These 7 C’s of communication in marriage will help you learn to connect and build a strong foundation for relationship success.
Joe Vital tells the story of how Bruce Barton (legendary advertising man) saved the United States Steel Corporation.
US Steel was incredibly successful. During the Great Depression, they decided to stop advertising. Because they were leaders in their field, they felt word of mouth was all they needed.
Bruce Barton got wind of their decision and went to meet with the executives.
He challenged them to consider their choice.
“It is the advertising given you by politicians with axes to grind – by newspapers that hope to build circulation by distorting your acts – by all other operators in the field of public opinion, some unfriendly and some merely misinformed.
Can you afford to take the risk of having all your advertising emanate from sources beyond your control?”
There are many lessons we can glean from his words. There are seven I related to communication in marriage.
Before we discuss the 7 C’s, let’s define what we mean by communication in marriage.
What Is Communication In Marriage
A technical definition of communication goes something like this:
Communication refers to the act of conveying information from one individual to another. The information can be in the form of ideas, thoughts, or feelings. It can be verbal, nonverbal, or written.
While that captures a big part of communication – conveying information – it falls short of the essence of communication in a relationship. The real purpose of communication in marriage is deeper than that. I’ll discuss the deeper reason below.
For now, realize that conveying information (while important) is merely transactional. Communication is more than a transaction; it is bridge.
It is more than the exchange of information. That’s far too rigid and doesn’t tap into the reason for communication.
The 7 C’s Of Communication in Marriage
In this section, I want to present seven concepts. I will frame these ideas with a single word. Then I will explain the concept.
These seven words are more about WHY we communicate than HOW we do it. There are volumes written on how to communicate better. As important as these principles are, we often overlook an important key of good communication: knowing why.
Simon Sinek has written three books that explain why beginning with ‘understanding why’ is necessary. (Find them on Amazon)
These seven terms represent concepts that explain why communication is important in a relationship.
Here are our 7 C’s of Communication. They are not in any specific order.
Effective communication is about connection. I mentioned above that communication is a bridge. That bridge leads to connection.
We communicate because we want to connect on an emotional, mental, or spiritual level. This is the essence of communication.
Marriage is about connecting with your spouse. So communication must be seen as a vehicle to make that happen.
Think about it:
Do you think companies spend billions of dollars each year just to convey information? Does Coca-Cola advertise merely to let you know Coke is on sale at the grocery store?
No! They want a connection. They want you to think of them when you are thirsty. When you plan your next gathering, party, or beach trip, they want to be in your cooler. They want you to take them with you. They want to be a part of your plan.
They want to connect in a way they become part of your life. It’s about connection.
They advertise to build a bridge to your heart.
The same goes for marriage. We communicate so we find bridges of connection. I said it earlier but it bears repeating; marriage is about connecting. It is not a transaction. Connection is the goal.
Communication is also about control. Before I explain, let’s do an experiment.
What do you think about when you hear the word control?
That’s certainly not the concept of control I’m talking about.
Control is about managing yourself. No one can control you better than you.
Consider our story about US Steel. Bruce Barton told them if they stopped advertising they would lose control of the narrative. In essence, they would be allowing outside forces to shape how people viewed their company.
It wasn’t about lying or manipulating the truth. It was about making sure they led the way when it came to public perception. This can certainly be used in a negative way. Politicians are notorious for putting a spin on events to make them look better.
That kind of control will work against you. Especially in marriage.Control is about managing yourself. No one can control you better than you. Click To Tweet
So how does it work in marriage?
When I talk about control, I’m not talking about dominating your spouse. Being fake in front of your friends. Or putting a spin on your relationship. It’s not about control through manipulation.
It’s about taking charge of who controls your values and beliefs about marriage.
No one should control your relationship other than you and your spouse.
There will always be outside forces (family, peer pressure, culture, work, etc.) that will try to shape your relationship; you alone should be the one in control. Not outside forces.
Control (in this sense) is not about spin techniques to manipulate your spouse. It is about staying in charge of what defines your values and relationship. If you don’t talk, outside forces will influence your perception.
They will attempt to define what your marriage should look like. What your values should be. How you should do life.Control (in this sense) is not about spin techniques to manipulate your spouse. It is about staying in charge of what defines your values and relationship. If you don’t talk, outside forces will influence your perception. Click To Tweet
Think about any recent television show you’ve seen. Chances are, it portrayed a picture of family and marriage that you doesn’t share your values. I can name dozens of sitcoms that make parents look like idiots, husbands look like buffoons, and children geniuses. I’m not suggesting children are idiots. My point is, outside forces want to shape your ideas of what marriage, family, and life should be like.
When we talk as couples, it gives us the opportunity to share our values, hash out our beliefs, and create the marriage WE want. Not what is being thrust upon us by the television, social media, and culture. By communicating we take back control.
