food spells big trouble for him and the marriage. Wise men gain this understanding and work to achieve incredible marital satisfaction. Most women don’t respond for specific reasons. You know what I’m talking about. Mark Gungor of “laugh your way to a better marriage” says, “You have to be nice to the girl.” We indeed reap what we sow.
When someone “won’t emote,” it means they aren’t showing any clear sign of how they feel or what they are thinking. They can appear passive or disengaged. They may be trying to hide their feelings or they may have difficulty expressing themselves emotionally. It can be challenging to talk with somone who won’t emote as it can be hard to know what they are truly feeling or what they are thinking.
Without something to work with, our security need goes unmet. we can easily listen to lies about them or about ourselves and believe something is wrong with us or the marriage. Cracking the code to the communication barriers is the key and can be done with tools, safety, and some practice. We aren’t destined to disconnected marriages because we don’t know how to access the heart of our lovers. Unless we do nothing, because passivity usually spells failure especially in marriage. Nothing is colder. I have also heard the refrain when asking why the marriage failed,
“We just grew apart.”
So, what are communication skills anyway?
I have a short definition, then I will unpack a few things that can help.
The ability to talk strategically and successfully without escalating or sabotaging the process. It’s clearly and honestly saying what we need without manipulating for it by trying to change them. Most do this until seeing and turning from it.
Another way to say it bluntly, is that you learn to deal with your broken talking styles, like sarcasm and invalidation, poor word choice, defensiveness, and inability to listen. You manage the anger connected to your pain instead of abusing with it.
People don’t communicate well for clear reasons. Deal with the obvious reasons, learn to be a good listener and validator, and nothing can stop you.
Clearly stated, it’s about the words you use, your tone of voice, body language, emotional discipline (when your buttons get pushed and they will,) and listening skills without defensiveness.
If most couples would honestly and safely discuss together how they torpedo the process, they already know what they do to sabotage the process. If we are honest, it’s usually some self-protection thing we are doing that’s connected to some fear. I believe if we humble ourselves before God and each other, it becomes clear how we are blowing up our communication bridge. We have to dig a little deeper to find out why. It’s usually connected to our wounding and Mommy- Daddy history. Sorry, it’s just the way it is. Too many wounded children running around in adult bodies. We must put away childish things and grow. This happens as we confess to one another and God and let him heal and grow us.
“Yes, I can see my defensiveness and how it’s dishonoring you and hurting us. I want to make a comittment to you to work on that.”
“Yes, I see I am dishonoring you when I make fun of you, or use sarcasm. I see how much it hurts you. I choose not to do that anymore and give you permission to call me out on it if I slip into it.”
Slowly, we build a culture of safety and honor where respect reigns. It becomes increasingly safe to be vulnerable and honest before one another. Our emotional trust deepens where risks can be taken.
When we do this, an amazing thing happens! The fear dance gets broken over those conflict cycles that never resolve. You find you’ve been fighting over ridiculous things and not getting to the real issues at all. You get off the merry-go -round that never resolves, and go deeper in intimacy and truth than you ever thought possible. The most beautiful part about it is you grow ever closer to God and each other in emotional intimacy. The best kind.
Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant richess Pr. 24;3,4
I’ll be back with more in the near future. Prayers for all who read these words for breakthoughs in communication and learning to fight fair! XO Dan