If communication alone solved marriage problems we would:
- solve our arguments with text messages
- email a solution
- talk a little longer and then feel understood
- listen our way to satisfaction
Common wisdom is that improving communication will improve a marriage. Now after decades of trying and dozens of approaches to improving communication, we should have the best marriages in the world, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The dominant half of our brain is the non-verbal right side. Sure, it listens to voice tone, but not to who is right. The right hemisphere communicates through and amplifies emotions, not logical solutions. This means our well chosen words often get lost.
The true hallmarks of a good marriage are “contingency” and “secure attachment.”
Contingency is the ability to recognize, feel and talk about what is on the other person’s mind at that moment. This requires turning away from internal distractions, such as thoughts and feelings from the past, and external distractions, like computers and smartphones. With such awareness, one can tell if the other person is ready to “pause” or to “play.”
When a person has a sense of secure attachment they are not afraid when there is a momentary loss of contingency. They are not afraid that the problems will become bigger and more important than the relationship. They are confident that each time they are together, they will build joy and experience a safe place of rest.
Communication is good, but it doesn’t solve marriage problems. Marriage problems are solved by creating the sense of contingency that comes from being able to build joy and rest together. Moreover, marriages are strengthened by learning to return to joy quickly each time that sense of contingency is lost.
Then communication becomes useful and fun. Communication is a wonderful tool for making plans, telling stories, exploring the outer reaches of each other’s thoughts and a thousand other creative moments.
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