Communicating with each other means we are thinking. Thinking about issues. Thinking about values. Thinking about beliefs.
Back to our story:
Do you think US Steel wanted public perception to be in the hands of the media? Of course not.
Companies want to control what people think and how they are perceived. The real goal of advertising is not to let people know Coke is on sale. No. It’s about controlling what people think about Coca-Cola. This goes for any company.
Lack of communication puts the narrative in the hands of others. This can be devastating for business.
This same concept needs to be applied to your marriage. You – and you only – should be the one in control of what defines your marriage, values, and beliefs.
I can’t tell you how many couples I’ve met with who had issues because of a breakdown in communication. Misunderstandings happen when we fail to talk.
The solution to communication problems is to communicate.
This is why it is important to make time to talk. It’s hard to communicate if you aren’t talking. While there are other forms of communication, when it comes to marriage, talking is the best way to stay connected and create clarity.
The Big Reason We Lose Clarity
One of the biggest reasons we lose clarity and problems arise is silence.
Silence creates a void that is usually filled with wrong information. Silence often sends the wrong signal.
Think of the words Bruce Barton told the executives of US Steel:
Can you afford to take the risk of having all your advertising emanate from sources beyond your control?”
Let’s frame it for marriage:
Can you afford to take the risk of being misunderstood in your relationship because you failed to talk and let silence fill in the gaps?
We should keep communicating, not because things are misunderstood, but to keep things from being misunderstood.
Poor communication results in miscommunication which ends in confusion.
Regular communication creates opportunity for clarity.
#4: Critical Thinking
I touched on this earlier; communication is about thinking through issues that impact your life and relationship.
When we talk, we have the opportunity to flesh out our thoughts and issues. It helps us identify things that matter to us, and work through how to create those values.
Talking helps us process information and work through problems.
Critical thinking skills are uncommon.
Our culture is adept at emoting feelings. They know how to express heightened emotions, but few know how to think critically about real issues. We feel deeply, but think shallow.
Critical thinking doesn’t mean being critical. Critical thinking is the ability to identify, analyze, and evaluate information to make a well-informed decision.
We all process information in different ways. I like to write. I think best on paper. Regardless of how you process things, talking helps us articulate (find the right words) to express those concepts and ideas.
In a very real sense, communication not only helps us express our ideas; it helps us develop those ideas.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to conclusions about important issues simply by discussing them with my wife. Talking allows me (us) to work through things so we find a place to land.
Healthy communication helps you think about issues that impact your family.
In one sense, change is inevitable. Nothing is static. Everything evolves and changes.
The more we direct change, the more we can control our lives.
Let’s face it, your marriage doesn’t look like it did 5 years ago. It’s changed. It will not look the same five years from now. It shouldn’t. You should change.
Benjamin Hardy says: If you are the same person one year from now, you are doing something wrong.
I agree. We should grow. Mature. Become. This means change.
Since this is the case, we need to direct change instead of merely let it happen to us.
Change is the result of challenging ourselves and stretching beyond our comfort zones.
We can do this on our own but there is a part of growth that only comes through relationships. Marriage is the playground for transformation. As the scripture says, iron sharpens iron.
We grow BECAUSE we are in relationship with others.
One of the values I hold about marriage is that it is the most important relationship we have. Not because it is simply man and woman. But because it is the most intimate relationship we develop.We grow BECAUSE we are in relationship with others. Click To Tweet
Our spouse knows us better than our co-workers, friends, and extended family. They live with us. Eat with us. Share a bed with us. We are most emotionally exposed with our spouse. This makes it the most important relationship in our lives.
This is the reason I call marriage ‘the playground for transformation.’
We grow (transform) when we are stretched to move past our current comfort zones. I love the image below because it clearly depicts that the things God has for us – the things that matter most – are usually outside our comfort zones. Comfort keeps us from stretching, which keeps us locked into mediocre.
There is no better mechanism to move you out of your comfort zone than marriage. It stretches you. Challenges you. Shapes you. Makes you better (if you allow it).
This doesn’t mean marriage is hard, tough, or impossible. It doesn’t have to be that way.
But the nature of this intimacy is it provides an opportunity to grow that no other ‘thing’ can provide. In my opinion, this is good. Not bad.
I am a better man because of my wife. Not because she ‘whips me into shape’ or ‘makes me do things I don’t want to do.’ No!
- I am better because I’ve learned to live less selfishly because I love her.
- I’ve discovered parts of my heart I didn’t know before.
- I’ve grown as a man (real man) because I’ve learned to be strong for others.
- My values have changed because I see things differently because of her.
- I’ve learned what trust really means.
I could spend days telling you how she has shaped my life for the good.Comfort keeps us from stretching, which keeps us locked into mediocre. Click To Tweet
Connection through communication is a missing key to life transformation.
