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Building Up Your Marriage with Healthy Communication
Would you like to have a stronger, healthier, more enjoyable marriage? I am sure that you would. And yet we live in a culture where about half of all marriages will shatter and end in a divorce, leaving behind the wreckage of broken adults and broken children.
If we are to build healthy marriages, we much do so "on purpose." We cannot just hope that it will happen by accident. "Hope," say the generals, "is not a good strategy." Planning, work, and the investment of time, are much better strategies for any important endeavor of life. The first characteristic of a healthy marriage for us to consider is the way that we talk to our spouse, and the way that we talk about our spouse..
Healthy marriages are characterized by supportive, encouraging, and honest communication. We want to build each other up in our marriages, never tear our spouse down (especially under the guise of being "honest"). Two thousand years ago St. Paul wrote this verse that is worthy of every refrigerator door in America,
"Don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to what they need, so that you can benefit those who listen." (Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 4).
There are three important parts to Paul's verse. First, that if we don't have something good to say, don't say anything at all. I think my mother told me that as well. Second, that we should consider our listener's needs. My wife has a different set of needs than does my daughter, or my sons. We should consider how best to encourage and support that particular person. Finally, the purpose of our talking in the first place should be to benefit the listener.
When I first began to seriously apply Paul's principle, and I began to really look at what I was saying, and why I was saying it, my vocabulary and my time talking were cut by about one-third. I had become sarcastic, but funny. But my funny sarcasm was always at the expense of another. When I determined to build others up and benefit them with my speech, I talked a lot less. But I became a much better person, both inside and out.
Check your motives. If you just want to make yourself look good, you will tend to be sarcastic, and you will tend to "tease" other people by degrading them in front of others. The consequences of this will be that your friends will see your "teasing" as shameful, and your spouse and your children will grow distant from you. It may cost you your marriage.
If , on the other hand, your motives are to build up and encourage your spouse and children, then speak words of support, love, and praise to them. Your friends will view you as a loving person, and your spouse and children will always want to be near you. They will love to hear you talk, as your words will be "like honey" to them.
So choose well how you will use your words. You have the power to build up, or to tear down, just by the choices that you make.
Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.
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