The buzzword is communication. More communication. Lots of communication. If you ask someone for marriage advice it’s likely that communication will be in the answer. Certainly this is true because communication is good. The trouble I have with the word is that rarely is it modified by a meaningful adjective as if communication in and of itself could save or improve a marriage. There is rarely a mention of the quality of the communication or helpful input on how to communicate effectively. Even if there was, communication by itself is merely a band-aid to most of the real issues couples are facing. The only word worse than communication is the one that typically follows–compromise. Compromise just means that everyone loses. No one gets what they want.
At the heart of most issues between couples is misunderstanding due to a lack of connection based on the inability and unwillingness to listen with a desire above all to understand what is important to the other. Connection is a better “C” word. It means that couples are actually understanding each other. In my experience, when couples are finally able to connect and understand what is important to the other person, they are usually much closer to agreement than they could have imagined. For example, couples will ask me how they should resolve a difference of opinion about parenting their child. The want to know who is right. They want to know who is right because they are primarily interested in getting their way and completely disinterested in understanding “why” the other feels they way they do.
When I have them each answer the question “why” their position is so important it is amazing how many times the couple’s answers are identical. For example, in the parenting scenario above, each answered the “why” question with “because I want to be a good parent.” Suddenly, the couple realizes that they have been arguing over something they agree about at its core and most important. Once there is understanding about agreement at the deepest level, the spirit of the conversation changes and solutions are easier to reach without all the animosity and energy protecting each person’s position.
Agreement is the starting point for forging unity.