Quality Beats Quantity: 2 Thoughts about Marital Communication

You may know what you are talking about but does your spouse know what you are talking about?

It’s a pretty sobering question if you really ponder on it. All too often, I take for granted, because of our 20 years of marriage, that Anne is just going to get what I’m saying.

Not necessarily true.

In fact, there is are more assaults on marriage through “assumptive communication.” That simply means that I believe my spouse understands everything I’ve been conveying. And if there is a misunderstanding, it’s probably their fault as I feel that I was clear enough with what I said. So instead of reviewing the “how” of my approach, I keep talking and talking waiting for them to “get it.”

More talking doesn’t mean better talking. Sometimes there is so much information given that your spouse cannot digest what came out of your mouth and your heart. Quality trumps quantity in communication. Think of it like the difference between going to buffet and a having a quality meal. You’ll walk way from a buffet “feeling” full but unable to digest the copious amounts of saying, “I’m not sure what I ate, but I’m full.” Now look at a good planned out meal. You’ll have the proper portions based off of the palette of the person(s) present. Not only will those eating enjoy the meal but they’ll be able to digest was presented (served).

1 – Quality communication is intentional; it doesn’t just “happen.” As I spoke Sunday at Kfirst, our communication has to go beyond information but strategy. So often I bring up the “3 T’s” of communication (time, tone, technique). Why? Because it is how you and I can intentionally convey that which is on our heart to share. Without that approach, we can feel like we communicated to our spouse not realizing, perhaps, that our tone destroyed our message or that our timing undermined our intention or that our technique misconstrued our heart.

In trigonometry and geometry, triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by forming triangles to it from known points. What we can do with our communication is to triangulate the communication “sweet spot” by making sure all of our information is strategically approached. Doing this is an act of stewardship. God has given us a voice as a gift and we have a responsibility to steward/manage that gift. 

2 – Quality communication necessitates a lifetime of adjustment. It’d be fine if we, or the person we are married to, didn’t change. But we all do. My oldest is 18 and just completed her freshman year of college. I don’t talk to her the same way I did back in 1999. Why? It sounds overly obvious so say she’s older, in a different maturity of comprehension, and in a drastically different season of life than she was when she was first-born.

Why is it we are able to adapt to children and their “seasons” but we don’t allow those adjustments with adults, specifically, our spouse? I think it’s, potentially, because we disassociate idea of growth with adulthood. You may not be growing “upward” any longer but you can grow deeper. And it is incredibly difficult for the marriage to grow deeper if you are unwilling to adjust how you communicate to your spouse.

I think of any athlete approaching “game day” based off the conditions they’re playing in. Rain, wind, and bright sun shine are all taking into consideration before he/she engages in their activity. Why? The conditions can dramatically affect the results. The same throwing motion in two different conditions can produce different outcomes because of the circumstances at hand.

Sounds like a lot more work doesn’t it? Actually it isn’t. When you weigh out the amount of time and effort needed to recoup from miscommunication, to forgive faults, and heal from misunderstandings, it really is beneficial in every way to approach your communication in a healthy way.  Intentionally communicating and adjusting to the time and seasons of life actually is much less work and more effective in allowing the marriage to grow deeper and aiding in seeing a greater level of joy between you two.

What do you need to start or stop doing in your communication? How can you approach each other that prevents miscommunication? Talk to each other about it. Share with your spouse how you plan on being more strategic with your communication.

Love you all. Praying for you all as you intentionally adjust how you communicate with each other.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

To my wife, thanks for letting me ramble these past 20 years…

I love you.

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

Wrong Delivery: 3 Marriage Thoughts on Communication

We have an ongoing issue in the Barringer home. Our mailbox, periodically, gets mail for someone who lives 4 blocks from us. It’s not like it’s random mail from the neighborhood but from a home who possesses the same house number but on a completely different street. It’s kind of frustrating, but we do what we always do: go for a walk and drop it off in their box.

