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Learning to Communicate Gently

When young couples come into marriage counseling, I often shudder when I hear them talk to each other in excessive disrespectful tones. The beginning stages of a young relationship can produce harsh, dogmatic, authoritarian messages that will damage their relationship. The meanness of the language will poison the sweetness of their love. Gentle communication is required for their relationship to grow and prosper.

Why would couples take a new love and deal with it so harshly? Because they are in the power struggle stage of their relationship. During this stage, both parties are struggling to dominate, struggling to be recognized, struggling for independence. This is an important adjustment stage most young couples visit. Many marriages stay in this power struggle stage for years and do serious damage to their communication system by speaking from anger and domination, rather than respect and honor.

Chances are one or both of the partners witnessed their parents speak in this tone to each other. But in business, if employers spoke with such force, a lawsuit would be forth coming, so I find it hard to believe couples do not know better. Bad habits and unconscious behavior catch couples off guard.

If couples are unconscious about how they sound when talking to each other, I recommend they tape record their disagreements and then listen to how they sound and work towards finding new ways to speak that accomplish the task without destroying the love. Football player’s watch replays so they can improve their skills, and if couples are serious about building a better marriage, they could use a replay system to improve their communication.

I also recommend before offering a communication that might be hurtful to ask your partner would it be a good time to discuss an issue that might be difficult to hear. This request warns the other, and allows them to be ready to hear a difficult message. If your partner responds that now would not be a good time, ask them when might be an appropriate time for such a discussion. If they respond “never”, then the problem is much deeper than communication styles. If they respond “later”, ask for a definitive time and place and be certain to follow through with such a communication.

What is missing from most immature relationships is self-control. Such relationships feel it is permissible to dump hurtful messages all over the place, like some people think it is OK to trash the environment, or destroy a living space by leaving their trash anywhere they please.

Relationships take work to succeed. No one is above hurting others. And the last person you should hurt is your marriage partner. If you are destructive in such a relationship, you will find that once this one is destroyed, you will probably repeat the same mistake with the next. How many relationships do you have to go through to understand that relationship thrive on love, harmony and respect, not callous disregard for another’s tender feelings.

No one would dream of taking a brand new baby and handling it harshly. The same should be true for a new love. It is new, impressionable, and needs tenderness, care and gentleness. Harsh communication delivered during the power struggling stage destroys love and creates resentment. Caring communication needs to be present if you want your new love to grow.


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