95% of the couples that come to my office for counseling admit they need at least some degree of help in the area of communication. I wouldn’t disagree with any of them! But, I would disagree with most couples understanding of what needs to change with their communication.
Most couples think they need help with the principles of communication. Typically this would involve help in understanding, expression, and listening well. Although I agree there is room for teaching on these subjects, I would argue there is a deeper, more significant problem that is sabotaging communication between a husband and wife.
Think back to your dating relationship with your spouse. For most couples, communication wasn’t a struggle at all. Most couples experienced hours of deep and meaningful conversation going late into the night in the early days of their relationship. There was plenty of mutual understanding, transparent expression, and attentive listening. I think this proves that we know how to communicate with each other just fine. But, it must also mean there is something else happening underneath the surface that is causing our communication to break down.
There is something happening below the surface of your marriage that is causing communication to break down.
The first night Star and I met we had great conversation. We laughed at each others jokes, we asked questions when we didn’t understand, we listened intently, and we maintained great eye contact. Why? Because our hearts genuinely wanted to express care towards each other.
After being married for a only a couple years, these moments seemed to occur less and less frequent. Did we lack understanding in the principles of communication? History says no. We knew how to communicate. The real issue was we didn’t want to communicate.
Life happened. Actually, marriage happened. We started to become less and less focused on each other and more focused on ourselves. We started to say hurtful things to each other. We weren’t as quick to say we were sorry. We got angry at each other. We started to lose trust in each other. Somewhere along the way we became more focused on our own needs, wants, and desires, than each others. Our selfishness that had been there all along started to reveal its ugly head.
The degree of our selfishness dictated the quality and quantity of our words to each other. It wasn’t that we somehow lost or forgot our communication skills, we actually lost our love for each other. We drifted in the direction every single marriage on the planet will drift towards separate from God motivating and empowering us to resist it. Our hearts became full of pride. We started to question God’s plan for us. We became consumed with getting our own needs met. Pride, unbelief, and selfish self love started to eat away at our communication, and eventually our marriage.
What does this say about our words to each other? Communication requires much less skill and much more love.
Good communication requires much less skill and much more love.
The reason our communication started to struggle back then (and at times still struggles today) is because we lacked love for each other in our hearts. Good communication starts in the heart. Its not primarily a matter of what words to speak, what questions to ask, or how to listen more effectively. Good communication in marriage is contingent upon how much love we have in our heart for our spouse.
What causes a lack of love toward your spouse?
Sorry to use such a disgusting term, but its memorable and accurate. Pride, Unbelief, and Selfish Self Love are the primary reasons for losing love for your spouse. Here’s what each looks like as it relates to communication in your marriage.
- My spouse is the problem in our communication.
- They just don’t understand me.
- I’ll start sharing my emotions when they start ___________.
- I’ll start listening more when they start listening to me.
- I’ll confess my stuff as soon as they confess theirs.
- Our marriage would be great if my spouse communicated just like me.
- If they would just ___________ then our communication would be great!
- If my spouse would communicate like ___________, then everything would be perfect!
Unbelief (In God and his plan for you and your spouse’s life) says…
- My spouse will never change the way they communicate.
- I can’t change the way I communicate. That’s just how I am.
- If our communication doesn’t change, I’m just not sure how long I can last in this marriage.
Selfish Self Love says…
- I won’t change the way I communicate. That’s just how I am.
- If only my spouse would listen to me!
- If only my spouse would talk to me!
- I wish my spouse would go talk to someone else.
- I wonder how ___(someone else’s spouse)____ would respond to what I’m going through right now.
- Since my spouse won’t listen and doesn’t understand, I’m going to go talk to ___________.
The secret to good communication is…
Whether you’ve been married for a day, or 50+ years, Pride, Unbelief, and Selfish Self Love will entice you to BLOW UP or CLAM UP in your communication with each other. When you sense this happening, and it will, God is inviting you to LOOK UP so that he can re-orient your heart towards your spouse.
The secret to good communication is a transformed heart, and God wants to, and is able to, transform yours…regardless of how hard it has become. God wants to replace your heart of PUS with a heart full of Humility, Belief, and Sacrificial Love.
Communication isn’t rocket science, but sometimes it requires somewhat of a launching pad to get things back on track. The launching pad isn’t learned skills as much as it is a transformed heart towards your spouse. Ask God to give you the Humility, Belief, and Sacrificial Love you need to put some of the below into practice:
- I am the biggest problem in our communication.
- What can I do to help them understand me?
- I’ll start to share my emotions regardless if they ever start ____________.
- I’ll start listening more so I can better understand them, but ultimately because I care about them.
- I’ll confess my part in this conflict regardless of my degree of fault.
- I’m going to work on communicating better as long as I live to make our marriage everything God wants it to be
- I will continually ask my spouse how I can communicate and listen better to them.
- I will observe how my friends communicate with hopes of learning some skills to help my communication
- God wants my spouse to change and he will not give up on them, and neither will I.
- With God’s help, I can change the way I communicate.
- God will give me the strength I need to endure the difficult seasons of our communication
Sacrificial Love says…
- I will do everything I can to change or adapt the way I communicate/listen to honor my spouse even if it means denying what I need, or communicating/listening in an uncomfortable way, in order to focus on their needs first.
- I will be more focused on drawing out my spouse’s thoughts and listening to them as opposed to demanding that they listen to me.
- I will be patient with my spouse and simultaneously try and create the best possible environment for them to talk to me.
- I want my spouse to come to me whenever and with whatever they are going through. I will listen until it hurts.
- When I am tempted to think about what it would be like to have understanding and compassionate conversation with someone else’s spouse, I will ask God to help me turn my focus away from that temptation and pursue meaningful conversation with my own spouse.
- I will refuse to have heart level, transparent conversations with members of the opposite sex.
Hans co-founded Marriage Revolution with his wife, Star, in 2010. He counsels couples in The Woodlands, TX, speaks at marriage conferences around the country, and provides leadership and direction to Marriage Revolution.