But it stirs up the question of “What have they received of ours?” The first thing on my mind is the 2-3 items we’ve ordered from Amazon that never arrived. Amazon has been great in giving us refunds, but, the point of ordering stuff is to actually have it delivered properly to the home.

(Side note: As I typed that, an Amazon notification literally popped up on m phone telling me about my next delivery. Here’s to hoping it actually comes to MY mailbox.)

Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. As I’ve learned personally and painfully, you can have all of the parts and systems of a vehicle in place, but if you run out of oil, the car will seize and massive overhaul has to be done in order to be functional again (I miss my ’89 Chevy Blazer). So goes the communication in your marriage. In my judgement, most marriage issues are less about the actual “issue” and more about a breakdown in communication. And if proper, healthy communication is in place, the issue can be in place to be dealt with (if not solved because of clarity and understanding).

What does that have to do with today’s subject? Everything. As cliché as it may sound, communication isn’t about WHAT you say but HOW you say it. In other words, what I find happening between a husband and wife is, not a lack of information being given, but the delivery of that information. And dealing with “miss-delivery” is not just about missing necessary information from being delivered but healing the rifts cause by it.

Please understand: Just because you’ve “said something” doesn’t mean it was communicated properly. I hear from pre-marital couples all the time about this. I’ll ask them what they think the strength of their relationship is and, more often than not, communication is the first to come up. The most common reasoning: We talk all the time. But I submit again: talking doesn’t constitute that the information was delivered and received.

This may blow your mind but…Your spouse is not “you.”

In fact, he/she may be NOTHING like you. Not only is your spouse the opposite sex but could be your opposite in every way. From the make up of their personality to their background, you spouse (like mine) could be your polar opposite. So if that’s the case, care over the “delivery” of your communication matters just as much as the actual information being exchanged.

Don’t allow “time” to replace “tactic.” 
There is, often, a tendency to take the people we are closest to for granted. Because we have had more “time” or history with someone, we allow a relaxed approach to our “delivery” in our communication. I get it. From my spouse, to my staff, to the congregation I lead, it’s so easy to depend upon the amount of familiarity built over time to replace the stewardship of my words, tone, and approach to communication.

It’s effortless to put the blame on somebody else and defer ownership over miscommunication to somebody else by saying “he/she should know what we mean.” What we are saying in that statement is, “I am refusing to own up to the fact that part of the communication issue at hand has the potential of being my fault.” Don’t allow the depth of “time” be permission to not be strategic in your delivery. Think about who you are talking and the best way to convey the information.

Make it “sugar-free” and digestible.
“Straight talk” or communication through candor may feel good to you, but may come off as unfeeling and/or crude to your spouse. “Raw” doesn’t necessarily mean “reliable communication.” What I find in my own life, this type of communication is unrefined and without restraint. And, because of familiarity, I can easily allow my wife to be the pin-cushion for that type of delivery.I get it, it feels good to get things off your chest. But there’s a difference between outward processing and being crass. Don’t use you’re not wanting to “sugar-coat” the truth with circumventing the thought process. “Straight talk” is easy because you don’t have to properly own up on processing of the info and/or the delivery. You just give it without the care of whether your spouse will be able to digest it. Just because you can say something doesn’t mean it should be said in a way that fits your flesh.

I’m not advocating for tough situations to be ignored, to skirt the issues at hand, or to dancing around a subject hoping your spouse happens to catch what you’re hinting at. But, to if I’m really going to steward (manage) my communication, then I don’t need to “curb” the honesty but I do need to make sure it is digestible/understandable and, therefore, in position to be properly processed by my spouse. Watching our words isn’t “watering down” the truth; It’s increasing the stewardship of it.

Delivery is an ongoing process of change.
There’s a rule for public speaking that says, “Know your audience.” The older I get, the more apt I can be for sticking to the same old way of doing things. Reviewing the “how” of delivery isn’t calling what you’ve done wrong. It’s just recognizing that how you’ve done it may not be effective in the place your marriage is at. As human beings, not only do we see the seasons of life change, we change in those seasons. And what got you through one season doesn’t mean it will fit for the next one.

