Viewpoint: Government standoffs can be just like marriage
Oct 16, 2013 | 810 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It is a standoff.

The Democrats won’t talk to the Republicans. The Republicans won’t talk to the Democrats. The president will not compromise with the House, and the House will not acquiesce to the president.

The debate is relegated to sound bites spoken at press conferences without real face-to-face conversation. Our representatives talk “at” each other and not “with” each other. Name-calling, accusations and stonewalling have ensued. As a result, the government has “shut down.” Subsequently, members of the various parties feel ignored, constituents are frustrated and multiplied thousands suffer the consequences.

Intrinsically, all of us know there is something wrong with this picture. We ask the obvious question: “Why can’t our government officials just get together, talk it out and come to some sort of compromise so that we can all move forward?” Though we may respect some for standing on their principles, all of us recognize the problems with this scenario.

Yet, a similar scene plays out in thousands of homes across the country, and in Bradley County, every day. Husbands and wives won’t really listen to each other. Neither party wants to compromise. Both parties begin to talk “at” each other instead of “with” each other. Name-calling, accusations and stonewalling ensue. Emotionally, households “shut down.” Both spouses feel ignored, family members get frustrated, and children, co-workers and other bystanders are hurt in the process.

It has been said that “marriage is the chief cause of divorce.” But the truth is poor communication skills are what usually lead to problems in a marriage. Without a doubt, there will be times when there are differences of opinion, disagreements and conflict.

According to researcher and author Dr. John Gottman, studies show that “... the existence of conflict is not an omen portending the end of your relationship. Some negativity is necessary for a stable relationship, but … the real predictor of a relationship’s failure … is a couple’s inability to manage conflict in a healthy manner.”

The challenge is we are not born knowing how to communicate successfully. We learn these skills by observing our adult caregivers, usually our parents. And if we did not see them having loving, collaborative, effective communication, there is no reason in the world we should know how to do it ourselves.

The good news is that we can learn how to communicate effectively at any stage in life, and it is the best thing you can do for your marriage. Maybe our government officials should start there as well.

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(Editor’s Note: This guest “Viewpoint” has been written and submitted by David Gray, director of Marriage-Works Cleveland. In future editions of the Cleveland Daily Banner, Gray will present additional thoughts on marriage under the “Viewpoint” heading. He may be reached at david@marriageworkscleveland.com.)