Family & Marriage

Christmas Communication

‘Tis the Season! With Thanksgiving in the rear-view, it’s now possible to celebrate Christmas without shame. You can now open you window blinds and let the whole neighborhood see that tree you put up two weeks ago!

Everyone will agree, this season of the year is wonderful and also challenging. What makes it so challenging, in part, is our busy schedules. Back in October, no one ever says, “I plan to say “yes” to everything and make this the busiest Christmas we’ve ever had!” But somehow, it ends up happening. Christmas musicals, church parties, Sunday School parties, time serving the down-and-out, shopping for toy-drives…and that’s just your children’s schedules!

One of the first things to suffer in a season of busyness is our ability to communicate. Husbands and wives add to the chaos with a lack of healthy conversation and information exchange. The Hallmark Channel has us convinced romance equals the ability to read each other’s minds. Couples who are really in love? They don’t worry about communication. They just know what each other is feeling and needs. Ha. What a tragic misconception.

Consider the following principles about healthy communication. My hope is you will put some of these truths into practice and this Christmas you and your spouse will be able to sleep in heavenly peace.

Communication is to a relationship what blood is to the body. If you have a specific area of your marriage which is weak or “sickly”, it’s likely because you have poor communication. At Christmas, those areas can be finances, in-laws, sexual intimacy, even the emotions you feel surrounding the holiday. Keep “blood” flowing to those areas so they don’t become cold, dead, and atrophy. Often we will try to “fake it ‘til we make it”, when really what needs to be done is to put on a pot of (decaf) coffee late one night(s) and talk through challenges in your marriage – give your spouse the gift of time.

Understand one of the greatest enemies to good communication is multi-tasking. It has been said, “Multi-tasking is merely the opportunity to mess up more than one thing at a time.” It happened to me just this morning. I was looking at Facebook over breakfast (big no-no) while my wife was explaining important information relevant to our schedule later this week. I was distracted. I missed the whole thing – hopefully I can figure it out before she reads this article! But seriously, put down the devices. Turn off the television. Don’t let your communication exist in competition with things that are obviously much less important. There is a time for Facebook and Fantasy Football; that time not when your spouse needs you to listen.

Have you ever thought about the difference between hearing and listening? (How about that segue, huh?!) It may seem obvious but it is very important to live-out. Hearing is simply consuming sound. Listening is to hear with a purpose. Engage your spouse as he/she talks. Don’t just hear the words coming out of their mouth. It might be true, a great spouse is one who can do everything they have heard; but let’s be honest, even a chimpanzee can repeat commands. Take time this Christmas season to really hear him/her and connect with your spouse on a deeper, more intimate level.

I’m not much of a cook. The way I see it, the world is divided into two kinds of people – those who can cook and those who can eat. I fall into the latter. I once did not use enough water while make pudding. I followed the direction and stirred a rock-hard paste until my forearms burned. Yes, you read that right. I can’t even make pudding. But nonetheless, here are my three ingredients to healthy communication.

Clarity

If one of the greatest enemies of good communication is multi-tasking, then the Achilles heal is incomplete expression. It is amazing how the simple concept of “why” can create great communication. Don’t simply give you spouse an answer, give them clarity about why you have those feelings or why you want to do something a certain way. Often, couples will get into conflict because of a lack of understanding.

This can happen logistically – you were not clear about the who, what, where, when, or why – and it can happen emotionally – I had no idea you felt that way. Whenever you as a spouse don’t communication with clarity you leave “blanks” for your spouse to fill in – for him/her to misunderstand what you need or feel. At minimum this creates calendar conflicts and at worse it creates an unfair and inaccurate understanding of each other’s feelings and emotions.

Example – 

Wife: Okay, there is a lot to do. It’s a crazy week. I’m going to the kitchen to bake cookies for the party.

Husband: Why are you baking cookies for the party?! You always do all the work. It’s like you can’t say “no”. Isn’t there anyone else who can help do their part?! …need my help?

Healthy communication with clarity might look something like this –

Wife: Okay, there is a lot to do. It’s a crazy week. I’m going to the kitchen to bake cookies for the party.