If our model of life is the person of Jesus, then the “delivery” in our communication needs to model what He modeled: Servanthood.

  • Does my spouse hear what I’m saying? How do I know that?
  • Am I passive aggressive or just plain AGGRESSIVE with my delivery style?
  • Do I give deliver something digestible?

Servanthood in marriage means that we don’t do what fits best for “me” but what facilitates the best for the “we.” To do that, takes careful inspection of how we are utilizing what God has entrusted in our care. And how we deliver communication fits into that category.

Love you all. Praying for husbands and wives today as you weigh out, not just WHAT you say but HOW you say it.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

Marriage Mondays: 3 Ways We Can Play fair

So I thought I’d try something new.

For the past 5 years-ish, I’ve reserved most of my marriage blogging for Fridays as people are heading into the weekend. So I thought, like a good cup of Costa Rican coffee on Monday morning, I’d start off the week with a simple marital challenge. So today, I thought I’d break down this week’s challenge to two words:

Play fair.

What often happens in marriage is what can happen in life. We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and our spouse by his/her actions.

Play fair.

A question I tend to ask couples in this place of tension is, “Do you trust your spouse’s heart? Do you believe he/she loves you?” If the answer is “no,” then there are other issues at hand. If the answer is “yes,” then my reply is simple: Then see his/her actions through those intentions and show the same grace you show yourself. Sometimes, the action holds more ignorance then intention; sometimes the heart was right but the method was not.

How much conflict do we entertain because we want grace for ourselves but justice for others? We allow ourselves space to work through our own issues but zero margin for our spouse.

Play fair.

“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” John 1:16

How do we navigate through this? Let’s make it as simple as A-B-C.

A – Ask clarifying questions.
Where the “A” you used to respond with was “Assume,” stop and ask your spouse about what you just experienced. Instead of jumping to imaginary conclusions, ask about the action(s) you just experienced with the same level of grace that Christ gave you. “I don’t understand what just happened. Help me understand…?” The beauty of verbalizing this as a question is, first, it gets you to think before you respond and second, it helps your spouse to own their actions. Sometimes, people don’t understand what their actions do. And even if they do, this gives them a chance to own their issues.

B – Be open to your spouse’s perspective.
Slip inside their skin and see things from their perspective. This doesn’t excuse behavior but it may explain it. And an explanation can bring understanding. Maybe their behavior wasn’t wrong at all but it stirred up a hurt from your past. Perhaps because expectations were not clarified, he/she didn’t realize an expectation wasn’t met. Don’t assume you are always in the right and/or don’t defend your “rightness” because you don’t want to be humble with your spouse. Make sure you show value to your spouse’s perspective with the same level that you expect for yours.

“But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” James 4:6

C – Confront with grace.
If the grace of God is not our default, it’ll cause more fracture than we anticipated. Grace is what steadies our hands and hearts so that we can build, adjust, and reinforce our marriage. But a misunderstanding about “grace” is that people see it as passive. I see it as aggressive. Grace doesn’t ignore or hide issues, it gives us the mindset and strategy to deal with them. It positions us for the greater health of the marriage and glorification of Jesus.

Today, stop judging yourself by your intentions and your spouse by his/her actions. Play fair.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

Use your inside voice: 5 Thoughts on Your Marital Tone

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

“Use your inside voice” has been a parenting tactic for years. For some parents, it’s an attempt at telling a child to “quiet down” but in a nicer way. Randomly, I hear parents tell this to their kids in the grocery store and, every once in a while, I hear a kid say back, “this is my inside voice.”  For other parents, there is a greater lesson they are trying to teach: tone stewardship.

Let me explain.

In most of the pastoral counseling I do, I can trace most issues back to communication. It’s why I talk constantly about the 3 “Ts” of communication (time, tone, and technique). But of the three, tone seems like one that is the “game-changer.”

