by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey
When my husband and I were dating, we talked for hours. We were slow to anger and quick to forgive. I felt sad for those poor saps I had counseled who had communication problems in their marriages. Then we said, “I do,” and by the time I returned from my honeymoon, I was one of those poor saps who didn’t know how to talk to her spouse.
There are basically four styles of communication. Aggressive, Passive, Passive-Aggressive, and Assertive. Aggressive people are easy to spot. They are the “tell it like it is” people who batter others with their opinions. Sometimes they can be scary. Aggressive people have a tendency to disrespect others.
Passive people are people-pleasing peace-keepers. They seem easy-going but are easily run over by others. By not speaking their needs, passive people are disrespectful to themselves. That often causes hidden anger and resentment, which begins leaking out in their behavior. They drop hints, make sarcastic remarks, or give silent treatments. They have become passive-aggressive, and passive-aggressive people aren’t respectful of themselves or others.
Assertiveness is the only healthy form of communication. Assertive people know how to be respectful of others while still communicating their own needs. Assertiveness is a rare thing in marriage.
After our nuptials, I became fearful of marital conflict, and that surprised me. My husband didn’t beat me or rage at me, but he did have the habit of withdrawing when he was angry. I became fearful of the disconnect, so I tried to be passive. Passivity led to resentments, which became passive-aggressiveness.
Through the grace of God, I realized I was not a victim and took ownership of my part in our toxic communication cycle. I learned to respectfully communicate my needs and to speak up when I didn’t like something. In other words, I began to get assertive.
This has revolutionized my marriage. My husband says he no longer has to wonder where he stands. And through my opening my mouth and telling him what I need or when something hurts, I feel in control of my emotions, and years of resentments are melting away.
I am now able to commit to letting him lead the marriage because we are talking about things. The gift of communication has made me more respectful of him, and I cherish what we have. It’s still a work in progress, but I know I will never return to tiptoeing around in my marriage. Had I continued that cycle, I have no doubt we would be heading for divorce court.
For those of you who don’t have communication problems, God bless you! But for the rest of us poor saps, we need all the help we can get. I am going to let you in on the books God used to help me. They are now the only books I consistently use with my clients (other than the Bible). Read Love and Respect by Emmerson Eggerichs, and Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud and Townsend, then respect yourself and your spouse enough to open your mouth. It’s hard work, but not as hard as divorce. And if you are anything like me, you will discover the answer to your marital woes is literally right under your nose!