Husband: Honey, my gosh, has anyone ever seen you and Wonder Woman in the same room at the same time?! You are clearly the Betty Crocker of this family, everyone loves your cookies. I know you are really busy this week, care if I hop in the kitchen and help?

The first example leaves the wife feeling unappreciated and thinking that her husband may not even like her baking. The second example, using the same amount of words, does a much better job of clearly sharing how the husband feels while also affirming his wife.

Completion

I have never been fast. Some players on my high school baseball team had a “permanent green light”, steal second base whenever they want. I on the other hand, would hear the coach yell, “Drop the trailer, Brannon!” as I rounded first. No matter how fast you run, life still has a way of moving at break next speed and at Christmas time, kicks into hyperdrive. Everyone, everywhere is busy, no matter how hard they try not to be.

This can affect our communication. Again, my encouragement is not to become Charles Dickens (that guy could use three pages to describe a Styrofoam cup…if they had Styrofoam cups in England in the 1800’s). I’m talking more about the “spend money to make money” concept. If you will take that extra sentence to offer just a little more precision, you will save you and your spouse a headache often only moments later.

Example – 

Husband: Hey, will you grab go back into the house and grab my laptop?

Wife: *spends 5 minutes looking everywhere in the car she can think to look*

Husband: *becomes impatient goes inside, finds his laptop, can’t resist a few verbal jabs to his wife for not finding it*

Wife: *spars back the jabs for husband being unorganized and ungrateful*

Healthy communication with completeness might look something like this – 

Husband: Sweetheart, do you mind going into the house and getting my laptop? It is either next to the couch or possibly at the kitchen table.

Wife: *returns to the car in within sixty seconds*

The examples of this principle are endless. I have seen and heard (and experienced myself) how much better a relationship will be if both spouses commit to using their words and phrases completely.

Timing

Timing is perhaps your greatest ally for healthy communication. The Churchill to your Roosevelt. Small issues are blown up into big issues and big issues are often swept under the rug – all influenced by when and where we attempt to communicate about the topic. The essence of good timing in communication is to not think about yourself, but rather think about your spouse and his/her needs. During the experience is nearly never the best time to criticize. Nothing good will ever happen when you start a sentence with, “You always do this!” or “This always happens!”

How Timing Works

When you use timing well, you prevent little things from blowing up into big things.

  • For better or worse, our life experience can create a minefield in our marriages. Buried mines such as a bad day at work, not feeling well, or receiving bad news from a friend or family member can all represent dramatic negative explosions when stepped on by something small.

When you use timing well, you consider how much time you have.

  • Often unhealthy communication happens when a spouse attempts to talk about too much (quantity of information or quality of emotions) in too short an amount of time.
  • Healthy communication will recognize if/when a spouse has hit a wall on a specific topic or the number of topics being discussed.

When you use timing well, you plan intentionally.

  • Our lives are very busy. It is possible that if you will simply schedule a time and a place to talk about subjects that need your undivided attention – or a specific elephant in the room – you will have a much better chance for a positive experience.

Example – 

The kids Christmas presents are still not wrapped. The house is a mess and your spouse still needs to get a few more groceries at Kroger before the weekend. Your spouse is trying to stretch a fitted sheet over the mattress because the in-laws just announced they are coming in the morning to visit for five days. This is not the time to complain to your spouse, “we haven’t had enough sex lately.” While that may be true, then is possibly the worst time to bring up your disappointment.

A Christmas classic is criticizing your spouse after the fact, once the moment has already past. The reality is a mistake was made, but in the heat of the moment, when there is likely little to nothing that can be done, is the least productive time to discuss the issue. With all due respect, a spouse which does this is likely looking for a chance to chastise and criticize – like a shark to a guppy.

Healthy communication with good timing might look something like this – 

A spouse who intentionally prepares and carves out time alone and for the purpose of quality time with communication. No matter how brief this time is, it is your chance to share what you might be feeling and express the wants and desires you surely have.

Also, once enough time has passed, then circle back with a loving, constructive criticism of your spouse’s shortcoming.

Christmas is truly a wonderful, special time of year. Celebrating the coming of Christ, Emmanuel, should be a chance to bond with your spouse and grow even closer in your marriage. Consider these healthy communication ingredients to “bake-up” a sincerely wonderful Christmas time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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