‘Marriage is a dance. It takes two to tango.’
The interview with the marriage counsellor was simply to fish out some communication tips for couples.
I entered the room as a writer, thinking I would be the one asking questions.
My interview was with Valerie, a certified Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFCT) therapist, who helps individuals, couples, and families. She had been counselling couples at Bethesda Care Services for over 6 years. She turned the table on me early in the interview.
V: “Rather than giving you a lecture about the different levels of communication, how about we talk about it in relation with your marriage? Wouldn’t it make the story more relatable?”
The following are the five different levels of communication. They’re pretty self-explanatory. And you can read up on them here. The rest of this article seems to have gone off in a different direction.
- Cliché Communication
- Reporting Facts / Sharing Information
- Sharing Opinions & Ideas
- Sharing Feelings & Needs
- Complete Truthfulness
I got married about 4 years back. I’m happy with my hubs, and vice versa, I think. I just felt that we could talk a bit more. Perhaps he could help a little more with the children or some bite-sized household chores.
The Want: ‘Deep conversations’
V: “So why do you want to learn more about communication? Is there anything bothering you concerning communication in your marriage?”
Me: “I find our conversations mundane. We hardly go beyond sharing information (Level 2), about food, chores and who picks up the children. Sometimes I try to tell him how I feel about my day, but he doesn’t seem to know how to respond. I want to know how he feels and thinks.”
V: “Ah, so you want to have deeper conversations.”
Banana Skin No. 1: Complacency
Schedule your sacred time together. It wasn’t new advice. I’d read about this before.
Scheduling’s for other couples. We don’t need those measures.
V: “When do you talk to your husband?”
I jumped at this question, eager to show my efforts in working on our marriage.
Me: “Oh, I’m really careful about this. Only after the children are in bed, and he’s not watching the news or his phone. If he’s in front of the computer, I give him time to finish whatever he’s doing before talking to him.”
V: “Do you think he has transitioned out from what he was doing when he turned away from the computer? Is his mind still on what he was doing a minute ago?”
Hard Truth No. 1 for Women
Schedule your sacred time together.
Don’t expect deep conversations to be easy or frequent. It may be easy for women to converse with one another, but don’t expect men to be the same. Even your own husband. They are simply different.
Banana Skin No. 2: Not Listening
Men should listen to their wives. Yes, that’s true. I strongly believe in this.
But apparently, I was the one having issues listening.
V: “When does your husband talk to you? What does he talk about?”
Me: “He tends to talk to me when I’m busy with the kids. He browses his phone and starts talking about the news. I can’t focus or reply him properly. He talks about cameras, cars or gadgets, and eating places.”
V: “So these are the things that interest him. Do you raise these same topics later in your intentional efforts to connect with him?”
Me: “Uh, no. I mean these are things that basically fall under Level 2 Communication (Sharing Information & Facts), we still won’t be having deep conversations by talking about camera technicalities or just food.”
V: “But do you know why he loves these things? Why is he so keen on the latest gadgets? How does reading the news make him feel?”
Hard Truth No. 2 for Women
Have a genuine interest in what your spouse talks to you about. If you want your spouse to get used to expressing themselves, and gradually* talk more about feelings & needs, you need to first learn their lingo.
*It is usually extremely hard for men to express feelings. E.g. They usually give you the facts about their workday. But you could draw out the emotions and ask in return, “So you must be feeling quite tired/satisfied/frustrated?”
Communication Problem or Something Else?
V: “So is your issue a communication problem?”
Me: “I? I don’t know. Maybe?”
By now, I was feeling quite uncomfortable. I’d complained several times to my husband that we hardly talked. My conversation with Valerie made me realize I was simply unable to see the efforts he had taken to tell me about his interests. I’d brushed off all those attempts as ‘shallow’ and ‘irrelevant’.
What’s your own Banana Skins or Hard Truths?
My husband isn’t perfect. But by reflecting and making intentional changes, I’ve gotten happier with my marriage. I estimate perhaps a 7 upon 10 marriage before the interview to an 8.5.
Valerie brought me through a process of self-reflection. She asked key questions to help me reach my own conclusions. Hopefully, this article will do the same for some of you as well. What’s your own mistakes or hard truths?
‘Marriage is a dance. It takes two to tango.’
Preferably with less banana skins.
The author chose to remain anonymous and we thank her for her heartfelt sharing.
Please take note that this excerpt only reflects the opinions of the writer. The article is not a full representation of a counselling session where the mindsets of both husband and wife will be walked through. Bethesda Care Services provides professional casework and counselling services for individuals, couples, and families seeking help with relational, emotional and psychological issues or financial difficulties.
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