IN-COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE
Remember how the drama in the Garden of Eden played out: “The Lord God said; “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” So the Lord God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man” (Gen. 2:18-20). This shows that there was lack of communication between man and the animals in the garden. Now compare the above with the introduction of the woman in the life of the man, “The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken” (Cf. Gen. 2: 21-23). Here the origin, value and importance of communication in marriage started.
Communication, involves three primary steps: (1) Thought: Information exists first in the mind of the sender. It can be in the form of concept, idea or feelings. (2) Encoding: A message is then sent out to the receiver in words or other symbols. (3) Decoding: The words or symbols transmitted are received. The receiver then translates the words or symbols into a concept or information that he/she could understand.
In marriage communication plays a vital role in sustaining the bond of marriage. When at the exchange of rings on the wedding day the couple says, “Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity”, they thereby commit themselves to each other in mutual love and fidelity. Love in marriage is a continuum. It lasts till death. Love in marriage manifests in both parties communicating with each other. Communication here means sharing, self giving. Pope John Paul 11 wrote, “By respecting and fostering personal dignity in each and every one as the only basis for value, this free giving takes the form of heartfelt acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity” (John Paul 11, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, Nov. 22, 1981, No. 43). This is communication. In Christian marriage, couples communicate by language, symbols and feelings. They communicate their desires, needs and ambitions. They communicate their conjugal love and desire for procreation and proper upbringing of children. They communicate by their presence, availability and communicate even in their absence. For instance, I know of a couple whereby one is dumb and the other is not. They live so happily and communicate effectively. They always accompany each other to markets, farms, church, etc. They built such a mutual understanding and instinct that sustain their union. One smiles when the other smiles, laughs when the other laughs, etc.
Unfortunately, some couples do not treasure communication in their marriage. They are so formal in their relationship with their partners to the extent that the marriage flavour is lacking. They live like ordinary room mates who part ways in the mornings and meet at nights. They depart for work and do not mind the other’s business till work closes. They do not ask to know how the other is doing. Sometimes, they seem to shy away from the presence of the other. They hardly sit together to share jokes. They do not eat together. They do not pray together. They do not bathe together. They do not have family discussions. Rarely do they sleep together. In many cases the man becomes too busy and completely engrossed in his business that he rarely has time for the wife. He works himself out in the day. Such a man manages to come into the house late at night. The only word he utters to the wife is, “Have you any food?” He struggles to eat his food and continues with the spill over of his take home assignment. Sometimes, he sleeps on top of his job. The wife comes, taps him at the back, wakes him up to go in and sleep properly while herself watching television and home movies that have taken over the warmth from her marriage partner.
Some young couples have fallen into the contemporary info-tech addiction. A young couple was having some misunderstanding in their marriage. The man accused the woman of insincerity while the woman accused him of lack of attention. When narrating her story, the young lady remarked that her husband is an addict. I expected to hear her accuse the man of taking to so much alcohol, smoking or sexual promiscuity. But she told me that her husband has completely become consumed in the mobile phone that he doesn’t have time for her. The question she asked was, “How can a married man come in from work and not have time for the wife? Why is it that he is either doing Whatsapp, To-Go, Facebook or Yahoo Messenger? Father, you won’t believe that my husband rarely communicates with me. Once he comes in, he manages to eat his food while also fiddling with his phone. The moment he finishes, he jumps to the cushion and begins his chats with whom I don’t know. My husband would chat on Whatsapp till I sleep. And this happens every night. He has no time for me”.
Some women have also become responsible for incommunication in their marriages. This occurs in cases where women belong to social groups that consume most of their time. For instance, some women who join politics have become guilty of getting involved in series of political activities and meetings that they devote little time to their husbands. Some attend late political meetings that last into the nights and come in very weak and fagged out. Some others may not value the importance of spontaneous hour to hour contact with their husbands. They don’t realize that a quick “hi” off their office schedule could make a difference in their husband’s daily agenda. They do not realize that a text message to say “Have you taken lunch?” could distract the husband positively. Some husbands leave home complaining of headache while going out for the day’s activity. Unfortunately, the wife would not remember to ask him whether he was able to manage himself throughout the day. Some wouldn’t remember even on return to ask if the headache had subsided. Some don’t care to find out how the husbands feed away from home especially during office hours. These are traces of communication gap in marriage which are detrimental to the relationship.
In-communication in marriage is not necessarily as a result of distance. It can be said to be the presence of unwanted gap, a barrier that emanates from improper care and attention for one’s partner in marriage. A couple could live far apart from each other, yet in constant communication. They oil their marriage by constant calls, text messaging. Some use the Skype video call system to keep the bond afresh. Some download other applications like the MajicJack and Mobile Voip calls that facilitate constant contact to make sure they speak with each other almost on daily basis. Ironically, some couples who live together do not value the need to keep their communication alive. Like Adam in the midst of the animals in the Garden of Eden, such couples live under the same roof yet live alone. The husband is there but not available at the moment; the wife is there, also not available. They can’t communicate with each other. This has adversely affected many marriages today. We’ll highlight some causes of in-communication in marriage in the next edition.