It seems no matter what area of life you’re talking about, bad communication leads to conflict. Communication is huge, and in the area of marriage, it is no different. Here are four principles to help guide our communication in marriage.
Quick to Listen
James 1:19: My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angr
One paraphrase says it this way…Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. Now this is the exact opposite of how we communicate sometimes isn’t it? Literally, the sequence of events is reversed so often, and not just in marriages. We are quick to anger, then quick to speak angry words, and realize we’ve been slow to listen. Think for a minute how many arguments could’ve been resolved if you would’ve been quick to listen
Being quick to listen means that as the other person is talking, we’re not even thinking about what we are going to say back. We’re not interrupting, we’re not building our case in our minds, but instead we are focusing all our energy on listening and understanding.
Speak the Truth
Ephesians 4:25: Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
One problem in some marriages is that we are speaking truthfully, we’re just not speaking truthfully to one another. For example, wives will speak the truth about their husbands, but not to their husbands. Instead, they’ll speak to their girlfriends or their 331 ‘friends’ on Facebook. Husbands will complain to guys at work or those they spend time with, but fail to speak the truth to their wives.
Instead the Bible says when you have a problem with someone, you talk to them about. We must speak the truth to one another. Not with anyone else, but you go to the person who can actually do something about it.
Ladies, when your husband asks, “What’s wrong honey,” and you say, “Nothing…everything’s fine.” But something is actually wrong. You’re lying, and you’re short circuiting the intimacy in your relationship. A wife may say, “well my husband should just know me.” They should, but the way they understand you and become a student of you, is for you to communicate clearly, speaking the truth.
Men, your wife is not a mind reader. When she catches your eye and you think ‘wow, she’s beautiful’, then tell her with your words. If you are appreciative for what she did or said, then verbally communicate that to her. Don’t leave your encouragement in the closet called ‘good intentions.’ Move it to action.
Now when our spouse does speak the truth and share their hearts, I don’t care if it is a man or woman that is an incredibly vulnerable place to be. They are opening up about something, and as the listener, we need to create an environment that is safe for them to share.
The greatest thing you can do after your spouse is done sharing is this…What do you need from me? What are you expecting from me? How can I help?
Settle the Issue
Ephesians 4:26-27: 26“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold.
Notice, the Bible doesn’t say don’t get angry. You’re going to get upset. There are two imperfect people living under the same roof. But when conflict arises, are you committed to work it out? Heather and I have had some evenings that we just won’t go to bed until we get it worked out. Men, it is our responsibility to make sure that it gets worked out and the relationship is restored.
When we don’t settle the issue, the enemy climbs all over our marriages. The root of bitterness grows a bit deeper and stronger, and you begin to see your spouse through glasses that are covered with resentment. Everything they say and do is run through the filter of your bitterness, and it slowly eats away at your love and devotion to one another.
Typically in your relationship, one of you is a stuffer and one of you is a talker. One stuffs all their emotions, while the other wants to talk it out. If you’re the talker, it is ok to give your spouse some space to think for 30 minutes or an hour. Sometimes they need to process and wrestle down their own thoughts. That’s ok.
If you’re the stuffer, you can’t stuff forever. Eventually Mt. St. Helens blew up, and it didn’t go well. The silent treatment was great in grade school. It is horrible in your marriage. Thankfully, God does not give us the silent treatment. Before the sun sets, you need to talk about it. When we don’t, the Bible says we are giving the devil a foothold in our relationship.
Speak in Love
Ephesians 4:15: Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Great communication is not just about speaking the truth, because if we left it at that, our communication could easily become harsh, abrupt, nagging, and destructive. So we speak the truth, but we do it in love.
This is not just about what you say, it is how you say it. Don’t raise your voice. Don’t talk at them or to them, but with them. This is not debate club. This is a marriage. You’re not in contract negotiations; you’re in a covenant relationship where you’re valuing their opinion and needs greater than your own. Are the words you’re using building the other person up, or tearing them down? Are you attacking them or coming alongside? There is a big difference between fighting in your marriage, and fighting for your marriage.
May we be people who pursue humility in our marriages, and may that be reflected in how we communicate with our spouses.