Article by Kevin A. Thompson, July 7th, 2016
According to Mirriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 10th Edition (the only High School graduation present I still use twenty years later), the definition ofdefinition is “a statement of expressing the central nature of something.” But that is actually the second definition. There are three others, including, “the clarity of a visual presentation” and “the clarity of a musical sound.”
The word definition has four major definitions and each of those are defined with a total of six other sub-points. The very definition of definition isn’t just one definition. The word can mean a variety of nuanced ideas.
In relationships, couples can go years using the exact same words but unknowingly meaning drastically different things. Because their definitions of words are different, they will assume they are communicating clearly about an issue without realizing they are talking past one another.
One of the best exercises a couple can practice is to simply ask the question–“what do you mean by that?” When discussing issues, one spouse might say, “Whenever you say _____, what do you mean by that?” This gives the other spouse an opportunity to explain or give examples of what the word means to them.
7 Terms Every Couple Must Define
1. Affection. It’s a common request from a spouse–“I want my spouse to be more affectionate.” But what does affection mean to you? For some it means public displays of affection. For others it means a touch or expressed comfort in private moments. What are the romantic actions from your spouse which make the most impact on you? If your spouse became more affectionate, what would that look like?
2. Quality Time. Do you feel connected with your spouse any time the two of you are together or do you desire more specific conditions? Does watching TV together feel important or do you need to be doing some other activity? How much time does it take for something to feel like it is quality time? Describe a situation in which you felt connected to your spouse because of the time you spent together. (See: No Wonder You Don’t Love Each Other)
3. Honesty. Do you consider your spouse dishonest if they fail to tell you all the relevant details or does honesty just mean an absence of lying? Can you describe a time when your spouse technically told the truth, but you felt betrayed? What are the expectations regarding honesty within your relationship?
4. Holidays. What do the different holidays mean to you? What traditions are most important? What do you expect to mimic from your family and what new traditions would you like to create? Are specific days important or do you just want to celebrate sometime around the event? What expectations do family and friends have of you regarding holidays? Which of those expectations do you want to meet and which ones are you willing to disappoint?
5. Budget. What are the financial rules for your house? What dollar amount exceeds the limit so that you have to speak to one another before you spend the money? Is it acceptable to get a loan without consulting your partner? Do you expect your spouse to tell you the full price of something or is it okay to not reveal how much was paid in cash vs. what was put on credit? (See: Do Not Commit Financial Adultery)
6. Faithful. Has your spouse been faithful to you simply if they don’t have sex with another person or is there a different standard? What type of texting or talk with a person of the opposite sex violates faithfulness? What are the concrete physical and emotional boundaries regarding relationships with other people?
7. Romance. What do you consider romantic–does it have to include flowers, nice clothes, and alone time or are you more moved by a thoughtful action which alleviates some stress from your life? How much romance would you like? Is there such thing as too much?
Different words mean different things to different people. When we fail to define key terms and simply assume everyone is talking about the same thing, we guarantee miscommunication. When we take time to clarify what is meant by individual words, we reveal our desire to understand one another and ensure better communication.
What word would you add to the list? What is a word which you and your spouse have differing definitions for?
Author: Kevin A. Thompson, husband, father, and writer.