America, we’ve got a major problem in our homes. Approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce. Couples who are truly happy and content in their marriage are rare and hard to find. Parents and teens have rocky relationships and struggle to talk without arguing. Children’s behavior is deplorable. Men don’t feel respected, women don’t feel loved, and children and teens don’t feel validated and heard.
When Wade (my husband) became a Pastor several years ago, people began coming to us with their personal issues wanting prayer and counsel, and we were blown away at just how prevalent major marriage and parenting problems are! We took our healthy marriage for granted in many ways, and we just really had no idea that SO MANY Christian couples are really struggling. There are couples who live together but don’t really know each other, because they never really talk about the deeper things of life. Some couples fight all the time and some have just stopped talking at all because silence is better than arguing. You may see them every Sunday at church, and they look happy, and so you assume they are happy. Or maybe you are one of the people who puts on that smile and no one knows your marriage is really rocky.
In addition to the marriage issues, there are countless teens and parents who feel like they just can’t understand each other, and neither the parent or teen feels truly loved by the other. The parents walk on eggshells to avoid a blow up, and the teens may just shut down because it’s not worth trying to talk anymore. Some parents don’t really know what’s going on with their children because the children don’t tell them anything about themselves.
I think, actually I know, that one of the most important key components that’s missing in many families is good communication skills. We think we’re fine there, because we all know how to move our lips and speak. We learned that when we were 2 or 3 years old. But knowing how to speak and knowing how to effectively communicate are two very different things.
Communication can either make or break your relationships, and the ways of effectively communicating don’t come naturally. If we take an honest look at ourselves, we see that we’re typically a pretty selfish people, aimed at getting what we want, and this doesn’t bode well for creating a good relationship. Learning to really hear and understand what another person is saying takes practice. Learning to communicate your feelings and thoughts in a clear way takes practice too. This may be the missing piece to take your rocky family relationships and transform your home into a fruitful home, a place of peace, love, and acceptance.
I saw an online site that polled 100 mental health professionals and found that communication problems was cited as the most common factor that leads to divorce (65 percent), followed by couples’ inability to resolve conflict (43 percent). (see here)
The survey also found that men and women have different communication complaints. Seventy percent of the experts surveyed said that men cite nagging and complaining as the top communication problem in their marriage. Women’s top complaint was that their spouse doesn’t validate their opinions or feelings enough, according to 83 percent of experts.
This is not news to me. A little known fact to many of my current friends is that in my former life (aka before I had 7 children!) I was a counselor. I have a 4 year degree in Psychology, and a Master’s degree in Counseling, and post graduate courses in Christian counseling. I would say that the number one, most important skill that I took away from all that schooling is how to talk to my spouse and my children, and also how to teach others to talk to their families. I’ve taught communication principles to many other couples that we’ve mentored through the years as part of church ministry. Although I haven’t formally worked in the field of counseling for almost 11 years, I have had so much practice in my own life that I feel much more confident in teaching these principles now than I did back when I worked as a counselor.
If you’re having problems in your relationship, then chances are you haven’t communicated your needs, worries, hopes and dreams effectively, and you probably haven’t heard your partner’s or children’s needs, worries, hopes and dreams either. Good communication may not solve all your problems, but it’s definitely going to give you a good start towards improvement.
I plan to go through some of the most important relationship communication skills over the next week or so, because it’s too much to write about in any single day! If you actually take these to heart, commit them to memory, and put it into practice with your spouse and children, then it can transform your relationships. I would bet that every single person reading this blog could do better in the way they communicate with their family, myself included!
Here’s just a few of the topics I plan to cover: setting a time and place, parroting and rephrasing, focusing on your personal feelings rather than attacks or blanket statements, filtering your thoughts before speaking, and what the Bible has to say about communication because the Lord is the creator of communication. I’ll also use some real life examples throughout to give you a better picture of what I’m teaching. (names and identifying info withheld of course!)
Stay tuned, and get ready to make some great lasting changes! Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss all these tips to keep your family relationships healthy and your home fruitful!
Click here for Communication help, pt.2