"I want a double cheese pizza, thick crust, and a cold beer."
Parting words my husband utters as they wheel him into surgery (on our 26th wedding anniversary no less!)
Not words of undying love like you would see exchanged in a Hallmark movie.
Perfectly all right for me because words alone aren’t the only thing that communicates love.
At the heart of any great marriage (or any relationship for that matter) is the ability to communicate masterfully with one another; as communication can build a beautiful relationship or destroy it.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”- Proverbs 18:21
If you don't know how to communicate effectively in marriage, then chances are you probably don't have a very good marriage at all!
After 26 years of marriage, I’ve learned that ineffective communication only leads to misunderstandings, assumptions, hurt feelings and some nasty quarrels.
So, how can we improve our communications with our spouse?
1. Know your Spouse
This might sound like a “no-brainer," but how can you successfully communicate if you don't know your audience? We are all uniquely designed and may have quirks or past experiences that trigger powerful emotions. We need to learn what makes our spouse happy, sad, what builds them up or tears them down and to use this information in ways that better our communication. The best way to know your spouse better is to spend quality time with them. That means free from distractions so that intimacy can take place. The greatest thing we’ve done for our marriage is to make spending time together a priority. Including yearly couple retreats, solo vacations, date nights and just tuning out the TV and social media and having real conversations at home. Take the time to investigate your spouse, to learn about their childhood, their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, what are they passionate about and what drives them crazy with irritation. I learned early on that to set my husband on edge was to tell him to “shut up.” I grew up using this word without a thought yet, for my husband this phrase is highly offensive. I quickly removed it from my vocabulary!
2. Speak Positive Words
Ephesians 4:29-30 tells us:
“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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Words that are helpful and build others up!
Hmm… guess that means nagging and criticizing are out!?
Take an inventory of the words you use daily with your spouse. Are you speaking words that are positive or negative? Do you speak words of encouragement to your spouse, words of praise, words of thanksgiving and gratitude?
Or do you consistently nag, complain, criticize, make assumptions, and accusations?
3. Perfect the Art of Listening
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” ~James 1:19
I must confess- this one can be hard for me at times; but, how can we listen well if we are doing ALL the talking?
To master this, we must practice listening to what our spouse is saying and what our spouse is not saying.
The next time your spouse takes time to express themselves to you instead of immediately formulating your response and assuming you know what they are saying and why… consider BEING QUIET, BEING FOCUSED and then repeating back what you heard to clarify that you understood them correctly.
Then observe any nonverbal clues like body language or demeanor BEFORE you respond. This will give you time to carefully consider your words to respond in a manner that minimizes anger and frustrations!
Couples who communicate well, know each other well.
I’m pleased to say that my husband practices these principles (most times better than me!) He listens to me without judgment and he strives to affirm me daily of my worth. After 26 years, I can’t recall a single time he has ever said an unkind word to me and has always strived to build me up! We have our disagreements, but he is always quick to seek or give forgiveness.
So, my husband’s words of pizza and beer- were like music to my ears because he intimately knows me and in that moment of departure he calmed my fears with words that caused laughter. Now that is a real communication of love!
Father, you are the great communicator. You spoke the world into existence, and it is through your gifts that we can have relationships with others. Help us in our communication to be mindful, to seek to edify others and to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. Amen.
“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” – Proverbs 16:24