The point of any counselling or coaching service should be to overcome problems. It should be a tool used to find solutions. I use the term ‘should’ here because I suspect that a lot – perhaps even the majority of counsel offered is designed to keep the client coming back. Fixing a problem decreases the possibility of income, much like curing a disease ends the need for perpetual sales of medicine. It’s a matter of billable hours – the more hours, the more income.
That is not the goal of Affaircare. Our goal is to help you grow as a Christian and as a partner in your marriage. Our success is measured by those factors. Since that is our goal, it benefits us most to help you get to the root of your problem, seek the correct solution, and send you on your way, stronger and healthier, growing as a disciple of Christ Jesus.
Unfortunately this involves a task for which most people we encounter are not prepared. This is a symptom of our general civilization – a generation that has been weakened by a sense of entitlement and laziness, of sloth, incompetence and ignorance. I do not believe this is accidental, it is the result a class of individuals who stand to best profit from a lazy, easily-manipulated and controlled populace (think politicians).
But our goal is not to talk about politics either. The necessary task is simple: it is the ability to think in a way that aligns with godly thoughts–to think clearly.
When a problem arises in your life, it is normally true that the more you understand the problem, the better equipped you are to find a solution. A problem you cannot understand is far more difficult to solve. Often, misunderstanding a problem results in confusion, and nothing more. Finding a solution to a problem that is not understood is done by blindly trying one thing after another, usually with results that also bring about confusion. Some solutions are subtle – and can be overlooked in the confusion – meaning that sometimes a solution can be reached, but understanding how to apply it is misunderstood. Or confused with something else.
Here is a real problem! How can this confusion be avoided? The solution is thinking clearly! It is the task for us here at Affaircare to help you think with clarity. Our job is to help define the problem. Definition is by nature clarity- -the better the definition the easier it is to understand. The easier a problem is to understand, the easier it is to overcome.
Lack of clear communication is one of the biggest (and most common) factors in the breakdown of marriages. Most marital problems are either a lack of clear communication or a lack of proper commitment – or both. Clear communication is determined by the ability to define what you mean, to say what you mean, and mean what you say. Proper commitment is dealt with in another article.
Lack of clarity may be difficult to assess in everyday conversation, but in written material it is very simple to see. We receive examples of this all of the time. When you are unable to specifically and clearly state your problem in writing, it is more than likely true that you can’t do it any better in verbal conversation. And if you cannot define your problem, if instead you are drowning in a whirlpool of confused emotions and thoughts, bouncing from one extreme to another, flailing about trying to grab onto anything that happens to be nearby, we can pretty much guarantee that you are not solving your problems.
People want help–and we want to help–but we cannot guess at what the problem is. If we guess, there is a chance that any advice we offer is incorrect or unhelpful. We would rather do the right thing! Unclear communications come in many forms, and while it would be useful for us to break down and dissect every single example, we know this is not always going to help.
Many people simply do not want help. Instead, many people want consensus. They want others to agree with them. They want someone else to validate their opinion, to give the ‘thumbs up’ to whatever course of action they have in mind. These people we cannot help. But for the rest, for those who truly are seeking help – even if it requires a close look at themselves, and possibly a need to change their mind and actions – we are more than adequate to the problem. We have the answers, and you can find the solution.
The first step is to define the problem itself. Or, as is usually the case, define the set of problems that have resulted in the troubled marriage. An affair, and a broken marriage, are the symptoms of a ‘disease’ –not the cause. Unless that disease can be taken care of, the symptoms will not go away. They can be cleverly masked for a time–and even ignored–but usually the untreated, uncured ‘disease’ has the final word.
One of the best examples of unclear thinking are those communications that take the form of a ‘rant’. In a rant, almost nothing is said that is really meant. As we’ve stated elsewhere, if you truly think about your spouse the way you rant about them, your marriage is in more trouble than you already believe, and a large part of that trouble is you, not your spouse! A rant is a form of hatred–displayed in public, any hatred of your spouse that takes place in pubic is one of the worst things you can do to your marriage. It destroys nearly any possibility of reconcilliation. A rant is simply unacceptable. It is also a sign of a hidden problem in your marriage. Even if your spouse is acting horribly, you are never excused to treat them with hatred. There is no ‘free pass’ to act out on your own sinful, hateful passions.