I’ve heard it said that “10% of conflicts is due to difference in opinion, and 90% is due to wrong tone of voice.” (Na Mariz) Your tone can create urgency or foster peace. It can bring passion or it can communicate displeasure. A forceful tone can speak of a lack of sensitivity just as much as sarcastic tone can miscommunicate indifference. Just a change in the fluctuation of your voice can make or break what needs to be said. What if, what you are trying to say, is getting lost in your tone?

What if the tone you’ve chosen isn’t as effective as you think it is? What if your tone is destroying everything your trying to communicate? So I thought I’d give you some “tone” thoughts.

You possess more than one tone.
It almost sounds overly simple. Yet I see so many marriages that do not adjust or manage their tone with each other. I hear statements like, “This is who I am” or “This is how my family talks to each other.” You you may be correct from one point of view, those statements are either ignorance of what your tones are doing to your spouse or you are giving yourself permission to not work personally on something. Tones can make or break a symphony. Your tone can add to the harmony of good communication or completely disrupt it.

Be a better listener. 
Many issues I come across are misguided reactions to misunderstood information. Listening isn’t waiting for your turn to talk. It’s engaging in someone’s context (their situation) and request (what are they really asking for). I often wonder if we seek to understand, rather than be understood, we’d have a better tone to our communication.  Your tone signifies what you are really listening to. For example, your spouse may be trying to tell you how hurt they are. If you don’t listen, your tone can be defensive over assuming you are the cause to the hurt. Where you’re busy defending yourself, you spouse may have needed a softer tone of understanding than a reactionary tone of defensiveness.

Learn to hear what people hear. 
I don’t like what I sound like. It’s one of the reasons why I struggle listening to my sermons the next day for evaluation. I’ll sit back and say, “Is that what I really sound like?” What you may hear coming out of your mouth may not be what people hear. Ever had a “fight within a fight”? This is one of those moments. You’re fighting over something, then a tone comes in, and now you’re fighting over the tone you used that your spouse took the “wrong way.”  If the people in your life are hearing what you are not hearing, it’s time to step back and realize: If I am the common denominator, then I may have a common problem. Self evaluation is more than the identification of issues. It’s a an understanding that you have more to grow in.

Stop giving yourself permission to be offensive. 
I grow weary of hearing the excuse “If people get offended by the truth, well, that’s their fault.” I partially agree with the statement. As a preacher, I have no problem confronting people with God’s Word but I don’t have to be a jerk about it. Being “truthful” has become the excuse to blast people all in the name of Jesus. Don’t leave a wake of mess behind you. Your mouth and it’s tone are gifts for you bless not curse; a vessel to be managed not to be enslaved by.

Keep conversations that demand tone offline.
I tire of messages from people who’ve decided to engage in conversations online that have blown up because it was a dialogue that demanded tone. For example, you type a message of apology to help convey your heartfelt request for forgiveness but also want to help the person understand why you reacted in the way they did. The person on the other side of the message reads: “I’m sorry. But my reaction was your fault but I’m going to be the bigger person and apologize first.” I’ve learned that I can emoji the crap out of a message in an attempt to develop some “tone,” but it does not replace the inflection of a voice and the gentleness of a humble heart that can only be conveyed in an audible tone.

I go back to my opening scripture,

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

How often are we to point the finger requesting that your spouse step up first? How often to we demand him/her to change before we’ll offer any more change? This simple scripture points to our hearts and says, “Stop blaming others for not being the source of peace. Go after peace as if it all depends upon you.”

Your tone is your responsibility. And your tone can make or break your communication.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“Do you even hear yourself?” 3 Thoughts of Fixing Your Marital Gait

Last week we began our annual vision series at Kfirst. And for every series, we have a sermon “bumper video.” It’s a very short video that brings the focus of the service to the message that is about to be preached. Usually, I see the video before it’s launched. But last Sunday, I was seeing it for the first time along with the rest of the congregation.

Just in case you want to see the video:

My first response was tears. The sight of people serving, laughing, worshiping, and engaging in ministry was humbling. It touched my soul.

