Biblical Communication: A Marriage Survival Art
Communication in Marriage is Difficult (part 2)
For pre-class for fun viewing: show the two charts below from “His Brain, Her Brain p 42-43 Walt and Barb Lorimore.
Communication in marriage is difficult = first of three major topics
Reasons why communication in marriage is difficult…
- Communication in marriage takes place between two fundamentally different people – a man and a woman (first of seven reasons or factors)
a. The Bible makes it clear that men and women are similar but essentially different.
b. Human experience demonstrates that men and women are essentially different. So, it is a Biblical truism that men and women are in many ways fundamentally different. Human experience collaborates this teaching. (See the book “His Brain, Her Brain” by Walt and Barb Larimore for many of these ideas. See also “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs for discussion of how men and women bring different perspectives to marriage in that each spouse has fundamentally different expectations or hopes from the other. Notations below L = Lorimore book; E = Eggerichs book)
ïThe differences we will cite are observational – you may disagree – however, they seem to be fair generalizations.
ïAll of us may be able to cite exceptions to these observations. In addition, these observations do not discount differences in personality tendencies that cross gender lines (for instance a given man may be less able to read a map than a given woman even though it is generally true that men have greater spatial skills).
ïThe premise and point of the Larimores book is that these differences are due to the unique physical and chemical properties of the male and female brains as created by God. “Females and males maintain unique brain characteristics throughout life. There are advantages and disadvantages to these differences.” (p 39 L; cf p 197ff L).
ïI am not so sure about brain differences being the key explanation for gender differences, but that is beside the point for our purposes. I believe these differences do exist to varying degrees and they do have a decided impact on communication and marital harmony regardless of whether they are a product of brain differences or not. We need to recognize them and learn to respond wisely to our specific differences. Couples who cultivate the skill of adapting to their differences take a giant step toward successful marital communication.
- In pre-marital counseling I try to gauge the size of the “gap” between the couple and then help them bridge the gap. If it is too wide, I recommend that they call off the wedding at least temporarily. One of the factors that contribute to the gap is gender (our subject). What other factors might be contributing to the gap? Discuss. Starter suggestions might be: family traditions, ethnicity, intellect, spiritual life, economic status, education, denomination, geography, parents vocation, previous marriages, size of family of origin, vocational plans, viewpoints regarding roles and responsibilities in marriage, and etc.
So, here is Dr. Lorimore’s thought: “Male and female brains are different in architecture and chemical composition. The sooner women - and those who love them - accept and appreciate how those neurological differences shape female behavior, the better we can all get along.” (Louann Britzendine, MD p 49 Lorimore)
A possible modification might be: “Males and females are different. The sooner we accept and appreciate how those differences shape our behavior, the better we can all get along.”
So, a caution might be: “The view that men are from Mars and women from Venus paints the differences between the two sexes as too extreme. The two sexes are different, but are not so different that we cannot understand each other.” (Simon Baron-Cohen, PhD in Lorimore p 57)
- Group project. Divide into small groups of all men and all women. Or only two groups - one men and one women. Men’s group(s) list things about women that make them different. Women’s group(s) list things about men that make them different. (See handout below)
We May Not Be From Different Planets But We Are Different
Each group should record responses to the following assignment and report out to the entire class.
Groups composed of men only:
Based on your understanding of the women in your life, especially your wife if you are married, jot down your observations and conclusions about women that make them different from you. You may want to consider things such as, but not limited to, their tendencies, perceptions, disposition, viewpoints, thought processes, judgements, values, idiosyncrasies, conversation, relationships to others, or emotional make-up.
Groups composed of women only:
Based on your understanding of the men in your life, especially your husband if you are married, jot down your observations and conclusions about men that make them different from you. You may want to consider things such as, but not limited to, their tendencies, perceptions, disposition, viewpoints, thought processes, judgements, values, idiosyncrasies, conversation, relationships to others, or emotional make-up.
So, here are some specific differences between men and women that affect good communication. These are observations made by Walt and Barb Larimore and Emerson Eggerichs in books previously mentioned. Remember, there are exceptions to these general observations!
i.He sees conversation as a means to an end; he wants to offer solutions to whatever the issue is. She sees talking as an end in itself; her need is just to talk. (p 100 L). Related to this concept is that he communicates in action terms; she in relational language. Illustration: Judy shares a her frustrations with me regarding an ongoing issue. I immediately respond with, “You should consider doing…” To which she passionately responds, “stop treating me like a counseling case. I don’t want your advice.”
ii.His conversations are filled with facts; hers are filled emotion (p 77, 93 L). He is less like to identify and communicate his emotions than is she. He is likely to avoid long emotional conversations and considers them a monumental waste of time. On the other hand, she thrives on such conversations. She often does not see the logic of logic!
