• Dr. Jacob D van Zyl

Help for the marriage: another five important communication guidelines


by Dr. Jacob D van Zyl tel 013 752 2000

Practice@37A Ehmkestreet, Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, SA

BLOG (30/4) posted on 2020/01/25 – check this blog for the next update in about a month’s time


In my previous blog (blog 29) regarding two trees standing and growing together as one in marriage, I emphasised the importance of communication. I provided the first five of ten important communication guidelines in marriage, namely:

1. No mind reading;

2. No questions that are not real questions;

3. Each participant may only speak for him- or herself;

4. Each participant must say how he/she feels, instead of making value judgements;

5. The conversation needs to stay in the here and now (present time).

In this blog I provide the other five important communication guidelines in marriage.

Here follow the other five important communication guidelines:

6.One liners are forbidden – comprehensive communication is necessary

You must only send complete messages to one another. A complete message consists of:

- A statement

- A reason

- Relevant feelings.

When you have allowed the demands of the times, challenges, responsibilities and other priorities, to inundate you and your partner, you will find that you don’t really communicate anymore. When you talk, you ‘bark’ at each other in telegram style (with one liners or a single word). By doing so, you are breaking down the bridge of communication between each other. If this applies to you, then the time has come to nurture the tree again…; to start building this bridge to your partner; the bridge of respectful communication. When you want to communicate with your partner about something important, make a statement with reasons, and place it within the context of the feelings that go with this issue. For example: “I have a problem with the fact that you talk to your mother about the things that are bothering you, instead of to me. It makes me sad but also angry, because I want to be the first person to share your life and to support you with your problems.

7. No unfinished business

Uphold the principle of “No unfinished business”. When there is conflict, it can happen so easily that you go to bed angry. It is important to try to make up and reconcile. Build your bridge by cementing brick upon brick, day by day. Otherwise the gulf between you will gradually (and often unnoticed) become wider, until it is an abyss which is impossible to cross.

Try the following technique, when you have conflict, and want to avoid having unfinished business in your arguments: If the husband makes a statement like: “We have to talk about our upcoming holiday” the wife should first repeat it by saying: “You say we must talk about our upcoming holiday” before she can say what she wants to say. After she has repeated the husband’s words, she may answer: “And I say that I still feel we have paid too much for this holiday. The flights and accommodation are way above our means!” Now the husband must first repeat his wife’s words: “You say we have paid too much for this holiday, and that the flights and accommodation are way above our means, and I say we have planned it together.” This way the conversation will develop along with this rule / conflict handling technique until you reach a tentative, specific decision.

It is important that both of you give the technique a chance to work. It takes discipline and does not always feel natural. It is sometimes necessary to take precautions, so that the storm wind does not damage the tree… A temporary arrangement is sometimes necessary in order to protect the tree, and minimise potential damage.

If you want this technique to work, it is helpful to choose a code word or sentence, to warn your partner that you are now going to switch to the technique, like: “Let’s use the technique” or “Let’s talk about this calmly”. Keep your sentences relatively short, so that the other person can repeat them.

The efficiency of this technique lies in the fact that you are forced to listen carefully, to what your partner is saying – so carefully that you can repeat it almost verbatim. It also gives you time to think about how you want to respond. Couples who have used this technique have told me, that it turns destructive emotional over-reaction around, to constructive conversation. This improves the possibility of reaching a decision. It is much better than just carrying on the way you used to. It is much more rational – a lot less irrational.

8. Only one topic at a time

Most of us know from experience that it is not constructive to put all the topics that are problematic on the table at once. It can create a storm which might damage the tree. Focus on one topic at a time. If there is conflict between you and your partner again, remember to remain with only one topic at a time. One point at a time, on the agenda. Leave the other topics for another time.

9. Keep the rounds short

This guideline for constructive and effective communication doesn’t mean you should be rude or incomplete in your statements. It means that you should give your partner the opportunity to finish what he or she has to say before you start talking. You can tell your partner thirty things if you need or want to, but in thirty different rounds because you need to keep the rounds short.

10. Humour

It is sad to see how little humour has remained in marriages. Maybe you have also reached the point where you have lost all humour between you and your partner. You don’t laugh about things together anymore. You need to bring the mirth back, rediscover it; you had it in the beginning of your relationship. This will help you to rise above your problems, and look at them from a distance, instead of becoming bogged down in them. The psychologist Elisabeth Bishop says that there are three golden rules for communication in relationships, be they therapeutic or personal:

"Always be yourself.

Say the difficult things!

If at all possible, try to be funny."

To talk to each other, to be open and honest about your problems, is extremely important for the maintenance and survival of your marriage. If your problems have reached the stage where it is impossible to talk to each other, you have to talk to somebody else – a professional person whom you can trust, and who will treat your problems with confidentiality. Look for help. Resolve the problems with each other. Don’t leave them and think they will just go away. Believe me, they will not. Don’t wait until your problems have become an insurmountable mountain which is covered with damaged trees... Make a habit of tackling your problems together.

In my next blog, I will provide three important guidelines regarding conflict resolution.

Feel free to send your questions regarding the marriage / marital life to or contact my rooms at 013 752 2000 in order to make an appointment.


© 2018 by 4 Keep Sakes 

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