There is an art and a discipline to healthy communication. Words can convey love, provide encouragement, offer hope, build intimacy, provoke life-improving discernment, flow with praise, express gratitude, sooth broken hearts, bring reconciliation, and draw spouses close together. Words can also smack of hatred, bitterly discourage, smash dreams, tear down connectedness, enable destructive cycles, reek of criticism, cut deeply, drive a wedge, and reinforce painful isolation and loneliness. Without a doubt, words have power.
In Christian marriage, positive, godly, Christ-centered communication is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. The 5th Axiom of Marriage says, “Without communication, a relationship will die.” There is no way around this truth. Communication is essential to any relationship. Healthy communication (which is not the same as agreeing with your mate on everything, or only talking about the good stuff) will bring about a healthy marriage. Unhealthy communication will create an unhealthy marriage. And constant unhealthy communication will often lead to no communication, which will ultimately kill a marriage relationship.
Even in the best of circumstances, communication is tough. It is important to remember that in every communication, three things happen:
- First, there is what is said. What are the actual words that are formed and spoken out loud? Do they help the marriage or harm it? Do they bring life or death to the relationship? Do you speak out of love and concern for your spouse and the relationship, or do you speak out of anger, pride, or selfishness?
- Second, there is what is heard. What did you understand to be the actual words your mate spoke? Have you ever thought your spouse just said the craziest thing? "What do you mean there's a ninja monkey in the front yard?" Sometimes we simply do not correctly understand the words spoken. When that happens, do you give your mate the benefit of the doubt, or do you immediately assume the worst of your lover?
- Third, there is what is interpreted. What did your spouse mean to convey? Are you accurately understanding his/her intention? What does your tone of voice and body language communicate? When you and your spouse talk, do you live in an environment of mistrust and animosity, or in an environment of God-centered, marriage-blessing communication?
As you and your mate talk, are you talking with each other or are you talking at each other? Below are some tips for healthy communication. Read through them, and honestly and carefully consider if you’re really communicating or just talking.
Reminder Tips for Clear, Healthy Communication
- 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. Listen to your mate fully and carefully.
- Speak up—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).
- Speak for yourself only—Don’t presume you can answer for your mate. Resist the temptation to say things like, “Oh, I know how you’ll answer that question,” or “It’s obvious that you think…” Speak for yourself only.
- Be specific—If you only talk in generalities, you will tend to have lots of good intentions, but no real direction or solutions. Also, avoid simple “yes” and “no” answers, or short answers that don’t really tell your mate anything.
- Ask clarifying questions—Take the time to ask if you don’t fully understand something your mate has shared with you. Again, you cannot read your spouse’s mind, so make sure you truly understand what he/she is trying to communicate to you.
- Resist the impulse to lecture or give unwanted advice—Some people communicate from a “fix it” stand point (that is, they want to be problem solvers for their mate) and others communicate from a “vent it” stand point (that is, they know what to do, but they just want to share with their spouse). Too much “fix it” can shut down communication, and too much “vent it” never leads to positive, marriage-improving action. Share and find workable goals and solutions together.
- Remember you are one flesh, not competitors—If some of your conversations involve different points of view, remember that you are covenant marriage partners, not bitter rivals. Regrettably, in communication, some spouses are more determined to win the argument than they are to do what is best for the marriage. Make sure you see your conversations as cooperative not competitive.
- Don’t assume motivation—Unless it is clearly stated, you cannot presume to know someone’s motivation, or his/her thought process that led him/her to make a specific statement.
Above all else, remember to practice your Christian life first and foremost at home with your spouse. “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) The art of healthy communication is to keep your conversation centered in Christ, always mindful of the relationship. The discipline of healthy communication is to not become apathetic or lazy or jaded and let your communication die, because without communication, the relationship will die.
To see the 10 Axioms of Marriage, click here.
To read a more detailed explanation of
The 1st Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 2nd Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 3rd Axiom of Marriage, click here
The 4th Axiom of Marriage, click here