Marriage is a blessing from God. With this blessing and most intimate relationship come challenges. Although there are many reasons that a marriage can falter, the top three are financial, communication, and sex. It’s almost cliche to say marriage needs good communication, but what does that really mean and what are some tools that can be of assistance?
We’ve all studied basic communication, there is the sender, receiver, and then the medium and filters that the message goes through. Even when intentions are good, what you meant, what you said, and how it was received by your spouse, can be worlds apart. That thing about men are from Mars and women from Venus may not be quite true, but there are times you will feel that both of you are from different planets. So how do we bring these worlds together?
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say, that half of all relationship issues relate to feeling you are not being heard. There is context, history, body language, emotions that affect the message being sent and received. We long to feel validated, wanted, desired and affirmed, and that only comes about through empathetic listening where you acknowledge what your spouse is saying (whether you agree with it or not).
When it comes to the subject of sex, it is an even more sensitive subject. Depending on our cultural, religious background and upbringing, we by in large are not comfortable talking about it. Sex is not dirty! It is the greatest pleasure we as humans are endowed with by divine blessing. It just requires a proper framework for it to work effectively.
Below are some suggestions in communicating better:
- On sensitive subjects or when you are emotionally charged, go into the conversation with a prayer, without judgement, assuming your spouse has no malice against you.
- Remember there are three truths. Your truth, your spouse’s truth and the real truth. Start the conversation by asking an open ended question or with an “I statement” which does not point the finger towards your spouse. eg ” I feel hurt/neglected/ignored/, when you,… Your goal is first to understand then to be understood, rather than to be passing blame.
- If there is an issue, start by acknowledging your part of the problem, and have the goal be not to fault find or get an apology, but what is best for you as a family.
- Avoid making blanket statements, “You always” or “You never”
- If the conversation gets heated agree to take a break. Go make wudu, pray two Nafl,… but don’t name call or start using profanities.
- Give your spouse your full attention. That means when either of you start a conversation, the other drops the smartphone, turns the TV off or puts it on mute and gives the other their undivided 100% attention.
- When asked about your opinion don’t go silent, give one word answers, or such long answers, that you start repeating yourself or your spouse tunes out.
- When you do have to give a constructive comment use the sandwich formula by starting with some authentic compliment, the feedback and then end it on a good note.
- As the saying goes it’s better to be happy than right. We expend a lot of energy trying to convince the other party, but it rarely works. Compassion, generosity and kindness work a lot better than a convincing argument. Don’t compare your spouse to someone else’s. See their goodness, and build off that. If through repeated effort you are hitting a wall, seek outside help.
- Humor is an awesome tool for defusing a tense situation, as is an authentic ‘I love you regardless” and a hug.
How to Communicate about sex?:
- Timing is everything. Avoid giving feedback while having sex. Save it for another time.
- Ask specific questions. eg “Do you like it when I,…” or “Would you like me to,…”
- Play with fantasy eg “Would you ever want to,…”
- Sometimes it is easier to demonstrate what you want eg how to be touched than just speaking to it.
- Remember none of us know how to mind read, so be clear in what you want or don’t want.
- Communication is not just about the spoken. Sometimes it is nicer/better to put it in writing, it can be more sensual, humorous, naughty.
- Tell your spouse what a great lover they are.
- Tell your spouse how blessed you are to have them as your partner, friend, lover.
- Remember sex starts in the mind, so compliment your spouse, flirt with them during the day or week.
- Ask God to protect your marriage, show gratitude, and make sex a Sadaqa (an act of charity)
Whether it be your finances or sex life, the good news is by investing in better communication with your spouse, and with the goal of mutual satisfaction you can enrich your relationship and God-willing lead a happy, healthy, sexy and fun life.