Marriage counselors agree: Most, if not all, marriage problems are rooted in poor communication. We often act in our marriages as though we are soloists, singing alone and beholden to nobody. But marriage is a duet, not a solo. And the Song of Solomon shows us a real life marriage filled with the music of intimate, personal, and open communication.
Here's the stark truth about communication in marriage: You will communicate, or your marriage will disintegrate. And marriages today that are on the rocks are there because of poor communication.
Experts say there are five levels of communication:
Frivolous Level. This is the communication we experience daily in our casual relationships. The weather, the latest scores, clothes, and the like — we do this often and think about it rarely. It's communication on "automatic pilot."
Factual Level. This is a little more content oriented than frivolous communication. Factual communication digs a little deeper into the knowledge of various subjects. There's still no real personal involvement.
Fellowship Level. Now, we're beginning to get a little personal. We share ideas, judgments, and philosophies. We begin to risk rejection for our beliefs.
Feeling Level. In this kind of communication, we go a step deeper. We not only share ideas and core beliefs but we share our feelings about those beliefs. We let others know how important they are to us. This is much riskier, and it's about as deep as most people ever get with each other.
Freedom Level. This is the deepest level of communication. We are completely open with our mate. We share our deepest dreams, fears, ideas, and feelings — without fear of rejection. The word "intimacy" comes from the Latin intimuce. It means "innermost." And truly intimate communication encompasses all those dreams, beliefs, and feelings you wouldn't share with anybody else. Freedom level communication is the secret of lasting love.
When the Bible speaks of a husband and wife coming together in the act of marriage, it says, "So and so knew his wife." To be completely known and still be loved is the supreme goal of marriage. That's true intimacy. Every marriage needs it to survive.
The Difficulty with Differences
Intimate communication won't happen without some adjustments — especially on the part of men. In most troubled marriages, the men won't talk. One woman told me that the only time her husband speaks is when he wants food or sex. That's wrong. Men need to talk, whether they want to or not.
Husbandly silence is the culprit in most family communication problems. The wife, who craves communication, pushes her husband into a corner just to get him talking. She pushes and pushes, and Pow! He explodes. Ironically, this is often better to the wife than silence. At least she has his full attention. I'm not saying she intends to pick a fight. But deep down within her there is something that prefers argument to silence. She wants communication. That's understandable. That's how God made her.
Have you noticed how many books there are on marriage? On intimacy? On communication? Here's the problem: The people who need them don't read them! Women read them, but men — who truly need to adjust to their wives' communication needs — don't.
This too is understandable. There are natural barriers to men communicating with the intimacy their wives desire. And wives need to take that into account and make some adjustments.
Consider the articles found in women's magazines: "Five Ways to Develop Closeness in Your Marriage" and "How to Have Harmony in the Home" and "Achieving Intimacy With Your Lover." Now what do men read about in their magazines? "How to Remodel Your Garage" and "How to Double Your Gas Mileage" and "How to Make It Big in the Stock Market."
Yes, there are differences between men and women that affect marital communication. Some of these stem from the fact that we are raised differently. Boys are taught not to cry, not to show emotion. Part of the macho self reliance myth is silence, which supposedly communicates complete self-control.
These differences between men and women should give us all a healthy amount of understanding toward the struggles of our spouses. But they shouldn't stop us from trying, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to imitate the intimacy between Solomon and his spouse. We'll never arrive at perfection. But the closer we get, the happier our homes will be.