Friday, October 10, 2014

The hardest words to hear...

     Do you know what five of the toughest words to hear are in any marriage?

“Honey, we need to talk.”

Those words immediately raise an “uh oh” factor in our minds.  When we hear those words, we scramble to think through the last few days.  Our minds can move from personal, “Did I say something wrong?  Did I do something wrong?” to accusatory, “What did you do?” to children, “She’s in trouble for what?” to circumstances beyond our control, “I’ve lost my job and the house is on fire.”
     With those five words, we can feel our minds and bodies preparing for a fight, flight, or freeze response.  And probably with good reason.  I’ve never heard anyone say, “Honey, we need to talk,” in that serious, dramatic tone, followed by “You are the most beautiful woman in the world,” or “Honey we need to talk.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the way you provide for our family.”
     So, what do you normally think when you hear “Honey, we need to talk”?  No matter what your initial response, communication has to happen.  Without communication, a relationship will die.  There is no way around it.  Without communication, a relationship will die.  So, how do you make “Honey, we need to talk” not be the five most dreaded words in your marriage?

  • Cultivate an ongoing environment of encouraging communication—Let “Honey we need to talk” be the exception, not the norm.  Let your conversations with your spouse be so filled with goodness that the occasional negative things you have to discuss will pale in comparison.
  • Listen—Most people are tempted to zero in on one specific point brought up in conversation, rush to defend an action or position, or begin to formulate what he/she will say next.  When you hear “Honey we need to talk,” listen to your mate fully and carefully.
  • Speak up—“Honey, we need to talk” implies two way communication.  Say what you think.  If you mate says something you agree with, let him/her know, but also speak up if you disagree with something your spouse says.  You and your mate cannot read each other’s minds, and silence can be incorrectly interpreted as agreement or disagreement.  So, don’t leave it open for your mate to assume you mean, think, or feel something that you do not.  But remember, when you speak up, always speak in love (and always be mindful of your tone of voice and body language).
  • Deal with the issue at hand—Sometimes, in “Honey, we need to talk” moments, it can be easy to get distracted, especially if you fear you will be on the defensive.  Deal with the problem at hand and try not to chase squirrels.
  • Ask clarifying questions—Take the time to ask if you don’t fully understand something your mate has shared with you.  You cannot read your spouse’s mind, so make sure you truly understand what he/she is trying to communicate to you.
  • Remember you are one flesh, not competitors—If your conversation involves different points of view, remember that you are marriage partners, not bitter rivals.  Don’t be more determined to “win the argument” than you are to do what is best for the marriage.  “Honey, we need to talk” should lead to a cooperative end, not a competitive stalemate.
  • Don’t assume motivation“Honey, we need to talk” is not always an attack.  Sometimes, it is a response to fear, or a genuine desire to resolve an issue that is preventing the marriage from being all it can be.  Rather than thinking negatively, let “Honey, we need to talk” be your invitation into building a better, healthier relationship.
  • And most significantly, pray together.  Even if the conversation is difficult and you don’t feel like praying, keep God actively engaged in your marriage relationship.

Life happens.  Sometimes we make bad choices. Sometimes our mates make bad choices.  Sometimes the unexpected occurs.  But whatever the circumstances, you and your mate need to talk.  Let “Honey, we need to talk” lead to healthy ways to resolve conflict, to dream and plan, to experience life together, and to be a blessing to your love.

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