This post was written by Michelle Duggar. Photo credit DCI.
My husband Jim Bob and I recently celebrated our 27th anniversary. We laugh about how it took us 25 years to learn this one simple concept that we shared in our book, "A Love That Multiplies." It's so simple, but yet I think each couple probably has certain things that maybe have been tripping them up along the way in their communication skills.
A couple of years ago we went to a Courageous Conversations marriage counseling conference, and we were so encouraged by many things at the conference, but the one thing we really came away with -- that took us this long to learn -- was that Jim Bob and I have very different styles of communication. And maybe this is just my personality, but I tend to talk more. It's often said that women like to talk about a subject more, whereas men are just short, sweet, straight to the point and that's all they need, they're done.
And so I would talk and talk and talk and talk and then Jim Bob would be hearing all the things that I was saying, and he would be trying to assimilate, "Okay, she said that, she said this and she said that." And he would compartmentalize it. His thought process was more like, "Okay, this could be important and then this might not be as important, and this is just if I ever get a chance to get around to it -- it's not as important."
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I didn't know that there'd be times in our marriage that something would come up and he would say, "Oh, this and this happened, or that happened, and I did this, or we did that." And I would go, "We talked about that last week!" Or, I'd say, "Remember last month when we were talking about that and I said this?"
And he'd said, "Oh, yeah, I remember you saying that." And it's something that he had put over in column number three in his mind. It didn't seem important. I would be hurt. I'd say, "Well, you know what we talked about already!" And he'd say, "We talked about so many things, Michelle."
We finally learned at that conference that if what I'm trying to tell him is really, really important to me that I need to -- before I just talk, talk, talk, talk -- I need to get his attention with simple cues. I can put my hand on his arm, pause for a moment so that he realizes I'm getting ready to say something and I really need him to focus on what I'm saying, and then before I tell him what it is I always need to make sure I say, "This is important to me."
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And once I say that it's important I've got his attention, and he's going to put that in file number one, the first of the list, so that he knows this is really important to me. It sounds so simple, but I think some of the misunderstandings or the lack of communication we've had in the past is because we haven't really clearly communicated what we felt was important, whether it be me or him.
It really has helped our communication to be better. There's always room for learning in a relationship, but I think that's why I encourage people to seek counsel. I feel like so often one of the reasons that relationships may struggle is that we're not receiving wise counsel on a regular basis to strengthen those relationships.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately -- I'm a watcher, and I love to just watch people and observe the different things that come up and how people respond to them. I've told my children, "What I've noticed in life is that people that will listen to wise messages," whether it be preaching messages, learning by example, or just having a learning spirit in their life, in their relationship with each other, but in their lives, "Those who will seek to learn as they're going along life, those people tend to have less of the conflicts along the way."