Communication Tools: Avoiding the Crazy Cycle

September 19, 2022

In this last article on communication it is important to understand that a lot has changed over the last fifty years in people’s expectations of marriage. As World War II ended the world was changing quickly. People got married for social/survival reasons. We cannot comprehend how much harder it was just to meet our basic needs in those days. But as our country prospered and we got richer, people got married for companionship reasons. I think this was a very healthy change, but it required new skills of communication, patience, understanding and giving, which were rarely emphasized in the past.

Most couples still struggle with the skills needed for a successful companionship marriage even after all these decades. Due to these changes in the expectations of marriage, I hope you will never be afraid to seek outside help from your pastor or a professional marriage counselor when things are not going well. I can’t emphasize enough that this is not a sign of one’s failure or weakness, but shows that you are committed to making your marriage a growing, loving experience.

Also, if you ever get a chance to participate in a marriage enrichment program, grab it. Churches often offer classes and retreats, and there are organizations in the community that work to help people have better marriages. These are usually designed for good marriages that want to get better; and participating in such a program could prove to be one of the single most important factors in making a marriage work.

I have shared some of my favorite communication tools over these last four weeks. Now I want to give you a scenario to practice using them. I cannot emphasize the importance of couples having a shared faith. The Bible gives us insights and challenges that can help us work through the hardest of problems. Our faith guides us to learn some of the most important skills for a successful companionship marriage.

For example, we read in Ephesians 5:33, “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” This scripture identifies the most common struggle men and women have in a relationship because of the way God has wired us. Women often complain their husbands don’t love them enough, and men often complain that their wives are disrespectful. I read about a marriage retreat where the female leader took all the women to a separate room and asked which was more important, love or respect? About 90% of the women said, “Love.” The male leader did the same thing with the men. About 90% of the men said, “Respect.” Marriage can be very difficult at times!

In the book Love and Respect, Emerson Eggerichs describes what he calls the crazy cycle based on insights from this text. The wife thinks to herself, “If he doesn’t start loving me more I will not work on respecting him more!” The husband thinks, “I am not going to love her more because she disrespects me all the time!” They may not think this consciously, but it comes through in their subconscious words and actions. And so the couple goes around and around with the wife thinking or acting like she is not going to respect her husband until he loves her, and the husband thinking or acting like he is not going to love her until she respects him.

Our faith teaches us about things like sacrifice and forgiveness, which combined with communication can break the crazy cycle. It can be a real sacrifice to say to yourself, “I will love (or respect) my spouse regardless of whether I receive love (or respect) in return. It is hard to forgive our spouse when they don’t love or respect us, and we refuse to respond negatively. But the journey of love, respect, sacrifice, forgiveness, and communication will be worth the struggle. Remember, those things we work hardest for are often the most meaningful and important things in our lives. A couple can learn to love and respect each other, and when we do our marriage is so much stronger. That is why God created us different in this way.

Have you ever experienced the “Crazy Cycle” in your marriage? When was the last time you felt you were going around and around in the love/respect struggle? If you are a woman ask your husband which is more important to them, Love or Respect, and why? If you are a man, ask your wife which is important to her and why? Talk about ways you can show more love and respect for one another that would be meaningful.