iii.He prefers quiet; she needs to talk (p 91 ff L). Men need time, space, and quiet in order to process emotional stimuli. Women are able to process and talk simultaneously; he will manage his emotions and stress by withdrawing or becoming silent. “Her brain is designed to talk to others; (his) brain is designed to talk to itself” (p 94 L). Illustration: Quiet room in library (no phones or talking). 20 cubicles nearly always about 4-1 ratio men to women.
iv.He compartmentalizes relationships; she integrates them (p 76-85 L). This is the basic premise of the Ferrel’s book, Men are like Waffles; Women are like Spaghetti. When it comes to conflicts he moves on while she connects the dots.
v.He can only handle one auditory input at a time; she can handle several. (p 65-66 L). When he watches football on TV, he is oblivious to the phone ringing, his wife calling his name, his kids killing each other, or the dog barking at the door. She can talk on the phone, answer the door bell, and handle a ruckus between kids at the same time. Illustration: After several attempts to get my attention, Mark yells, “Dad, I’m going to buy you a miracle ear.”
vi.He exercises judgment; she exercises intuition (p 82 ff L). Illustration: When sitting on a selection panel for pastoral candidates, I have noticed that women are more likely to make decisions about the candidate based on observations of non-verbal factors and as well as gut feelings.
vii.He prefers direct conversation; she likes indirect talk (p 103-105 L). He is a “say what you mean and mean what you say” kind of person. He is precise. She prefers vague language. She hears what you don’t say as well as what you do say. She attaches significance to verbal and non-verbal communication; even the small things.
viii.He connects shoulder to shoulder; she connects face-to-face (p 239 ff, p 135 ff E). Men share experiences by sharing an activity such as golf, a ballgame, fishing, or building something. They can spend half a day doing an activity together and talk only about surface matters. Just doing something with the guys is enough. Women consider this incredible shallowness. On the other hand, women get together for lunch or coffee and look each other in the face and pour their hearts out. Men view this as a monumental waste of good time. Illustration: Judy and I are longtime friends with another couple. Recently, she spent an afternoon enjoying coffee and exploring with the wife while I had lunch and played golf with the husband. Later when we compared notes, Judy was totally up to date with her life; I knew nothing significant about his.
ix.He values respect; she values love (p 173, 184 E). Sometimes he finds her hard to love and sometimes she doesn’t feel he deserves her respect. Both need to realize that “his love motivates her respect” and “her respect motivates his love” (p 113). This plays out in several ways. Here are two.
ïHe clams up during conflict; she confronts (p 58 ff E). She sees conflict as a way to connect and to strengthen love between them. He sees conflict as a sign of her disrespect and as a battle he cannot win. He reflects that other men don’t talk to him this way; yet she thinks she is really loving him by such talk.
ïHe desires to show her love, but he worries about being taken advantage of - his authority being ignored. She desires to respect him but she worries about being a doormat - her submission being abused (p 73 ff E).
The bottom line. Put these observations in your memory bank so you activate them in order to better relate and respond to each other.
A proposal: When you recognize tension between the two of you or when an argument develops between you or when you are on the verge of loosing control; develop one common verbal cue that you can use to diffuse or lighten up the situation. Some examples might be: Common cues: we are like two hamsters on the spin wheel; we been flipping the light switch for twenty minutes, let’s try something else; do we need a break; I think our pink and blue sunglasses are fogging over; I think you are standing on my air hose; should I buy you a miracle ear?; my engine is overheating; maybe we should learn sign language.
This is of one piece with the need to take a brake when tensions rise advocated by Proverbs 17:14, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam, so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” (NIV)
For fun illustration: A different take on all these suggested differences between men and women might be “Rules from the male point of view” (Insights for Wives from Husbands) and “When a husband says.” (Handouts below)
Insights for Wives from Husbands
Please note…these are equally important.
- Learn to work the toilet seat. You’re a big girl. If it’s up, put it down.
- Sometimes we are not thinking about you. Live with it.
- Do not ask us what we are thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as navel lint, the shotgun formation, and NASCAR.
- Shopping is not a sport, and we are never going to think of it that way.
- When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.
- Crying is blackmail.
- Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work. Strong hints do not work. Obvious hints do not work. Just say it!
- We don’t remember dates. Remind us frequently beforehand.
- Most guys own three pairs of shoes - tops. What makes you think we’d be any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?
- “Yes”and “No” are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
- Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That’s what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
- Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.
- If something we said can interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.
- You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done - not both. If you already know best how to do it just do it yourself.
- Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.
- Christopher Columbus did not need directions and neither do we.
- All men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.
- We are not mind readers and we never will be. Our lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how little we care about you.
- If we ask what is wrong and you say “nothing” we will act like nothing is wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
Todd Coget in SermonCentral.com accessed 1/04/2004 (modified and titled 6/25/2018)