When couples come to my office for the first time and describe what is wrong in their relationship they often identify the problem as one of communication. I recognize this as an attempt to explain the distance, tension, and frustration they experience in their marriage. I can often assume their attempts to express themselves to each other result in a vicious cycle of complaint, accusation, defensiveness, refutation, and resentment.
In most cases their request of me takes the form of asking for “tools”, “skills”, or “steps” they assume will produce successful communication. While I certainly sympathize with their desire for relief from the futility they experience, my concern is that a rush to employ techniques often obscures the deeper issues involved and only puts a different sheen on the same old dynamics that were the source of the original problem. Unless these are exposed the couple will be reduced to employing their newfound tools for the wrong reasons and finding their apparent breakthrough short-lived at best.
It is more accurate to see that the problem has less to do with communication than it does with commitment. If your primary commitment is to be understood rather than to understand, if you think the ultimate answer to your pain is a change in your spouse then you will be committed to such change and as result no technique in the world will lead you to relate in a fundamentally different way.
Recognizing God’s love and provision for you in the midst of disappointment frees you to offer yourself in new ways—in Christ-like sacrifice—to your spouse. That grace is the only source strong enough to transform your motivation for relating to your spouse and provides a more genuine and lasting basis for growing intimacy and a more enduring sense of connection between you and your spouse.