Communication in a Difficult Marriage - Elisabeth Klein

Every married couple has heard the standard communication tips of using I-statements (“I feel sad when you say…”) and parroting (“I hear you saying that you don’t like it when I…”). And I’m sure these work just great for couples who are generally kind to and respectful with each other.

But what about those couples whose entire marriages are filled with drama and chaos, with control and abuse and addiction and lies?

Some thoughts for you, sweet ones, who are fighting a different kind of marriage battle today.

If your words are being twisted:

This is mind-numbingly aggravating. To know that you are saying and meaning one thing and to have it thrown back at you in a totally different form is maddening.

I remember wishing on and off for about fifteen plus years that we could just have a third party in our home at all times to help us decipher our conversations. (This is not a normal wish. Two mature adults should be able to have a conversation.)

So, if this is you: if you say something and you feel like it is completely either misunderstood or turned around on you and you’re getting nowhere, I would tell your husband that you would like the two of you to see a counselor, and if he refuses, I would go to marriage counseling on your own to find out how to communicate as clearly as possible.

I would also suggest that you prayerfully consider what issues really need to be discussed.  There was a point mid-separation when I was emailing my then-husband about the tiniest things. Things like the air filter needs to be replaced or whatever. And then I’d wait. And I wouldn’t get a response. And I would get so frustrated that I was being ignored. And then I just made a decision to stop asking him these things and take care of what I felt needed to be taken care of.  In other words, there are some issues that you and your spouse are arguing about that you really and truly can just let go.  So, pick your battles.

If you’re being gaslighted:

This is one of the most devious forms of abuse because it leaves the victim questioning her sanity.  I thought I was bat-crap crazy for a good portion of my adulthood. I didn’t know if I were coming or going.  I would think I knew our reality and realize that I had no idea what was really going on in my home.

If this is you: if you are being deceived and tricked on a regular basis, I would begin by asking the Holy Spirit to wake you up to your reality. Ask him to reveal to you everything you need to know when you need to know it. He will, trust me.  I recall one specific incident when I was in desperate need of evidence to back up something that I knew in my bones to be true but others weren’t quite believing me about.  I prayed over and over, “Help me find just one receipt…just one receipt…” and, girls, within an hour, I did.  I’m not saying the Spirit is a GPS or genie in a bottle, but I am saying that our God is not a God of confusion and that he promises to give us wisdom when we ask for it.

I would also record situations that seem off.  This is not the same as keeping a record of wrongs, like we are told not to do in I Corinthians 13.  This is to help you begin to put the pieces of your jagged marriage puzzle together.

If you’re being given the silent treatment:

I am so sorry if this is your situation. It can be so very frustrating and also can deeply hurt your feelings to have your partner choose to ignore you and shut you out, whether it be out of retaliation, to teach you a lesson, or to show you who is in control.  It is an immature way to communicate and it’s not fair to you or your relationship.

With that being said, in those stretches of time, I would use the quiet between you as a respite. Enjoy the silence. Let God fill up those empty spaces. Soak in the lack of dissension. And as hard as this will be, don’t let your spouse see that it’s getting to you. Odds are, sadly, this is his goal, and if you continue on with your life, even continue on talking to him despite his lack of response, he will more than likely stop sooner than later, as his desired effect isn’t coming to pass.

Now, let me state for the record, in case you are questioning this, none of these are healthy forms of communication. This is not how a marriage is supposed to work. It’s okay if you feel sad or distraught or stressed by the way you and your husband communicate: because you’re not actually communicating.  No wonder you’re so frustrated, sweet one. This is not normal.

So, I would ask God to help you become better at communicating and listening, to soften your heart toward your spouse, to help you hold your tongue and not add fuel to the fire. And I would surround yourself with kind women who love you and will listen to you and support you, who will fill in the emotional gaps that your marriage is leaving in your life.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. –II Timothy 1:7

 

If this post encouraged you, you’d benefit from “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage” found here or “World Split Open” found here.