The ability to communicate is foundational within any given relationship—and how much more so for husbands and wives! Since marriage holds to the ideal of a loving, self-denying, Christ-centered relationship oriented toward the Kingdom of Heaven, consistent, effective communication between spouses becomes imperative. “Say What?!” is a webinar from Fr. Jim and Presvytera Donna Pappas that reminds us that there are consequences to the way we deliver—and respond—to communication. The prevailing message of the webinar conveys that with deliberate, mutual effort spouses can intimately communicate with each other—even when it seems we’re speaking different languages!
“Say What?!” illustrates
- men and women generally communicate in different, but valid ways
- the importance of recognizing what our spouse is saying—verbally and non-verbally
- prioritizing heart-to-heart contact in a world that increasingly defaults to social media
- that communication breakdowns left unattended lead to serious problems
- the priority of having a “growth mindset” as opposed to a “fixed” one
- the potential dangers we face when fear keeps us silent
- the crucial elements of risk, trust, and vulnerability in an intimate relationship
- the way we listen is as important as the way we speak
- the need to be agreeable during disagreements
- that we trust God to provide the spiritual unity in marriage
If time permits, watch the webinar in its entirety here before proceeding with the supplemental material. If not, refer to the designated video segments for each discussion point.
Gender Differences, Meta Messages and Communication Styles (Video 1)
1. Fr. Jim and Presvytera Donna speak to the frequent tendency of men and women to employ different communication styles, and it’s critical that husbands and wives acknowledge this distinction to better detect what is being said—either verbally or non-verbally (through meta-messages, body language, etc.). Miscommunication, at certain times, will be unavoidable! Despite the challenges, differing perspectives can still be navigated. Working to accommodate your spouse’s particular style of communicating is a loving message in itself.
How would you describe the different communication styles of you and your spouse?
“Fixed” vs. “Growth” Mindsets (Video 2)
2. Dr. Carol Dweck’s description of “fixed” and “growth” mindsets points to an important facet of a healthy marriage—accepting reality. When couples are able to emotionally supplant distorted misconceptions of what married life entails, they are better equipped to face life—with all of its unpredictable challenges. A “fixed” mindset tends to focus upon self-indulgent, fantasy expectations—and when the illusion is quickly shattered, there is an inability to cope. Because disagreements can sometimes turn into more intense conflicts, “growth” couples will seek ways that help bring a negative situation back to a manageable state. A “growth” mindset isn’t bound to glamorized notions and allows for couples to work through life’s guaranteed complications. As Fr. Jim and Presvytera Donna mention, it takes a concerted effort to work through challenges.
How would a mutually-acquired “growth” mindset help to bond the two of you?
Risk, Trust, and Vulnerability (Video 3)
3. Any intimate relationship—especially that of married couples—requires risk. And risk, for many of us, is frightening! However, accepting risk is necessary as it allow us to be vulnerable enough to share our most intimate thoughts—that which is held closest in our hearts—with our spouse. A Christ-centered love will foster trusting communication, and trust will foster vulnerability—which is the capacity that allows us to be truly known. When spouses allow themselves to be truly known to each other, it fosters unifying growth. Christ-centered love between spouses provides the gateway to work through obstacles with understanding, forgiveness, and repentance—despite each other’s flaws and weaknesses.
As a couple, how do you, or, how might you—find ways to communicate the depths of your heart to each other?
Listening (Video 4)
4. We usually take it for granted, but being able to communicate is a skill—especially, when it’s our turn to listen. For most of us, good communication requires practice. Husbands and wives, with all of the distractions in a household, need to speak and listen carefully to each other—taking notice of our motives, tone of voice, body language, and emotional presence. We remember that communicating is best done when we are fully present—engaging each other in a respectful, self-denying way. Our spouses are deserving of our attention!
What are some ways you and your spouse can be more mindful of the ways you communicate and listen?
5. Reflect on the quote from St. John Chrysostom:
“If you ask Him, He will work for you an even greater miracle than He worked in Cana; that is, He will transform the water of your unstable passions* into the wine of spiritual unity.” *In Orthodox Christian spirituality, a ‘passion’ is a disposition to sin.
Prayer for Married Persons
O Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for blessing our marriage through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. When we stood together before Your Holy Altar, we invited You to come and bless us. We claim Your Holy Presence in our marriage this day and every day. You are the Source of Love. Keep pouring Your love into us through the Holy Spirit. Help us stay close to You. Help us to prefer one another in love, to consider it is a privilege to be able to serve one another till we see You face to face. Help us to be kind to one another as You have forgiven us. Never let the sun go down on our anger. Grant us always to see our own faults and not to judge each other. Open our eyes to the best in each other. Give us hope to brighten life, and joy to lighten sorrow. May our home be a haven where spiritual values are treasured and holy principles are modeled. Gladden us with Your grace and peace that with one heart we may praise and glorify You. Amen.