Communication is the lifeblood of any strong relationship. If communication dies, the relationship dies. This is especially true in marriage. But fear destroys communication. Although we don’t normally identify fear as the reason, communication often lapses or stagnates because of it.
Have you ever known of a husband or wife withdrawing communication because he/she is afraid how his/her spouse will respond?
“What would she think of me if she knew?”
“Will he still love me if he finds out?”
“I can’t tell her because I know how she will react.”
“If this comes out, he will never trust me again.”
Have thoughts like these ever crossed your mind? More than likely, all of us have felt something similar at one time or another. We are afraid of being belittled by our mate. We are afraid of disappointing our mate. We are afraid guilt might be stirred up. We are afraid that we won’t be accepted because of our faults. We are afraid to expose the sin in our lives that is destroying our marriage covenant. We project our own fears and insecurities onto our spouses, assuming certain reactions because we know we have made a mistake that will cause pain. So, rather than put ourselves at risk, we isolate ourselves and shut down communication. And we convince ourselves that if we block communication—the avenue into our fears—then we don’t have to face those fears.
But when we are paralyzed by our fears, we are not truly living in a loving relationship. John says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) There is no fear in loving communication, even when we have to say things we don’t want to say.
To step out of fearful communication into loving communication is scary. It’s risky and it takes an amazing amount of courage and trust. As ironic and paradoxical as it seems, we are more comfortable residing in our fear. Why? We feel that, at least in the short term, we are protected if we continue to retreat in fear and build walls between us and our mates. It just seems easier than confronting our fears.
In order for a marriage to have communication that is free of fear and perfected in love, it is essential for both mates to fully participate in cultivating a relationship of forgiveness, grace, mercy, and kindness. I know I’m being a bit blunt, but we are all selfish, broken, and often stupid. We make bad choices and we do things that hurt our mates and hurt our marriages. Our words and our actions do not always measure up to our intentions. But when those things happen, what is your default reaction? Do you try to hide it, justify and rationalize it, cast blame somewhere else? Or, do you face your fears knowing that your spouse loves you and he/she is a safe harbor where you can be honest, authentic, and imperfect. Does your spouse feel the same safety from you? And the reality is, those fearful communications just might hurt initially, but forgiveness, healing, and restoration cannot begin if we continue to live in our fears and shut down communication.
Without communication a relationship will die. Communication constantly tainted by fear is not authentic communication. Make it your goal to create an atmosphere of communication in your marriage that is free of fear. Without fear you will grow closer to each other and to God as your communication flourishes.