Christian Living


Marriage 911 05/30/17

Five Steps to Removing Dysfunction from Your Marriage

Couple talking

We complain far too often. We also bicker, snipe at one another, and generally communicate in very unhealthy ways.

Think about it. If someone were to come into your home and listen to how you navigate conflict with your mate, I suspect they would hear one or more of the following:

  • Complaining
  • Bickering
  • Stonewalling
  • Sarcasm
  • Shouting

Any one of these is devastating to a marriage. More than one can create an incredibly toxic environment where not only little is settled, but worse, a chasm is created in your marriage.

To get help for your marriage from Dr. Hawkins and his qualified staff, please visit The Marriage Recovery Center website or call 206-219-0145.

I had a marital session recently that illustrated what I'm talking about.

"I never feel heard with Brad," Stephanie said about her husband. "He's living in another world," she added sarcastically.

Brad sat next to her passively, as if he hadn't heard her. She paused for a moment and then continued.

"I don't think he hears a word I'm saying," she said. "I've threatened to leave and he doesn't seem to care. I threaten to pull away emotionally and he doesn't care. Nothing works."

Indeed, there was some truth to what she was saying. Unfortunately, Stephanie and Brad had developed a very dysfunctional pattern of interacting. She was critical with him and although he sat passively for part of this session, he is fully capable of being critical in return. And nothing changes!

What is wrong with this type of interaction? First and foremost, it is dysfunctional—it simply doesn't work or function effectively. When you consider that healthy communication should lead to a greater degree of connection and positive regard for one another, solving problems that natural occur in relating, dysfunctional communication leads to a decrease in connection and increased hostility and resentment for each other.

Sadly, it doesn't stop there. Because 'hurting people hurt people', dysfunctional communication, unless interrupted and improved upon, leads to even more dysfunctionality.

If you are ready to create functional, healthy communication in your marriage, begin with these five steps:

1. Listen to understand.

Yes, this sounds easy enough, but it isn't. Scripture implores as follows: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19). It isn't enough to simply listen, however, as we must listen with the intent to fully understand our mate;  

2. Empathize.

I call empathy, 'listening with your soul.' It is listening for the message beneath the words. Empathy involves hearing your mate's emotion and sometimes even feeling it. Accurate empathy heals;

3. Validate the spoken and unspoken needs.

We all long for our words to be heard and understood. We long to hear our mate say, "I hear and understand what you are saying to me and it makes sense." These words impact both the sender and receiver of communication. They prompt us to listen harder and respond effectively to what is being said to us;

4. Speak gently and respectfully in return.

It isn't enough to listen and respond, but we must also share in kind. We must speak from our most vulnerable self, for it is in vulnerability that we become close and attached to each other;

5. Create a solution-focused partnership.

Listening, validation and vulnerable sharing lead to solving problems. Solving problems leads to clearing the way for joyful connection. With confidence that problems can be solved, you trust yourself and your mate, creating profound safety.

Are you ready to change dysfunctional communication to functional sharing? We are here to help. Share your feedback below or find out more about The Marriage Recovery Center.

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