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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lost Comms

There comes a time in every marriage when communication seems to break down; you and your mate simply aren't on the same wavelength, and suddenly it's like you're talking to a stranger.

This kills a lot of marriages.

What is a temporary bump in the road, caused by adaptation, is made to loom large and permanent by the way we choose to look at it, and to describe it both verbally and in our own internal monologue.

Why the breakdown? Most of us come to the relationship that will culminate in marriage as adults. Sometimes young adults; sometimes not so young. We've done a lot of growing and developing through the years before we met 'the one'.

And when we begin courtship, we lie.

Courtship is, to a large extent, a mixture of hormones, emotion, and wishful thinking. This isn't a bad thing; it's the glue that attracts and binds us, and usually there are enough vestiges of practicality left that most of us don't make totally awful choices.

But under the dictatorship of the moment, we want to be, not our best, but the best that our potential mate wants in a relationship. We try to enjoy football and antique malls and tractor pulls and chamber music. It's not a pretense - it's an honest effort, and one in which we try to convince ourselves.

It's great when the assumed interest becomes real, and we have something to share, but all to often it begins to peel away, like a layer of paint on a poorly-prepared surface.

One less thing to talk about, but there's more...part of the language of common cause that we were using disappears.

We step back from we into you and me. The frequencies and wavelengths we nurtured begin to fall apart from neglect.

To make things worse, we often try to tie things up in neat little packages, and give what's happening definition - "We aren't communicating any more."

"You never talk to me."

"We don't seem to have anything in common."

While these may describe the current state of things, they are also damaging in that they set the issue in stone. And they are a convenient way to shift blame, and twist the knife a little...because it's never we who are at fault.

And then there's the internal conversation we have with ourselves, In the privacy of our heads we can say things we'd never say to someone's face.

We can be self-indulgently cruel and hurtful, and never let on.

But try this. Think badly of someone for a day, and then meet them. Going to enjoy the meeting? Didn't think so.

What to do? First, remind yourself that your mate has a history you don't know. even if you met in childhood, there are parts of his or her life to which you have no access, and never will.

Second, do n't make shared activities about him, or about her, or about you. Make them an us thing. Find out what you truly like to do together, things you'd do on your own if you had to, and emphasize that sharing.

This isn't just in courtship; look for things to share through your marriage. Study your spouse. Can you like what he's enjoying? Give it a chance. You may become a Downton Abbey as well, and it won't take away from Duck Dynasty.

Finally, stay physical. If you feel the verbal connection failing, DON'T pull away physically. I'm not talking about sex, though that's part of it. A caress on the shoulders when you're walking by, holding hands in the car, a warm hug on waking (no excuses about morning breath) - these are poems that don't use words.

The communication will come back, if you don't set your face against it. It will be different, because you're growing, and so is your marriage.

As the caterpillar becomes the butterfly.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.


  1. Years ago, my aunt told me that she didn't have anything in common with my uncle anymore. Broke my heart. I've told you about him before ... he's rough, tough, but tender-hearted, too. All his nieces and nephews love him. I asked her if she ever tried to watch TV shows he likes ... she acted like she didn't ... didn't care to. She was heading in a totally different direction from him. Sure enough, years later, she left. It was heart-breaking. We have to purpose.

    1. I'm so sorry, Shelli. That kind of story is tragic, and it doesn't have to happen.

      Growth together takes willingness, and so often pride can get in the way.

  2. I love this, "holding hands in the car, a warm hug on waking ... these are poems that don't use words." I've never thought of it in this way, Andrew and it truly is a form of art that we can bless our mates with. And yes, your words are so true regarding the distance that often grows in marriages as time marches on. Guarding our hearts and minds against the bitterness that can multiply is so essential. Thanks for this great word of wisdom to us all, my friend! I hope you're doing well physically today too!

    1. Guarding our hearts and minds against the bitterness - well said, Beth!

      And thank you for the good wishes!

  3. Beautiful, truth-filled words, Andrew. Marriage is work, it's effort, and it's creating a relationship atmosphere where it's safe to be who we are on the inside, not who we think our spouse wants us to be. Words are so essential. Talking about differences while they're still small saves so much heartache down the road. Choosing to step outside myself and be interested in my husband—studying him, listening to him—these things draw us closer together.

    You share such wisdom here! And I'm with Beth. I LOVE that word picture of holding hands, a warm hug being poems that don't use words. Just beautiful.

    1. Jeanne, thank you so much.

      Marriage takes so much work, but then all good things do. It's like faith - C.S. Lewis writes about the effort that needed to really learn about Christ in "Mere Christianity", and the solid foundation that effort builds for the dark times when God can seem very far away.