Thursday, 2 December 2010

Helping Quiet Spouses to Communicate

David Powlison is on the faculty of The Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, a counselor and author. He fielded a sincere question from a wife who acknowledged that she and her husband tend to be very quiet. She wanted to know what they might do to get the conversation flowing. Here is what David had to say:

It would appear that the couple that posed the question being addressed by today’s video has similar wiring. Perhaps they are both introverted and introspective people for whom conversation takes a certain amount of energy. This is not a barometer of the love they may or may not have for one another. David Powlison’s suggestions for such a couple are practical, i.e. develop a list of open ended questions that you can ask one another. This may seem contrived at first but if the experience proves to be enjoyable it may become a more natural part of the couple’s routine.

More often than not, the husband or the wife desires to engage in conversation regularly while his/her counterpart does not. As a generalization it tends to be the man who prefers one word answers to a question that should fill at least a paragraph. Personality and gender differences can contribute to a less than satisfying level and quality of communication between couples. While it is good to acknowledge the differences in wiring that exist those differences are not to be used as an excuse for poor communication.

The Book of Ephesians 5:33 calls husbands to love their wives as they love themselves. If the way the wife feels connected to her husband, the way she feels cared for and loved is to engage in a conversation then that is what the husband needs to learn to do. There is a better than average chance that this was not a problem during the dating years. Of course the Scripture passage commands the wife to respect her husband. It might mean that he needs a few minutes of down time when he first comes home.

Again as a generalization, women tend to be more relational and conversational. Men tend to be more task focused and less conversational. Some people tend to be more introverted and some more extroverted. In fact these differences may have been what attracted you to one another. When the man asks, “Who’s going to pick Johnny up from practice?” to him that is a conversation. Couples who love one another learn to “negotiate” a level of conversation that is satisfying to each. It may start out rather stilted, i.e. agree to talk for 10 minutes immediately following dinner. Hopefully it will gravitate to something less contrived.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Who in the BIble had the Best Marriage?

In his latest book The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg poses a most interesting question, i.e. “Who in the Bible had the best marriage?” Then in typical Ortbergian style he writes, “Adam and Eve had their honeymoon in paradise, and it all went downhill from there. Abraham lied that Sarah was his sister – twice- and impregnated her servant, Hagar. Isaac and Rebekah spent their marriage battling because he favored Esau and she favored Jacob. Jacob had children by two wives and the wives’ servants. About all we know of Moses’ wife, Zipporah, is that they had an argument over circumcising their son and she called Moses a ‘bridegroom of blood.’ David was a disaster as a husband; Solomon was worse. When Job’s life got hard, Mrs. Job told him to ‘curse God and die!’ I am not making this up; someone online said they thought the best marriage in the Bible was between Noah and Joan of Arc.”

He goes on to say that in fairy tales life is difficult until you get married and then you live happily ever after. But nowhere in the Bible do a couple get married and then live ‘”happily ever after.” Marriage doesn’t save anyone. Only Jesus does that.

So what is John’s point? The Bible is remarkably transparent about the flaws and brokenness of the marriages of practically every character. Yet in the church we feel that we cannot let others know that as a couple we are struggling; that we haven’t slept together in months or years; that we cannot hold a civil conversation; that we are constantly angry, etc. We arrive on Sunday morning with an airbrushed persona hoping those sitting next to us won’t detect that all is not well in paradise. John’s point is that we should find a church where we can be real, a church where you are encouraged to draw upon the experiences of others who have walked in your shoes and been victorious. Find a church where you would not be treated like a leper but like a child of God, saved by grace. Seek a Christian counselor IF you are willing to be changed by the Word. There is no room for pretense in a church community that is gathered around the cross.

John concludes this section by saying, “In the Bible, marriage is not the fulfillment of our dreams; it is a place where we learn.”