Monday, March 13, 2006

Communication: Key to your Marriage

Sometime in the 1960’s or 70’s, Hollywood actor Steve McQueen starred in a movie entitled “Cool Hand Luke.” The most famous line from that movie is: "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

(By the way, a trivia question for you. Which current NBA player in the Western Conference is called by the nickname “Cool Hand Luke?”)

One time, while browsing at the old National Bookstore in Edsa Central, my attention got caught by the striking title of a book,  “Communication: Key To Your Marriage” (Published by Regal Books, A Division of Gospel Light). The price of the book at that time was nearly four hundred pesos. Having saved enough money after two weeks, I returned to the store to buy the one and only remaining copy of this book by H. Norman Wright.

This book has a companion manual “How To Speak Your Spouse’s Language, or Are Men Really From Pluto and Women from Saturn?” The manual (28 US dollars retail) isn’t available locally, and I had to request my mother in LA to buy the manual for me. It offers lessons (with patterns for transparencies, guidelines for activities, etc.) that can be covered either in a whole-day session or in ten Sunday School sessions.

I have read through Wright’s book, and perhaps the most memorable portion is found in page 191 where he writes about relationships between T(hinkers) and F(eelers).

One of the most typical relationships that develops is between a male T and a female F. This connection has the most potential for creating divisiveness and long-term problems. T’s need to think about and analyze their emotions. They bring to a marriage emotional control and reserve that can limit intimacy. They want to understand intimacy, not experience it, while an F wants to share openly and experience intimacy.

If a couple doesn’t learn to connect emotionally, they’re at risk for either an affair or a marriage breakup. The bonding material of a marriage is emotional intimacy. F’s hunger for warmth, sharing and closeness, and without this dimension, they can end up feeling lonely. They like the inner strength and security of a T but not the perceived emptiness.

One other book that H. Norman Wright wrote is entitled, if I’m not mistaken, “Loving your children unconditionally despite unfulfilled expectations.” Wright’s youngest child was mentally retarded and died in his early twenties. Before this child was born, Wright had spent part of his counseling training at a facility for mentally retarded patients. When he found out that his son was mentally retarded, Wright realized why God had given him the experience of working with persons with that kind of disability. Despite the hardships and difficult challenges of raising their son, Wright and his wife said that this child brought some of the greatest joys into their lives.

The Wright’s eldest child, a daughter, brought into their lives a different kind of pain. In her early twenties, the daughter rebelled against her Christian upbringing. She began using drugs and living-in with a series of boyfriends. She refused to listen to her parents’ pleas to change her ways.

By God’s grace and through the intercession of family friends, Wright’s daughter finally repented and turned from her rebellious ways. She now has her own ministry dealing with runaways.

It’s quite ironic that H. Norman Wright is considered as one of America’s most-loved marriage and family counselors, and yet he experienced such great difficulties and tremendous pain with his own children. But then again, I have talked with pastors and missionaries, and they have told me that oftentimes, their greatest heartaches have come from the wayward ways of their children (drug use, unwed pregnancies, spiritual indifference, etc.).

I have used the term “mentally retarded” several times above, and I understand that it’s no longer considered politically correct to use such a term. Instead, the term used is “special children” or “children with special needs.” I think, however, that sometimes such a term tends to gloss over the very real and the very frustrating difficulties of raising such children.

Way back in 1982, I was teaching in Dona Aurora High School in San Mateo, Rizal. I remember while going through the graduation practices, during the lulls, I read the book “P.S. Your Not Listening.” Yup, that’s exactly the book’s title. That book (about a teacher and her five mentally retarded students - there I go again!) reinforced my desire to be the best teacher I could be. At one point in time, I wanted to enroll in Special Education classes in UP Diliman.

(In 1978, while an A.B. English student at Philippine Christian University, what awakened my desire to be a teacher was, believe it or not, the situation comedy “Welcome Back, Kotter” shown on Channel 9. The sitcom featured stand-up comedian Gabe Kaplan as a Social Science teacher and John Travolta as tough guy Vinnie Barbarino. I remember cutting classes just so I could go home and watch the show. Hey, what can I say? I have had such an eclectic educational background.)

Anyway, if you’re married or in a serious relationship that could eventually lead to marriage, please take the time to read H. Norman Wright’s books. You will come across in this book such terms as Thinkers, Feelers, Perceivers, Intuitives, Sensors, Extroversion, Introversion, etc and you need some serious time to fully understand and appreciate their concepts.

Please take note however of what Dr. Larry Crabb wrote in his book “Finding God.” He said that even if you and your spouse have read books and attended seminars on communication (and applying them), there will be times of great, seemingly insurmountable tension in your marriage. Why? Simply because we are fallen men and women, cursed by sin.


Genesis 3:16 states, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

The expression “thy desire shall be to thy husband” has been subject of a lot of interpretations. Some people say that this refers to a wife’s sexual desire for her husband. But reputable, conservative Bible teachers like Woodrow Kroll and John McArthur say that Genesis 3:16 is similar in words and grammar to Genesis 4:7 and thus should be interpreted similarly. Genesis 3 narrates Adam’s fall into sin, while Genesis 4 recounts Cain’s murder of his brother Abel.

Genesis 4: 7 states, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

The proper interpretation of the expression “thy desire shall be to thy husband” is that men and women will be locked in a life-long battle to lord it over one another, insisting on their own, selfish ways, without regard for the feelings and welfare of the other. The woman’s desire will be to dominate the man and the relationship; however, by divine design stated in Ephesians 5:22-25, the man will rule over the woman. (In a previous post, I have discussed “The Myth of Mutual Submission.”)

Ptr. Chuck Swindoll, in one of his messages, said that he once helped open the elevator door for a woman. The woman, apparently a staunch believer in feminism, said in a loud, angry voice, “Did you open the door for me because I’m a woman?” Ptr. Chuck replied, “No, I opened the door for you because I’m a gentleman.”

I have a good friend (my former high school yearbook editor way back in the early 1990's), and several years ago, we got into a big fight over this issue of a man opening a door for a woman. I had taken pictures for her office of several farms in Tagaytay. On our way home, at C-5 and Buting in Pasig, I helped a woman reporter with her young son get down from the vehicle we were on. After I helped this woman reporter, I got back into the vehicle, completely forgetting about my friend who was sitting at the front. It was too late when I realized I didn’t help her out and that my friend had gotten off the vehicle by herself.

That Sunday, I texted her and apologized for not helping her get out of the vehicle like the way I did for that woman reporter and her son. My friend sent back a flaming text reply, saying that she could take care of herself and that even with her boyfriend, she was very independent.

Well, I texted her back immediately. Ha! I’m a guy and I wouldn’t take that kind of flaming text message sitting down! Just kidding! Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” I texted her saying, as far as I can remember, with these words, “I didn’t think of you as being helpless but rather as a woman who should always be honored and respected.”


That week, I sent her an 11-page letter, and I began that letter with the words, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” My friend and I don’t get to communicate that much anymore, but we have agreed about five or six years ago that I will help shoot her wedding pictures. She and her boyfriend are planning a garden wedding, but I hate garden weddings! I always think that it’s going to rain, it will ruin the wedding, and it will break up the marriage later on …

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