Then I fixated on something else: My face.

It seems that, in the pictures of me baptizing, I’m looking “angry” or “intense.” And, obviously, the moment was everything but what my face was communicating. It was a time of rejoicing and celebration; it was a day that brought both smiles and happy tears. But, from a simple glimpse, you might not get where my heart truly was.

And it’s here that I’ve begun to remember so many conversations with couples who struggle, not with verbalizing words, but with the factors that surround communication. Simply said: Just because you are good at talking doesn’t mean you are an effective communicator. On the flip-side, just because you heard the words that were said, doesn’t mean your spouse feels like you listened. If you don’t understand your marital “gait,” then you run a danger of misrepresenting what your intentions are in how you speak (and listen). Your gait can literally reshape and restructure your verbal communication.

Simply defined, a “gait” is a person’s manner of walking. And every person has a “personal gait” that is seen way they step, hold themselves, posture their back, and position their feet. Sometimes you can tell how someone’s day is going by their gait. If their head and shoulders are slumped, they may be having a “down day.” Perhaps you see someone walking briskly with a smile may project that they’re motivated to tackle the day’s activities. Your “gait” says a lot about you.

Some of you have never realized what a “gait” was, let alone, had one. We all do. But let me take this a bit deeper: The way you carry yourself (your gait) sets the atmosphere for words you speak. It can be the thermostat for your communication (or lack thereof).  Just by your demeanor, you can set the temperature of what a conversation will look like and/or be received. This can happen at work, in church, and yes, especially in your home. Most of us are aware of the words that come out of our mouths, but unaware that your “gait” may be changing everything you are trying to say.

For example, over the past 18 years, both Anne and I have said to each other variations of:

  • “Do you even hear yourself?” (Tone is mis-communicating my heart.)
  • “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror when you say that?” (My face says something different from my words.)
  • “I don’t think YOU understand HOW you just came off to…” (Speaking of the technique of my approach communicated the opposite of what our words were saying.)

We’ve all been there (some of us are still here). Why? The longer you are married, the more comfortable you get with your spouse (which is a good thing). But with the passing of time we do run the danger of taking our gait for granted in our marriage. We assume our spouse knows what we’re trying to say and we get lazy with our communication.

“I know that’s what I said, but you should know what I meant.”

So the question comes: how do you work though marital “gait” issues?

Stop the selfish argument. I’m so tired of hearing “this is just who I am” or “this is how God created me.” I’m sorry…that’s crap.

It’s just another way of saying, “I refuse to grow and/or allow the Holy Spirit to change me that may be healthier for me, my spouse, and my family.” It’s a pride statement from a refusal to face the fact that, first, something you may be doing is incorrect and, second, you may need to adjust something in your life that you’ve never addressed.

You don’t always hear your tones. Some mannerisms can come out of nowhere and confuse your listeners.  Stop arguing for the way you’ve been acting and be humble enough to admit you may not have it all figured out like you think? If an antibody is what the immune system uses to identify and neutralize bacteria and viruses that threaten us, then humility is the “antibody” that we use to address and neutralize the pride that threatens our marriage. Lord, teach us to be “humble in doing right,” teaching us your way (Psalm 25:9).

Be humble enough to ask for help? What better way to hear about your gait than from someone who isn’t you. Because the truth is: We are not always aware of ourselves. And who better than a trusted source that loves you enough to say what needs to be said. I love Proverbs 27:6 which says, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” If you trust your spouse and know his/her motives, then allow them to speak into this area. Communication is relational currency. And if you can maximize the use your words with your gait, then you not just spend the “relational currency” well, but you’ll put to death things like misunderstanding, assumption, and doubt.

Shape your gait. What I’ve discovered is the change I need is not always the change I want. Shaping your gait is as simple as making necessary adjustments while welcoming outside accountability. And I’ve learned to do this inside my home as well as outside of my home.

