By Barney Armstrong, MA, LMHCA, Bellevue Christian Counseling
Marriage is a place of desire. If you think about it, you probably remember that you got married because you wanted something. You got married to fulfill what you wanted and you probably had some hopes and vision that this would lead to even greater things. (Hint: so did she/he.) In many ways, marriage is a celebration of desire, both its fulfillment and its future for both of you. Or … at least it is meant to be.
But remember also that something went very haywire for the human race back there in Eden – things that characterize our miss-take on the world, relationships, and how things work. Fig leaves – hmmm, what do they cover? They hide the place of desire. The first couple hid their desire from each other (and from God), and we tend to do exactly what they did.
Exposing our desire makes us feel vulnerable. We risk potential shame when we display our desire to each other. You marry someone that you have found that you can trust with your desire. Showing someone your desire, you feel vulnerable – you feel naked. In marriage you trust someone with your nakedness, literally — but metaphorically of your heart and emotions as well.
It is surprising (though not in light of Eden) that we argue instead. The foundation of good communication skills is simply stating outright what it is you want. That is, without any hint of blame, without requirement that the hearer (your spouse) has to do what you want. It is a remarkable discovery that when the barbs are out, when there are no strings (that is, when you have free choice), that you really want to know what your spouse wants – in fact, you find that you delight that your spouse wants a lot.
But we renege – we would rather just get what we want without being vulnerable, risking shame, and so we try the skills we learned as children that got us what we wanted. If you think about your arguing “skills,” they are largely those things you did to manipulate care givers to give you what you wanted when you couldn’t communicate well – you pout (worked for me!), you whine gripe and snivel, you throw a tantrum, you turn up the volume (“I don’t think you heard me!”) and yell, and if that doesn’t work, it can turn to swearing, threatening, name-calling, even domestic violence. You cast aspersions, demean the other, blame, or shut down (extreme pouting).
It’s helpful to work with a Christian counselor to help you sort out the way you communicate; to come to the place that you are free to share you desires, delight to know your spouse’s, and can freely choose them without arguments.
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