By Bob Schuchts
I In my last column, I wrote about our universal desire to be securely loved. Enduring love is meant to survive the test of time and all the challenges that come with it. In this installment, I want to show how we can build strong bonds of unity, through establishing healthy patterns of communication.
Let’s start by exploring what it means to communicate. For many of us, communication is synonymous with saying and doing whatever we please whenever we feel like it. This is far from genuine communication. If we break down the word “commun-ication,” we see that communication, in essence, is the process of becoming one – an intentional act of developing true and lasting communion in our relationships. Anything else is “anti-communication.” Rather than building bonds of enduring love, our destructive words and actions weaken bonds of unity. As you examine your relationship, do you see areas where you communicate well, versus areas where one or both of you are bringing more disunity by what you say or do? This awareness is necessary for improving your communication. How are you building unity through your interaction with each other? In what ways are you sowing seeds of mistrust and discord as you relate to each other?
Research demonstrates a strong correlation between patterns of interaction and marital longevity and stability. John Gottman, Ph.D., the author of “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Last,” and his colleagues have studied thousands of couples over the past 40 years. They have discovered that couples who regularly criticize the character of their partner, mock and ridicule each other during conflict, become defensive and close off emotionally are much more likely to divorce. In contrast, couples with good communication patterns work together to resolve problems. As a result they build bonds of unity through their interactions. Furthermore, couples in enduring marriages are much more likely to assume responsibility for their emotional needs and to express their emotions constructively. These couples ordinarily treat one another with respect, and continue to keep an open mind and heart when issues remain unresolved.
All this is common sense, you might say, and I would agree. But how many of us actually respond with common sense when we are upset or feeling unloved in our relationships? It is all too easy for us to fall into negative patterns of relating, especially when we have a history of poor communication in our current or previous
relationships. Think about your own history and experience: Did you grow up in a home where you felt safe to express your emotions? In your current relationship, do you trust one another enough to work through conflicts? Do you experience joy when you spend time together with family members? No matter what your history has been, there is hope for a new beginning. You can start now to communicate with purpose – to pursue unity, cultivate intimacy and build a relationship of love that will endure. This all must begin with a decision to invest yourself in your marriage for the long haul. Good communication skills are rooted in a Wrm commitment to building strong bonds of unity that will last a lifetime and beyond.
In the next issue, we will look at Wve key areas for building these bonds of unity in marriage. In the meantime, use your words and actions to build bridges of unity with each other.
Bob Schuchts is the founder of the John Paul II Healing Center in Tallahassee, Fla., and a nationally renowned speaker, presenter and writer. Bob is a licensed marriage and family therapist and retired from private practice.