Q: Just about every marriage expert I’ve ever heard says that healthy communication is vital to a strong marriage, they make it sound so involved. Isn’t talking just talking? What’s the big deal?
A: Because communication is the primary way that intimacy is achieved, and without intimacy, it’s impossible to have a healthy marriage. There are five basic levels of communication, and each one is important.
- Level 1: Clichés. These are exchanges like “How are you doing?” This common courtesy can help maintain a positive interactive tone.
- Level 2: Exchanging facts and information. This is absolutely necessary for effective everyday function of family life.
- Level 3: Sharing opinions. Here is where we begin to discover what another person thinks, and where conflict can occur. When we express our thoughts, we make ourselves more vulnerable.
- Level 4: Sharing feelings. Sharing feelings creates opportunities to be heard and understood, and offers a glimpse into our true identities. In a healthy marriage, feelings are respected and can be openly expressed based on an established foundation of trust and safety.
- Level 5: Sharing needs. This is the deepest level of communication, requiring the most vulnerability and trust. An example would be, “I need some encouragement. I’ve been beaten up at work today.” When we reach this level, we feel secure, accepted, and confident our spouse will reassure, rather than reject us.
Unfortunately, the fast pace of life can cause us to fall into the pattern of staying in the first two or three levels. If that’s true for your marriage, commit to taking steps of growth in this area. Find a time and place that you both are available and typically open to deeper conversation. Admittedly, this may take some getting used to. But if you keep at it, you’ll create an environment of refuge and comfort in your marriage, and deepen the trust and security in your relationship.
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