I’m thankful for a staff who helps me. I may be their boss, but they are my sounding board. And if I can be a more effective communicator, I have give people a greater image of the “Christ in me” instead of the “David in me.” This was the apostle Paul’s concern for the church in Colossia (Colossians 1:27)  and it’s a huge challenge for all of us.  It’s more important for people to see Christ than it is to do what is easy (remain the same).  Change is necessary for growth and, most of the time, change is located out of my comfort zone.

I love you all. I pray that you would develop some “gait awareness” that may be adjusting your communication far beyond you realize.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed Hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Drop Your Resolutions: 3 Thoughts About Changes in Your Marriage

A few days ago, I sat at around a table and we talked about resolutions. I’ll be honest, I’m just not a proponent of them. Why? Because they tend to be an “all or nothing” mentality. If you’re struggling to take steps toward them, you quit. If you didn’t reach the full “resolution” then you didn’t complete it. I’ve known people who came 5 lbs. short of a “resolution” but saw it as a failure because they fell short. Where I feel that you accomplished a tremendous feat, many people consider that a resolution failure.

Yet in marriage…

Mistakes are made. Habits become bothersome. Frustrations develop. Changes are desired.

So we approach our spouse like we approach a “New Years Resolution” and ONE of TWO things happen. First, if we don’t see the progress we want to see in the immediate, we give up and “cash in” on any hope.  There’s something in our culture that demands such immediate results that leaves little to no time for personal/marital growth. You can’t make a seed open and you can’t force roots through the soil. Too many want people want to give opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do a work but don’t want to give Him the time and place to develop the work both in you and your spouse.

Second, if we don’t complete the expectation (resolution) fully, then it was a failure. We can’t see the growth and progress because we’ve fixated on what wasn’t accomplished. While I’m a proponent of ceasing sinful activity in the immediate, you must allow the same amount of grace that Christ gives you while stepping forward with Holy Spirit-driven wisdom. Instead of an all-or-nothing mentality, look at the growth that was made. While an expectation wasn’t met, progress was accomplished.

In reality, most marital irritations didn’t happen overnight, yet we approach them as if they will go away that fast. So I thought we’d begin the year with THREE thoughts about seeing change.

Quick change vs. Deep Change. Are you wanting habits to change or hearts to change?  While some of you are thinking, “I just want that annoying habit to stop,” there may be a deeper issues at hand. If “surface irritations” are getting out of hand, it’s a sign of deeper infection. Deep marital change begins with heart changes. And hearts that experience change are hearts that surrender to the presence of God and the peace, wisdom, and strength He provides. Position your marriage for deep change. Pray together. Pray for each other. Attend a local church together. Serve together. Encourage each other. When God enters the heart, hope rises. And whatever you face, you will only sink at the level of your hope.

Develop measurable goals. I challenge people to set measurable marital goals and not absolute resolution standards.  When you set something “measurable,” you can see progress and growth as opposed to something checked off a list. Personally, I like seasonal attainable goals. It helps me look and step into something right now as opposed to the overwhelming and sometimes sinking feeling of a 12-month long resolution that seems daunting to even attempt. What type of goals can you develop?

  • Financial goals. These shape your budget (saving and spending). For example: develop 3-5 short-term (6 month – 1 year) goals as well as 3-5 long-term (1-5 year) goals.
  • Spiritual goals. These shape your walk with God as individuals and as a couple. For example: attend a church, get involved, personal devotions, tithing.
  • Marital goals. These help you see the areas you want to grow in and develop. For example: Weekly dates, books/blogs to read and discuss, annual vacations, consistent intimacy, projects around the home.

Connect, reconnect and communicate. Communication is marital currency.  And some of you want to see change, but without communication, you won’t have the currency to “fund” the changes.  Anne and I have discovered the ease and beauty of kicking-off our week with a simple 15-minute Sunday night talk and how much it facilitates what to expect as well as what we experience. Obviously that’s not the only time we talk, but pulling our focus together for getting a vision for the week (and possibly goals for the week) gets us to start the week out on the same page. We also couple that with a mid-week connection to reconnect and review how the week is going. The more you talk, the more “currency” you develop. And with more “capital” in your account, the more can be used to build an infrastructure of healthy expectations and experiences.

