You know one thing I love about the Bible?
That Psalms is immediately followed by Proverbs.
That the book of heart and raw emotion is immediately followed up by the book of wisdom.
That David was a highly emotional, heart-on-his-sleeve man — and his son, Solomon, saw the good and the bad in that and espoused wisdom, wisdom, wisdom.
And that God put the two books side-by-side, help-mates to each other — smack in the heart of the Bible.
I love that.
Because my friends, that is the perfect picture of marriage. Raw emotions, vulnerable heart and desperate cries — perfectly balanced with the fine and subtle art of wisdom.
And it’s the best way to approach communication in marriage.
Everyone tells you at your wedding showers that communication is vital to a successful marriage, but no one gives you the nuts and bolts of what it looks like. Or at least, no one did for me.
All that’s shared is the “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” scripture and then everyone moves on to cake. And after the gifts are unpacked and we’re sharing a bathroom and now I have a husband, I’ve got all kinds of questions.
Like, specifically, what do I talk about and when do I talk about it? What are all the subtle nuances that go along with effective communication?
Because what isn’t working is spewing every thought and feeling the second I think or feel it. And the other thing that isn’t working is not saying anything at all.
Those are the things that are not working.
And suddenly in my anger, I could care less about the sun or when it goes down.
So what are the subtle nuances that make for effective communication in marriage? What elements go into sharing your heart with wisdom?
I’m no expert, and don’t claim to be. But after 10 years of marriage (celebrating this week!), here are six things that work for me and my husband:
By definition, communication would imply talking. But when it comes to marriage, it’s not just the act of talking itself that is vital — it’s knowing and discerning specifically what to talk about and when to talk about it.
Because timing and presentation are everything.
(And by everything, I mean everything.)
I read this verse differently than most. To me, it isn’t just about giving a good, encouraging word when someone really needs it. Instead, it’s also about understanding that if given at the right time in thoughtful delivery, even a difficult word can be a good word when it comes to communicating with your husband.
A few years ago, there was news I knew I needed to share with Greg. It was difficult news to share, but important he know about it. However, he was entering finals week at school and was also preparing sermons and I just felt in my heart that telling him immediately would do more harm than good.
I felt guilty and unsure about not sharing immediately, though. So I called my mentor and explained everything, and she encouraged me that I should pay attention to what God was telling my spirit…that a word given at the right time makes all the difference.
When the time was right, I shared the news with Greg. And wouldn’t you know it, God had already been working on Greg’s heart and he received the news much softer than he would have if I blurted it out as soon as I heard it.
Talking is not just about the necessary things or even the difficult things…but talking about the hard things. The painful things. The icky things.
Hard things like how you feel you’re not as important as his job when he’s gone a lot, and it doesn’t feel like he’s taking the initiative to spend time with you, even if in his mind he does. Or how he makes you feel like his work is more important than yours. Or dismisses your pursuits and interests. Those are really hard things you have to be bold enough to talk about.
And painful things like how much it hurt you when he joked around about that thing you’re terrible at, because I guarantee he didn’t realize it struck an age-old nerve of insecurity with you. And how you’re discouraged with yourself for not reaching a goal, a dream, a vision and want to just quit it all because you will continue to feel like you’ll never be enough.
And icky things like my friend asking her husband at the right time to watch how he interacts with a female co-worker. Because she trusts him and she trusts her, but she doesn’t trust Satan, not for a second. And she’ll be damned if she’s going to let that door get cracked open even a hair. So shares her heart and begs him to just please, please be aware. And because of her timing, his heart was open to receive her caution instead of accusing her of being paranoid.
Boldness in communication requires more than just being willing to confront or have a difficult conversation. It means praying over what you want to discuss and opening your mouth wide and asking God to fill it (Psalm 81:10) with the words that your husband will hear.
Listening is not just for when you’re deep in conversation about hard or painful or icky things, but also includes listening when he’s not talking. Listening when he’s joking. Listening when he makes passing comments. Listening when he’s not saying anything at all. There is usually a grain of truth in almost every joke or comment or unresponsiveness about how little sex you have, or how chaotic the house is, or how out-of-control the kids seem.
Because if you really thought about it, you’d probably realize there is a grain of truth in your jokes and comments and unresponsiveness, too. Your jokes about football being on TV yet again, or how he’s never home, or how he leaves the toilet seat up can sometimes be our subtle way communicating something we’re displeased with.
When those moments happen, stop and ask God if that’s something you need to pay attention to, and if so, when the time is right, bring it up with a well-thought-out dialogue.
In the span of one year, Greg and I got married and started ministry. Month after month I’d see our calendar fill up with events and very little time for just us.
After repeated back-to-back freak outs, I began to realize my love language was quality time (naturally, the hardest one for Greg to speak). So I sat him down and told him it literally was making me crazy to constantly see the calendar full of dates for everyone else but us, and that I needed him to schedule me in.
And thus began our annual Calendar Meeting, where we sit down and schedule our date nights, family date days, vacations and more. Because as long as I see at least one date night on the calendar each month, I can handle any amount of church or work or extracurricular activities you throw my way.
And that is a key function of marriage — it doesn’t matter who initiates as long as it gets initiated. (<=tweet that) Someone needs to be willing to get on board, get the ball rolling, start making change. You both are one now — no longer separate. It doesn’t matter who initiates, as long as someone does. Don’t be too prideful to bring an issue and initiate the change.
There’s talking to your husband, and then there’s Not Talking about your husband.
Listen y’all — nothing good comes from bashing your man in public.
He may never find out, but there is power in the spoken word (hello, creation?). Those words take deep root in your heart once they pass your lips.
And I’m not talking about confiding in a good friend…I’m talking about regular, consistent bashing to whomever may be willing to listen. It may even come across as joking to you, but others know the difference. They always know the difference.
Praise in public, criticize in private.
Every. Single. Time.
When Greg and I are having a conversation, regardless of the topic, I need to remember: trust the heart of your man and his intentions, and don’t hear what he didn’t say. (<= tweet that)
Example: If Greg encourages me to go out for a run, it’s because he truly knows how much I love it, and how awesome I feel when I’m done.
In the early years, what I’d hear is that I’m getting fat and he’s not attracted to me.
But that is not what he said at all. In fact, he (like most men) are pretty direct and don’t hide subtle hints in speechy nuances.
What he said was, “Why don’t you go for a run?”
What he meant was, “Why don’t you go for a run?”
If you don’t begin communication with first trusting his intention and heart, you’re doomed to dysfunctional communication from the get-go. You have to trust that he loves you and only wants the best for you.
* * *
So those are the top six things that have helped Greg and I grow into much better communicators over the past 10 years. Do we have room to grow? YES. Good heavens, I’m an absolute work-in-progress in this area, and am reminding myself of all of these on a weekly (if not daily) basis.
But if we’re going to spend the next 40 years together, we have to continue to focus on improving our communication skills and making it work. Being preventive and not reactive.
If you’re looking for additional resources on communication, here are a few that have been a huge blessing to us:
I pray you and your husband have an awesome week, and that you start communicating with intention!
Please be sure to check out other great posts in this collaborative series!