Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Failure To Communicate?!

I received an email recently from a longtime friend and sister in Christ.  We often share prayer requests with one another.  She asked me to pray for better communication between her and her husband.  As she described her situation, I could relate.  The exact scenario that she described had happened in my marriage as well.  I began to think about why communication in marriage seems so difficult.  The only person that we can change is ourselves, so we need to look there first for solutions.

As I thought about how to respond to my friend, I went to the Bible first.  I also gleaned from personal experiences in my eleven years as a wife.  Here are the things that I came up with for improving the way that we communicate with our husbands:

We need to be careful about what we say and how we say it.  “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)  Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  Who are those who hear?  It could just be your husband, if you are having a private conversation, but it could also be your children.  I try to be extra, extra careful of my communication with my husband when our children are in the same room!  They learn how to communicate by watching us.

Our communication also needs to show submissiveness.  Submission in communication is difficult to define for me.  Where is that line?  Does it change from day to day?  Situation to situation?  Couple to couple?  A great example of this, which I must say that I am guilty of way too often, is that when our husbands start to talk to us about a certain issue, we interrupt to defend ourselves or our position.  He might say, “I feel like you ignored me in front of your friends yesterday.”  Before he can continue, and maybe even before he finishes that first sentence, his wife says, “You shouldn’t feel that way!  That’s ridiculous!”  Sometimes our husbands try to tell us how they feel, and we shut them down.  Yet we complain that they do not listen to our feelings.  Listen to him like you want him to listen to you.  Reply with grace and love as you would have him to reply to you.

Let him lead.  I was given this advice from an older, Christian woman.  As women, we like to talk.  Men are not as vocal.  Let him begin most of the conversations.  If he doesn’t talk much, just enjoy being with him.  Doing this helped me to see submissiveness in a new light.  It also allowed me to get to know my husband better and to become closer with him.  If he begins the conversation, you know that it is definitely something that he is interested in talking about.

There have been times in our marriage that I felt that I could never say anything “right.” This was usually because I meant a certain thing by what I had said, but my husband heard something totally different.  I have heard of this in other marriages as well, so I am guessing that it is common among husbands and wives.  Men and women communicate differently–no doubt.  After a situation like this would happen, my husband would react to what I had said, which had nothing to do with what I had meant to say.  As I realized how often this was happening, I began responding with, “I am sorry if that is what you thought that I meant or that the way I said it made you think that is what I meant, but this is what I am trying to say…” and I would try again.  (“A gentle answer turns away wrath…”  Proverbs 15:1)  After many years of this, we now laugh about it because we so often misunderstand what the other was trying to get across.  “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I don’t know if you realize that what you heard is not what I meant!” (Source: Unkown)  So very true!

Timing is important!  Take time to think about what you are going to say.  The first thing that comes to your mind is not always the best thing to say.  Although this holds true with all relationships, I believe that it is essential in good communication in marriage.  Proverbs 15:28 says “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer…”  James 1:19
reminds us to be quick to listen, but slow to speak.  My husband asked me a question recently as I was getting ready to walk out the door to run errands.  I gave a quick answer, because I was in a hurry.  It quickly turned into a disagreement.  If I had only slowed down and given a better answer, we could have avoided the issue that was created.  Another issue on timing is to not discuss issues with your husband while he is trying to watch a football game or at bedtime.  When he is distracted or tired, he is more likely to “tune” you out, which will tempt you to want to begin nagging.  Even before I was married, I was determined to not be a nagging wife.  I had heard so much about wives always nagging their husbands, saying things over and over, and continuing to talk about the same issue for more time than it’s ever going to be worth.  Many times nagging will lead to interrogating, and then the wife begins to sound more like the mother.  “Why didn’t you take the trash out?  I have asked you to do it several times today, and it’s still sitting here by the door,” would be something appropriate for me to say to my son, but not to my husband.

Our husbands are not our girlfriends.  When I talk to my friends, I usually give them every little detail of a situation, and they do the same with me.  We like the little details.  Men, however, do not.  My husband prefers the condensed version.  Actually, he had gotten to the point that he never listened to any voicemails that I had left for him because he said that it always took me forever to get to the point.  (My more recent voicemails are, “Hey, it’s me.  Call me back.”)  When you have a burden that you want to talk over with your husband, I encourage you to talk it over with a trusted Christian lady first (if the situation is appropriate for sharing)…she will likely want the detailed version.  Pray about it before you talk to him about it as well.  By this time, you have gotten past the emotion of the situation and can give him the facts…condensing it for his listening pleasure!

Most importantly, pray for your husband and for the communication between the two of you!  A few of the Scriptures that I pray over my husband regarding communication are Psalm 19:14, Proverbs 19:14, and Ephesians 4:15.

The issue of communication in marriage is not something that we can avoid.  We should strive to communicate with our husbands in a manner that would be pleasing to the Lord.

(This is the second post in a series about marriage.  The first post can be found here:
How Familiar Are You with Your Husband?)

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