"They just need some better tools to communicate in their marriage!” These were the words my friend spoke to me as he talked about a couple he knows. They are struggling in their marriage in several areas, but one of their biggest struggles is communicating with each other. And it is leading their relationship to a place where they are growing more and more distant from each other.
In my experience talking with couples over the years, I believe communication is a struggle in some form or fashion for 90% or more of couples. My wife, Shawn, and I experience this several times each week when we are not communicating effectively with one another – even after 25+ years! As Emerson Eggerich puts it in his great book, Love and Respect, women hear and speak “pink”, and men hear and speak “blue”. No wonder we can't understand one another!
And while I cannot give an in-depth teaching on effective communication in these few paragraphs, the two verses below speak volumes to you and to me on how we should communicate in marriage:
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. Ephesians 4:29
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
All of us in Christian circles have probably heard Ephesians 4:29 taught on at least a few times. But are we putting it into practice with our spouse? Before I say something to Shawn, do I really take time to ponder, “Is what I want to say really going to be helpful for building her up according to what she needs right now?” And if I say something, will it “truly benefit her and our relationship?” If I would ask myself those questions more often, it would have positive benefits for both our communication AND our overall marriage. This verse, and the questions, help focus us on our horizontal relationship with our spouse.
And Psalm 19:14 is much the same, but it focuses on our vertical relationship with the Lord. Are the words that come out of my mouth really acceptable (another translation says 'pleasing') in the Lord's sight? If I could be really honest, I would admit that many of the words I say to Shawn are selfish and self-centered. My true motivation is to please me and meet my needs. When I am self-focused, I cannot be pleasing to the Lord because He calls me to be “other-centered” (Philippians 2:3-4)
And don't miss Psalm 19:14's connection of our words with our hearts. As Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45). If I had a recording of everything I have said to my spouse in the last 48 hours, what would my words say about the condition of my heart --- both my horizontal relationship with my spouse and my vertical relationship with God? If I had such a recording of my words, I think I would be cringing at times for the words I spoke to my bride.
So what does all of this mean for your marriage and for my marriage? God has given us two simple but powerful questions to ask ourselves to focus on in our communication with our spouse:
1) “Are my words helpful for building my spouse up?
2) “Is my heart and my words towards my spouse pleasing and acceptable to the Lord?”
Shawn and I challenge you to begin putting these into practice in your marriage today. Don't wait for your spouse to act. Take the initiative today to do this!
One final reminder: If you are a Christ-follower, never forget that you have a supernatural ability to do this through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Don't just try to do this in your own strength (which, by the way, is impossible). Call on the Lord for His help to communicate with your spouse! That is a prayer we believe He will always say YES to!
Suggested Application: Sit down with a good same-gender friend and share the two Scriptures and the two questions from this article. Be honest with them about how you are doing with this in your marriage. Ask them to pray for you to grow in this with God's help. Ask them also to follow-up with you periodically to encourage you to not give up.
AUTHOR: Glen Solberg is a man who is passionate about marriage - his own and the marriages of those around him! He and his wife, Shawn, have been married since 1992 and have been investing in the marriages of others full-time since 2003.
Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Please email us at info@AbidingMarriage.org with questions or comments.