HUMAN beings are constantly sending messages, these could be verbal or non-verbal, good or bad. People in love should learn how to use communication to build their relationship. Today, I (JN) have engaged Nozipho Maphala (NM) who is a love and marriage expert who will help those in love to communicate at a deeper level.

JN: Communication is the centre of marriage. What are the tips to effectively communicate with your spouse?

NM: If marriage were a wall made out of little bricks called love, respect, emotions, physical attraction among a host of others — then communication would be the cement that holds that wall together. In our last article we did mention that communication is about expressing yourself in a healthy manner, and for a marriage to thrive, it must be founded on effective communication where both positive and negative emotions are shared in an enabling environment. Effective communication is very critical as it allows couples to better handle any trials which they may later face in their marriage.

Avoid assumptions: Rather than assuming what one’s partner is going through, or what is going on in the home, it is always advisable to just ask. It’s so easy to misunderstand something and to reach a conclusion without having the full picture. Some things make more sense if you have context and asking questions guarantees that you will save yourself from embarrassment after having assumed the worst. However, the reverse of it is that one should also just speak if there is something they are not happy with. Spending the day in a foul mood benefits no one in a marriage — there is nothing like — “well s/he should have figured out what was wrong!” Your spouse cannot read minds, tell them when you have a concern lest they fall into the trap of assuming and getting the wrong idea if they ever get the idea at all.

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Be kind even when experiencing a negative emotion: When in a state of anger, couples are tempted to say the most hurtful things in order to make their partner experience the emotion they are feeling. Does that help? Instead, it builds more resistance, hatred and resentment. Always remember that you can never “unsay” anything, whatever is said in a moment of madness can create a lifetime of pain and unhappiness. Sarcasm is another form of being unnecessarily unkind when faced with a challenge. It is better to simply say “the kids and I would love to spend time with you this weekend at the park” as opposed to “we will go to the park alone this weekend since you are married to that television and all you know is how to drink beer!” Such statements are bound to generate more negativity and anger. Even the Bible says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15.1)

Listen to understand, and not to respond: Often, when in arguments with our partners, all we are interested in is just a chance to get a word in when they pause for a breath, but we never really pay attention to what the issue is about. We even go to the extent of ordering them to be quiet and let us speak! Try not to be defensive when listening to your partner but rather yearn to understand and resolve the issue. Listening is a skill that both partners must learn, listening to the emotion behind the words, the sentiment in the voice and the issue beyond the present.
Make time for each other and create an environment of understanding. It is important for couples to create time for bonding. With our busy work schedules, parenting and social lives we have overlooked the husband and wife relationship where the two can simply bond without interruption.
It doesn’t need to cost a dime, a simple walk in the neighbourhood can do the trick, as can a movie played on a laptop on the bedroom floor. Allow each other a chance to really get close, sharing things that do not stress but rather build the marriage. Jokes and old happy memories are such mood boosters that can help create a platform to say other issues that may have been bothering either partner.

Apologise genuinely: Never underestimate the power of an apology! Today a lot of marriages are under strain because someone never got an apology they deserved. What that does is that it creates resentment as the aggrieved party feels underestimated, taken for granted and unloved. Couples should always strive to apologise genuinely. Sometimes one may not feel like they are wrong, but an apology may be necessary as it serves as an acknowledgement for being the cause of your partner’s negative emotion, whether you agree or not.

JN: Silence is communication. People suffer in silence in marriage! Does that have an effect?

NM: Silence is both good and bad in a marriage, it’s all an issue of context. There are times when perhaps it’s not best to speak — like where you can tell that your partner is just having a bad day. However, where a partner is suffering, silence has a detrimental effect on the marriage in that it creates a chain of more “oppression”, more silence and more suffering which ultimately leads to the collapse of the marriage. Where one may be scared to speak up, consider sharing your fears first with your partner before stating your issues. This could be said as: “I am afraid you will get angry if I tell you this, but I also am scared that this silence will tear us apart”. Such statements can lay the ground for a softer conversation as they may desire to show you that they will not be angered by your concern.

Where your spouse is silent about whatever is bothering them, speak to them respectfully and let them know that you realise something is not right and would prefer they told you and you worked on it together. Assure them of your willingness to improve the relationship and also to make them feel better than what they feel currently.

JN: How does forgiveness or the lack of it affect marriage?

NM: Forgiveness is that floodgate which when not opened, blocks the flow of love, happiness, respect, peace and harmony in a marriage. Without it, marriages tend to spiral quickly to a point of no return.

However, it is important to note that true forgiveness comes easier where a genuine, well-timed and sincere apology has been given. Apology is the first attempt at mending a relationship and at rebuilding trust. When one forgives, they let go of the anger and hatred that they attach to the memory of whatever their partner did wrong. Without forgiveness, both anger and hatred fester and stew into revenge and other terrible thoughts. Forgiveness creates the foundation for a new beginning through righting past wrongs and improving the future. It is not an easy thing to forgive someone, and it is important to take it very seriously and to commit to not repeating the same mistake again.

JN: Is there a perfect marriage Nozipho?

NM: I believe there is. “Perfect” is a different state of being for every couple. This is why communication is important; if the definition of perfect is clear to both parties in marriage and both are content with that, then they have a perfect marriage. The problem is that as a society we want to dictate what a perfect marriage is, forgetting that we all want different things in life and what may be ideal for me may not be ideal for my neighbour. As couples, we try so hard also to comply with this societal standard of a perfect marriage. So, if a couple agrees on what makes their relationship perfect, and they find those things, then they have a perfect marriage. No one else’s opinion on the issue matters or is even needed!

JN: Finally, is there a relationship between romance and communication?

NM: Without communication, it is much harder to determine the things that are deemed romantic because we all have different ideas of what “romance” is. It is therefore important to be able to communicate effectively in order to please your partner romantically, according to what their “love language” is. It is unfortunate that some partners are afraid to talk about the things that are romantic to them, while others belittle their partners’ choices. Marriage is about compromise and sometimes you may find yourself rubbing cracked feet — an activity you find totally pointless, yet it delights your partner and makes them feel loved and cared for. For them, that would then make you romantic, while you would have assumed there was absolutely no value in the act.

Effective communication opens up opportunities for romance to flow as your partner would feel loved and appreciated while a lack of communication allows for pretence in a marriage, and that romance spark slowly dies down into a boring, broken marriage. Keep the communication lines up and effective and watch your marriage blossom! Happy loving.

Jonah Nyoni is an author, success coach and certified leadership/business trainer. He is the author of Inspiration for Success and Success Within Reach.