Let’s talk about communication in marriage!
See what I did there? Talk…communication?
Communication in marriage is something that many couples struggle with. It’s one of the most common things I hear from our community. It’s such a HUGE topic that one post won’t cover it, that’s for sure.
There are hundreds of different ideas out there about how you can develop communication skills, and they are great! I’m planning to cover a lot more about this topic very soon.
But, good communication begins before you say a single word. Communicating in a loving, effective way with your spouse has to start with how you think about and mentally approach these discussions. It’s about setting the stage and preparing ahead of time for different types of conversations that occur.
Two kinds of conversations
There are two different kinds of conversations you have with your spouse, spontaneous and strategic.
Spontaneous conversations occur all the time, and you don’t generally plan out what you will talk about.
The more you talk, the better chance you give your marriage to succeed, so initiate more conversations. The silent treatment gives everyone an excuse to think the worst.
- Everyday conversations. You know, times when you tell stories about things that happened that day or the weather, sports, or politics. These conversations may seem unimportant, but it will be easier to approach more delicate issues in the future when you talk about the little things regularly. There’s little risk in these exchanges, so they can be the easiest to start with if your marriage communication is strained.
- Organizational meetings. Discussing what’s for dinner, who has to pick up the kids, or making plans to redecorate a room in the house. These mini summits require some give and take, so they do leave the door open for disputes if you are not careful.
- Addressing the issues. The third type is the happy little debates. Okay, problem-solving sessions, Okay, okay, these are the fights. These are the things that cause strife in your relationship by bubbling up to the surface unexpectedly. Address these issues immediately. If they escalate into a confrontation where no one is fighting fair, it is a threat to having a healthy marriage.
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then a connecting conversation each day keeps the divorce attorney away.
Strategic conversations let you connect on a deeper level each day or at least several times a week. Don’t allow these times to be just meetings and conflicts with dinner in a restaurant. Check out our download: The Kitchen Table Connection Plan for some ideas on how you can make sure this happens.
Increasing the chance of positive communications in your marriage
Obviously, we have more spontaneous conversations with our spouses than we have scheduled ones. These kinds of conversations are just as necessary as planned strategic discussions and date nights because they happen more often.
Spontaneous conversations don’t give you a chance to think about what you want to say, so you have to be ready to approach them before they happen. You must be in the proper frame of mind so you can keep these conversations pleasant and uplifting.
Having effective communication in marriage actually begins in your mind. The more often your conversations devolve into negative interactions, the more action you need to take to prepare your mind.
Preparing for conversations does not mean getting all your ducks in a row, so you are ready to blast your spouse if they say something negative about you. If you are modeling your behavior toward your spouse after Jesus, as you should be, that would not be the way He would approach the interactions.
As the old song says, “You gotta accent-thu-ate the positive, E-lim-inate the negative,”
You don’t know what kinds of spontaneous conversations will come up today, so prepare yourself. So no matter what kind of random chats come up today, first focus on the positives about your relationship. Determine that you will face all conversations today with the correct attitude.
Have the Mind of Christ
The first step to being ready to face all communication in your marriage is to think in the same way Jesus did about people and his purpose on Earth.
This passage from Philippians 2:1-8 gives us a good list of how we need to think and why.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
I don’t think I ever really paid much attention to verse 5 before. It specifically notes that we need to do these things to make our relationships better. So, we need to have these things in mind at all times and let them guide our most important earthly relationship, the one we have with our spouse.
What to add to your mindset
Changing your mindset to one that shows your primary allegiance is to God will change how you react to and interact with your spouse.
Show tenderness and compassion. Work to be one flesh with your spouse, and make it a priority to be on the same page.
Be prepared to show your spouse empathy, respect, and love in all conversations, even if you don’t feel like it’s reciprocated. Focus your thoughts throughout the day on the things you love about them and those things that attracted you to them in the first place.
Speak to your spouse with respect, and back those words up with actions. If you need help with what this should look like, check out our post: Why Showing Your Spouse Genuine Respect is Important.
What to eliminate from your mindset
When preparing your mind for conversations with your spouse, eliminate what is not useful for effective dialogue.
Remember this, your spouse is also a human being with experiences and perspectives that may be very different from yours, so eliminate expectations that they act and react to things like you do.
Don’t come to conversations looking only to your own interests. Yes, your needs are important. But when you allow your “rights” to overtake your desire to love and cherish your spouse, you eliminate any chance for meaningful conversation. We don’t need to focus on our interests because we rest in a Savior who’s got our backs each and every day.
Keep the past where it belongs–in the past. It does absolutely no good to keep rehashing past events. Whatever happened is done. You cannot undo it, so move on. Having this ancient ammunition in your back pocket so you can play the victim card is not helpful.
Stop blaming your spouse for everything. Yes, they do things that are wrong, annoying, and irritating. So do you.
Don’t make assumptions about what your spouse is thinking. Even after nearly 30 years of marriage, I make assumptions about what my husband is thinking or doing. Sometimes I’m right, and sometimes, I’m really, really, wrong.
Some of the most critical thoughts to eliminate from your marriage are any statements with absolutes. Absolutes are words like always and never. “You always leave your socks on the floor” and “You never listen” are examples of statements that shut down useful conversation. Notice ideas like this entering your brain, and remind yourself that even if it’s true most of the time, it’s still not “always.”
Which of these positives do you need to add to your daily mindset about your communication in marriage? Which ones should you eliminate?
Changing the mindset is a process, not a one-day decision, and it takes work to implement it in your marriage fully, but the long-term benefits of that work in your marriage will be well worth it.
If you need help changing these mindsets, we are here for you. We have free 45-minute marriage growth sessions for you and/or your spouse to put you on the right track. Just answer a few questions to help us get to know you a little, and then we’ll schedule a time to chat. No strings, no nothing. We just want to help you move your marriage forward.