“Marriage relationships can be enriched by better communication…We communicate in a thousand ways, such as a smile, a brush of the hair, a gentle touch, and remembering each day to say “I love you” and the husband to say “You’re beautiful.” Some other important words to say, when appropriate, are “I’m sorry.” Listening is excellent communication.” ~ James E. Faust[i]
I wanted to share with you these marvelous excerpts from Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality on communication, as 80% of obtaining the best possible sex in marriage comes down to skilled communication.
“Effective communication begins with an understanding of how communication works…Let us consider how the basic communication model might work in a relationship in which [spouses] are participating in some sexual activity.
First: The sender has an idea.
[John] (the sender) does not want to have sexual intercourse with [his wife Amanda]. The nature of the idea is influenced by many factors, such as …[John’s] mood, background, culture, and frame of reference.
For example: John may be too tired or upset, perhaps it’s already too late at night, or perhaps [John is feeling insecure about his ability to please Amanda sexually.] Whatever the reason, [John] does not want to participate.
Second: [John] “encodes” the idea in a message.
Encoding means converting the idea into words or gestures to convey meaning.
[In this case, John] says “I do not want to have sexual intercourse.”
A potential problem is that words have different meanings for different people. If misunderstandings result from missed meanings, that process is called “bypassing.”
For example: [Amanda] may think all forms of sexual behavior are acceptable to [John]. It may also be possible that [Amanda] thinks [John] is just saying this and does not really mean it.
Third: The message travels over a channel.
Channels include speech, telephones, fax machines, computers, and written correspondence. In this case, the channel contains speech and gestures. [John’s] voice tones, inflections and gestures are part of the channel.
Fourth: the receiver, [Amanda], decodes the message.
Decoding means translating the message from its symbol form into meaning.
Communication can be successful only when decoding is accurate. Various forms of “noise,” however can distort the message.
In its simplest sense, the noise of a crowded room makes hearing difficult. Noise can also be represented by misinterpretation of words, voice tones, or gestures; emotional reactions; or [being under the influence of medications].
In our example, after [previous enthusiastic encounters with John, Amanda] decodes John’s message to mean “Come and convince me.”
Fifth: the receiver [Amanda] responds verbally or nonverbally – this is called feedback.
Feedback helps the sender know whether the message was received and understood.
In view of what [Amanda] heard, feedback is sent in the form of further sexual advances, because “noise” disturbed the transmission of [John’s] message.”
…[This] model provides continual sending, receiving and feedback. In our example, it is likely that the feedback provided by [Amanda] will result in additional communication from [John], and so the process continues.”[ii]
In a nutshell: The sender has an idea – the sender encodes the message – a channel carries the message – the receiver decodes the message – feedback is given.
Join us next time for Part Two as we discuss non-verbal communication.
[ii] Greenberg, et al. Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality, Fifth Edition. Jones & Bartlett Learning, Burlington, MA. 2014, pg. 70-71. (Emphasis added.)