Is It Safe To Be Real?

I was the youngest of three growing up in the 60’s. Our lively conversations at the table were often filled with laughter and teasing. But because I was 5 and 6 years younger than my brother and sister (respectively), I was usually not given much room to talk or ask questions. If I did squeeze in a question it was most likely met with sarcasm and/or teasing. I learned to not ask questions at the table in order to avoid the embarrassment of being mocked. Of course, I knew the teasing was in fun, but this habit built in me a fear of not being taken seriously and an insatiable desire to be heard

Fast forward to our marriage.

I was only 19 when we were married, barely old enough to understand myself much less how to relate to another person. But I didn’t know this. I went into marriage confident that we could do this because we loved each other. We did and do, but communication is more than how we feel. It’s learning to understand why we feel. I regularly felt afraid to share my true feelings because this fear of being rejected had been firmly established in my heart. Yet, I didn’t realize this until we had an argument. I didn’t feel heard or taken seriously. When I told Tom through my tears how I felt, he insisted that was the last thing on his mind. He was innocent in the matter, and I had reacted because of a fear from my past.

It took awhile for us to realize this and when we did, our intimacy deepened and became much sweeter. I felt understood and cared for. This is why communication is so vital to a healthy marriage. Many arguments aren’t what you think they’re about when it first begins. Many couples start a fight by putting up a smoke screen to deflect from the real reason they’re struggling, testing the air to see if it’s safe to be real.

It amazes me that this feeling still pops up every now and then, when it feels like Tom isn’t listening to me, or he misunderstood me, or he laughs at something I say. Really? I know Tom loves me. I know that he wants to listen to what is on my heart. I know he is interested in my thoughts.

But still…I can struggle.

The struggle isn’t between Tom and me. It is between me and my past. I have to resist the temptation to react in the way that seems natural and fight to believe the best of my husband. All the time!

It makes me wonder how much of marital conflict isn’t about the marriage at all, but how the voices of our past are influencing our gut reactions. Once the light of this reality is flipped on in your marriage, everything changes. Talking about it to your spouse helps them understand you on a deeper level. You can then fight this tendency together.

Communication is the soil in which marriages either grow stronger, become root bound, or at the very worst–die.

I think we do well to ask some questions of ourselves to see if our struggles in communicating have nothing to do with we, but me.

  1. How easy is it for you to open up about something that is currently bothering you?
  2. Are you tempted to keep it to yourself until you come up with a reasonable solution?
  3. When it comes to conflict are you more likely to flee, fight or freeze?
  4. Does your spouse know how you would answer #3?
  5. If you want to flee, fight or freeze, why? Ask God and your spouse help you discover the answer.

Maybe you don’t struggle in this way but your spouse does. We encourage you to plan some time where you can focus and ask your spouse the above questions. Playing offense goes a long way in helping your marriage win. And we want to win for God’s glory.

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About Debi Walter

Tom and Debi have been sharing encouragements through their blogs for many years. Marriage, Reading God's Word and documenting family history is our focus. Growing in our relationship with the Lord is primary in all we say, write or do. We are grateful for all who desire to join us in the same endeavors.
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