A common argument in favor of ranting is that it is ‘cathartic’ – that it helps a person vent their anger and cool off. The common notion is that a person is entitled to give in to their anger and express it in any way they desire. In other words. people believe that they will feel better after an angry outburst. While this may well be a (very) short term effect, in the long run, the anger comes right back, and the damage done by the ourburst often creates a greater weakness in an already harmed relationship. Most people feel no better after a rant anyway – they just move on to the next rant.
This is not the right thing to do! It is no more correct than having an affair in order to feel wanted is ‘cathartic’ and helps a person ‘cool off’ sexually and feel better.
Here is a good example of unclear communication (taken from a comment on one of our posts):
“…I knew my spouse was inappropriate and had bad boundaries…”
This statement is written with the assumption that everyone else knows what is being said. But it doesn’t say what is meant, and if taken at face value, this is a devastating assessment of both the author, and their spouse! The only argument that this person can give to excuse or explain this statement is to declare “that’s not what I meant!”
But–if that is not what was meant, why write it? Why not say what is meant, instead? By stating exactly what was intended, the problem becomes far clearer and easier to solve! Perhaps the reader may think, “but I understand what was meant”. That may well be, but there is also the possibility that the reader does not. The more clear a statement, the less likely it is to be misunderstood.
So what is being said in the above statement?
First, look at “…I knew my spouse was inappropriate…”
This is a UNIVERSAL statement. A universal statement includes everything that can be possibly included in the phrase. In this case, an “inappropriate person” is entirely inappropriate: it means that their choice of clothing, hairstyle, diet, their height, weight, gender, age, employment, hobbies, beliefs, language, communication, and so on are ALL inappropriate. By declaring that a person is inappropriate, it means that there is NOTHING –not a single thing–about that person that is acceptable!
Of course this is probably not what the author meant–but this illustrates the issue perfectly. If the author is looking for help, a statement such as “my spouse’s treatment of our family during the affair was inappropriate.” Or, “having an affair was inappropriate”. Or some other more valid statement. By stating WHAT was inappropriate, the author is forced to focus directly on the issue and avoid making broad statements that are left to each reader to individually interpret.
“…and had bad boundaries…”
This statement is almost meaningless–it assumes a great deal on the part of the reader, and possibly reveals more about the author than their spouse. How is a boundary defined as ‘bad’? Which boundary is the bad one? Are ALL of the spouses’ boundaries ‘bad’? If so, how?
Again, if the author took the time to specify what actions reveal these boundaries–and possibly how this affects the author, the more likely a solution can be determined. Keep in mind that a great many people have no clue what is meant by the term ‘boundary’ anyway. Many people interpret it as ‘rules that are imposed upon someone else,’ rather than the true meaning: limits they place on their own actions!
By clearly defining your statements–and being willing to have your statements questioned for clarification, you are participating in the recovery of your marriage. Never assume someone knows what you mean!
If the author of the above statement had written “my spouse has overstepped some of my boundaries,” or some other similar thing, it would be easy to find out which ones, and even learn how to deal with this. Instead, there is no way to correctly identify the problem. No help can be given.
This problem is far more prevalent than you can imagine! A lot of people believe they are communicating clearly, and yet speak in a way that requires the imagination of the hearer. They assume that the parables, metaphors and colloquialisms they use correctly pass on the necessary information. This is simply not true. The meaning of any parable is always more clearly understood. A metaphor is a useful literary device, but it’s specific meaning is always better understood. And using slang, or colloquial language, is useful only to a small set of human beings. When looking for specific, and useful, help, it is always better to say what you mean and mean what you say.
When you mean what you say and say what you mean, any errors that may be hindering your growth can be seen and usually handled easily and quickly. There is no shame in being wrong – as long as you are willing to change! Shame falls on the one who refuses to admit being wrong and holds to error, disguising it through obscuring language and misdirection.
If you need and want help, we respectfully request that you begin by looking at how clearly you communicate. Those to whom you communicate will ask questions for clarity – this process sharpens your understanding, communication skills, and in the end, results in personal growth – which always results in better relationships.