We are better because we share, talk, and connect with our spouse.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1 NKJV
This refers to brothers, but the application goes double for marriage. There is an incredible blessing when we learn to dwell in unity.
It is learned. It is not automatic. It comes about by finding our common unity. That’s what community is about – common unifying factors.
When we communicate with our spouse, we are finding common factors that bind us together.
This goes along with with previous point that we grow and change through relationships. We also discover places and points that connect us to common ground.
There are several ways community plays out in marriage:
1. Problem Solving
Most marriage problems can be resolved by focusing on what is common instead of what is different.
Discussing differences and problems allows us to find common ground. This is where we build bridges. They can’t be constructed on disunity; only on unity.
2. Expressing values
Community is where (how) we express our values. As couples, we have the privilege of sharing life with one another. We live out our values so they are not dead beliefs, but living practices.
It’s easy to say, ‘I love you.’ It’s another thing to demonstrate that love when you don’t feel positive, strong, or loving. Community is where we live what we believe.
There is a concept in psychology called psychotherapy‘. It is often referred to as ‘Talk Therapy.’
The goal of talk therapy is to help people identify any issues that might be causing emotional distress. This can be helpful for diagnosing things like depression or anxiety, but it can also just be a place to talk about feelings that come up from things like stress, medical problems, relationship troubles, or hard life experiences. Once the therapist knows what the problem is, they can help you figure out ways to make the symptoms less severe.
Talk therapy practices can be used by couples to help them work through issues. We’ve talked about this previously.
One of the benefits of working through issues is what EFT (emotional freedom technique) practitioners call‘clearing.’
To explain, picture a large table in front of you. The table is full of hurts, pains, and trauma. Big issues and little issues. The table contains them all.
Some interfere with your life more than others. The goal in talk therapy is to identify which of those issues interfere the most. Then clear them off the table by talking about them.
The idea is that when we talk openly (without judgment) we can identify areas where we seem stuck. By confronting those areas, we clear them off the table of our mind.
This is over simplified. There are also downsides to over-talking about your problems. It can become counter productive to focus only on the negative. But I want to use it to drive home a point that can be helpful in your marriage.
When we discuss things that bother us, we have an opportunity to clear them off the table. We identify what’s on our mind. We discuss it with our spouse. We let it go to get off the table so it doesn’t affect how we relate to our spouse.
This is the concept behind confessing sin to a priest or to God. It’s a way of finding absolution. Forgiveness.The more you communicate and connect, the cleaner our emotional table remains. Junk gets on the table when we fail to connect and talk on a regular basis. Couples who have meaningful conversations about important issues Click To Tweet
I like to see it as cleaning the debris off the table so we can have a meal.
Talk therapy is used to help trauma patients process their pain. But one undervalued use (especially in marriage) is to talk and clear the table so little things don’t become big things.
The more you communicate and connect, the cleaner the table remains.
Junk gets on the table when we fail to connect and talk on a regular basis. Couples who have meaningful conversations about important issues
Communication Is A Process
None of this happens merely because we talk once.
If you have children you understand this concept. You have to continually reinforce ideas to your children. You do not tell them once and it registers permanently. Repetition is necessary.
This idea of process (consistent repetition) is overlooked in relationships. We want a quick fix. But there are no quick fixes. Process is a necessary part of creating the marriage you desire.
That’s the nature of relationships. Once is not enough. Communication is an ongoing process that requires attention and detail.
Communication takes time.
Think about our story:
Do you think US Steel (or Coca-cola) believes they can tell you once and that is enough? No. That’s why you see a commercial every 10 minutes on television. They know they have to reinforce their message over and over.
Bruce Barton said:
You think that you have told your story to the world, and that therefore your task is done. I tell you that overnight a new world has been born that has never heard your story.(Vital, 2007)
This is said in the context of marketing. How much more does it apply to relationships?
Why We Must Continually Communicate
I’ll close with an example of why communication is vital to drive home the point.
Elias Howe is the man who invented the sewing machine. This was in an era when not many women were not in the corporate field. They were mostly homemakers. They needed a machine that would help them sew.
Yet, Howe died broke. Very few of his machines ever made it into the hands of people before his death.
It is said he had to borrow a suit from a friend to attend his wife’s funeral.
How could a man so talented, so gifted, so insightful about the needs of homemakers die with his creation not on the shelves of every store in America?
How could this invention go without notice?
Simple. Four words.
He failed to communicate.
Communication is one of the bedrocks a healthy marriage is built upon.
Final Thoughts On Marriage Communication
Communication in marriage is a key that unlocks seven doors in our lives.
We called these seven doors the 7 C’s of communication.
- The 7 C’s Of Communication in Marriage