By Tina Ray/ParaglideJuly 1, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - With the use of cell phones and other electronic devices for communication, couples seem to be losing their verbalization skills and ability to communicate with each other.
At Couple's Communication, an Army Community Service class offered once monthly at the Soldier Support Center, Soldiers and their Families are learning to become better communicators.
Esther Berrios, a prevention education specialist with ACS's Family Advocacy Program, is the class' facilitator. She offered an early tidbit of advice to those who attended the class June 23 - do not allow cell phones to interfere with Family time.
It was advice that couples seemed to appreciate hearing.
Austin and Felicia Hunsingeo, who have been married for 10 months, had not considered the distraction that cell phones can cause.
"Cell phones are the main source of communication people use now," Felicia said.
"It's surprising to know that something we use on a day-to-day basis and bring into our homes might be the main cause of communication problems in the home," said Austin.
Other couples said cell phones are convenient because they allow for faster and cheaper communication and take away a person's inhibitions when used. They also allow for communication often without interruption from a partner.
But, cell phones were never intended to take the place of verbal communication, Berrios said.
There are some important features of verbal communication, such as eye contact, body language and one's undivided attention which cannot be achieved through the use of cell phones.
Berrios also enlightened the class about another matter that could be a determining factor for successful communication within a marriage - the establishment of house ground rules.
Some of the rules suggested by attendees included not making large purchases without consulting each other and loading the dishwasher after eating rather than leaving dishes in the sink. The important lesson is that no rule is trivial.
"When you put rules in place, they offer some kind of security and guidelines," said Berrios, married for 36 years and an Army spouse, who told the class that she is aware of issues that arise in a marriage.
"If there's anything that you are going through in a relationship, I've been there and done that twice," she said.
The couples totaled 19 years of marriage between them, and seemed to appreciate her advice.
"She makes you feel comfortable. You can talk to her person-to-person without being judged," said Felicia.
Couples typically handle conflict by arguing, dictating, avoiding, yelling, cursing, hurling accusations and sometimes resorting to shoving, pushing or throwing.
But, for a healthier relationship, couples should, as explained in class materials, show mutual respect, forgiveness and empathy for each other. Couples should also avoid stereotypes, focus on each other as individuals and not place blame.
If a conflict occurs, it is best to wait to communicate when both parties are calm. Then they can work on one issue at a time and use short breaks or time-outs.
Josh and Kristen Santos, who have been married six months, purposely signed up for Couples Communication after reading about it on the FMWR website.
"Being married to a military member is a unique experience and being able to communicate properly is definitely a necessity to keep the marriage going," said Josh.
For more information about couples communication or any FAP classes, visit the FMWR website at www.fortbraggmwr.com.