I love you all and believe that the best is yet to come for your marriage. Would you be willing to lay down the resolutions that have been so daunting and, together, pick up some goals that the both of you can work on and grow in?

You’ve got this.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Unclouding Your Communication: The 3 “Ts” of Talking

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

I talk with couples all the time in a variety of locations. From coffee houses to homes to my office (my favorite is talking marriage over froyo), I love that people are taking their marriage seriously by getting outside input.  Side note: Counseling (getting help) is not an admission of defeat; it’s an admission of your humanity and a breaking of your pride. I’d challenge any couple to take a preventative step further by getting some check-ins with a professional marriage counselor BEFORE an issues even rises.

The “communication” conversation is one of the first things to come up. Why? If you’ve sat through ANY marriage talks with me, you’ll hear me say, “Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. You can run out of any other fluid and get by. But if you run out of oil, your engine is done.” (I’m willing to bet a mechanic will contact me to prove my car fluid metaphor inaccurate.) But the point is worth making: communication keeps the engine of your relationship running smooth. It affects EVERY aspect of marriage (conflict, intimacy, relationship roles, etc).

And when I bring up the subject, a very typical response is, “Pastor Dave, we’re already good at talking.” But this is where a revelation came to me and Anne early in marriage: Being good at talking doesn’t equate to being good at communicating. It’s why I spend time helping couples work on assertiveness and active listening. But you can have the right elements but miss the mark because of  “talking mistakes.” And many of those faux paus are in these three areas:

1 – Timing. When you need to talk, consider the timing of when you initiate conversation. Some terrible timing moments:

  • Hitting up your spouse first when he/she walks in the door from a busy day
  • Dealing with heavy topics in front of kids/family/friends
  • Confrontation when tempters are beyond being constructive
  • Inserting criticism in the midst of a great moment.

Your timing can squash a moment or enhance it. If handled right, it can be the factor to help pave the way for your marital communication to go deeper and get healthier. Ignore timing because of your inability to be patient, defenses will go up, frustration will rise, and problems will continue.

2 – Tone. As a trumpet player, I learned that a wrong tone can take a beautiful musical arrangement and make it excruciating to listen to. Tone in marital communication is no different (or any communication for that matter). Just because you might be loud doesn’t mean you are going to be completely heard. To add to that point, just because your spouse isn’t picking up on what you’re talking about may have nothing to do with his/her hearing and more to do with the tone you’re using. Your tone is an essential tactic to consider. It can intensify what you’re talking about or distract from what is really being said.  It brings emphasis and priority while helping to convey emotion when words are not enough.

Side note: Tone is carried through more than your voice. Your body language and facial expressions speak clear tones…so be careful about those.

 

3 – Technique. This is where you realize something that you already know BUT need the constant reminder (as I do): you and your spouse are different creatures.

You are both unique and beautiful creations of God. But the way you were raised may have had certain techniques of how to handle communication that your spouse may not respond well to. It doesn’t mean your spouse was raised incorrectly and/or that your family did it right. But it does means that you may need to step back and evaluate whether your techniques for approaching communication are healthy or not.

I very much respond to touch. So when Anne is talking with me, she’ll place her hand on my leg or my arm. Anne responds to quality/meaningful time. I’ll ask her to go for a walk (one of her favorite activities) and it’s there, she feels a bit more free to talk openly. I would highly recommend a solid book on communication (love the “Five Love Languages“) and/or sitting with a professional to get some help in developing strong talking techniques.

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

Keep the engine of your marriage running smooth by constantly evaluating and developing your communication. Don’t be afraid to get help when you (both) are facing some struggles. Remember: Marriage challenges are not a “me” issue; it’s always a “we” issue.

Keep talking. Keep working. And always feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…