Give It Your Best - The Warrior's Journey®

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“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  (Colossians 3:17, NIV)

Next to a commitment to Christ, nothing in the marriage relationship is more foundational than the need for good communication. And, what do the majority of marriage counselors and ministers tell us is the number one topic in marriage counseling? You guessed it — communication! So far, we know this much. Communication is vital for a strong marriage. But good communication between couples is no automatic thing. Stated another way, effective communication is not the norm in marriages these days. Rather, it seems to be the exception. Many men simply don’t communicate enough.

Consider the example of the wife who went to her minister and told him that her husband hadn’t told her he loved her in 20 years. In utter disbelief, the minister got permission to speak with her husband to determine if this was really the case.

The husband showed up to the church office and the minister wasted no time popping the question: “Sir, your wife indicated that you haven’t told her you love her in 20 years. Is this really true?”

Without batting an eye, the husband answered: “That’s right, Pastor. The day we got married I told her that I loved her, and if it ever changes, I’d let her know.”

A humorous example, but it illustrates one of the many mistakes made as married couples try to communicate with each other. If you’re married, you already know that there are numerous other kinds of mistakes that can be made as well. Judy and I feel like we’ve made most of them in our 37 years of marriage. But, let’s deal with solutions, not problems. In the material that follows, we highlight four principles that line up with God’s Word and have worked not only for us but for many other couples we’ve known. Please understand that there is an abundance of Christian resources available that deal not only with communication but also with many other important topics related to marriage and family.

First, communication in marriage takes a lot of work and will constantly require the combination of your best efforts along with God’s mercy and support? It is a mistake to underestimate the challenge. Consider Colossians 3:17. Paul is talking about Christian life and shares this principle: whether in words or actions, do so in the name of the Jesus. This means striving to honor Jesus in everything. Everything — no exceptions. We should communicate with our spouse in a manner that brings honor to the name of Jesus.

I’m already crying a little and laughing a bit as well when I reflect on some of my past communication with Judy. How about some of your past communication with your spouse? Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean coming out with a bunch of religious sounding language when we speak with our spouse. I’ve seen some couples address each other as “Brother” or “Sister.” I do not mean to sound critical, but this language doesn’t seem to meet the intent of this verse.

Communication in marriage is far more than words. It includes body language, tone, and motive. While communication is a skill, it is also an art. It requires time, patience, understanding, compassion, kindness, listening, and a whole lot more. Did we mention that communication in marriage is hard and will require your best efforts as long as you are both still living? This is no exaggeration. Every couple on the planet has this challenge, so please don’t think you are the only couple who may be struggling with communication.

Second, there are a number of factors that make communication difficult. One is the difference in the way men and women think. By God’s design, our brains work a bit differently. While there are exceptions, generally men tend to focus on one thing at a time while women multitask in their thinking. Men, have you ever wondered during a conversation with your wife why she suddenly brings up a topic seemingly out of left field? Nothing said to that point could have hinted that she would mention it. Why? Women not only possess the ability to think about many things at once, but they actually have trouble shutting down this capability.

Want proof? Consider the ease that husbands have in hitting the bed at night and going to sleep immediately. For many women, this just doesn’t happen because their brains won’t shut down. This leads into a related area: the need for verbal communication. Women tend to want more verbal communication. Men want less. When a woman asks her husband, “How did your work go today?” she wants him to relate his day in considerable detail. The husband, however, often prefers to answer as briefly as possible. “Honey, my day went fine.” He sees no need to elaborate. Reverse the situation. The husband asks his wife, “How did your day go?” In most cases, however, he wants a brief summary, not a recitation of everything that happened.

There are other factors that tend to diminish the quality of communication in marriage. One is the rapid pace of life, particularly when both spouses work. This limits both the time and energy a couple is willing to devote to their communication. Outside of work, they are focusing on getting only the necessities accomplished prior to plopping down in front of the tube. Throw children into the mix and you can see that time for good communication becomes even more limited.

Only a few years ago, dinnertime was the central meeting place for the family to discuss the day and carry on meaningful communication. The latest polls indicate, however, that only a small number of American households share mealtimes together. This may seem like a small thing, but it’s not. We recommend you make time for meals together as much as possible.

We will mention one final obstacle, and it may be something you have not seriously considered. It’s called spiritual warfare. We are engaged in a spiritual battle and we face a real enemy: the devil. He goes by many names like Satan, Lucifer, the Deceiver, and the Enemy of Our Soul. Consider the enemy’s strategy by answering this question: What are the essential building blocks of society? Are they not marriage and family? Satan knows that if he can disrupt communication between a husband and wife, he has a good chance to divide them on many issues. In the end, Scripture speaks to the fact a house divided unto itself cannot stand. So from the enemy’s standpoint, it makes sense to disrupt communication in marriage by any means possible.

Third, remember that words have incredible power, power to heal and power to wound. Power to encourage and power to tear down. Power to build trust, and power to erode it. Proverbs 18:21 puts it well: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Knowing the power of our words, the obvious choice in any communication between husband and wife should be speaking words that bring life. But knowing what to do and doing it are two different things entirely.

If you are married or have been married previously, just think for a moment about the many factors that we allow to influence the words we choose. Anger, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, and envy are just a few of the feelings and emotions that impact the words we choose and the way we say them. In our marriage, we have attempted to avoid speech that belittles, disrespects, or wounds the other person. Trust me — we don’t always succeed. However, as the years have rolled by we have seen significant progress toward eliminating this kind of talk from our communication. This doesn’t mean that we never disagree. But, it does mean that we can focus on the issue at hand and not allow negative feelings and emotions to guide our behavior.

A fourth and final principle is simply this: don’t ever stop trying to communicate in your marriage. This necessitates that both partners persevere. Many times you will experience problems in trying to communicate and understand your partner. Don’t give up. As human beings, we are all fallible. We make mistakes. We choose the wrong words or the wrong time. We become frustrated and angry, wondering what in the world our spouse is thinking! So we back off and stop talking.

But just remember: this is exactly the goal of the devil. He wants you to stop communicating. Once you do, you become easy prey, and chances are your marriage is now on thin ice. Regardless of your present level of communication in marriage, it can improve dramatically in a relatively short time. It will require forgiveness, God’s help, and a lot of hard work. But rest assured, it will be well worth it.

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