Come Alive in Marriage / Day 5

BIBLE READING

Ephesians 5: 21

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Matthew 12: 36-37

I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

James 3: 2; 9-10

Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check…

…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 

Proverbs 15: 1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

REFLECTION

“Never let the problem to be solved become more important than the person to be loved.” (Barbara Johnson)

Yesterday we looked at the importance of friendship within marriage. Any friendship or relationship can’t form or flourish without good, healthy communication. As Jim Burns says: “Communication is the most important vehicle for our marriage relationships to establish spiritual, emotional, mental and practical oneness.”  

There are really three levels of verbal communication - facts, opinions, and emotions. Most of the daily conversations we have are about facts e.g. small talk about the weather or the football match last night. As a relationship becomes more intimate, conversations shift from facts to personal opinions. We start to open up a bit, allowing someone to get to know us more intimately. When a relationship becomes most intimate, we begin to share our feelings. We become vulnerable with someone.

Then of course there is non-verbal communication which some experts say contributes for up to 93% of what we convey. This includes tone of voice, facial expressions, movement, posture and eye contact.

Often, when a relationship breaks down, one or both parties in the couple will complain: “They won’t communicate with me!” The reality is that all couples communicate. The only question is whether they communicate well or poorly. A person who turns and leaves the room in the middle of a discussion is communicating very clearly. Someone who ignores their spouse and keeps watching TV or looking at their phone is talking loud and clear. Harsh words, raised voices, rolling your eyes, sarcastic comments - all these things communicate; they just communicate in a destructive way.

Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington videotaped the interactions of over 700 couples in his laboratory and studied their actions and reactions in meticulous detail. After twenty-five years of research, he can now watch a five-minute video clip of a couple talking to one another and predict with 91 percent accuracy whether they will eventually divorce. How does he do it? He watches a couple's communication and looks for what he calls the four horsemen:

Criticism: Complaints are normal but criticism deals more with your spouse’s character and personality.

Contempt: This is long-simmering negative thoughts about your spouse that turn into disrespect.

Defensiveness: Your instinct for self-protection reduces the conversation into a blame game.

Stonewalling: When you stonewall your mate, you “tune them out”, making it clear that they are not worth listening to.

The more persistent and the greater the degree of any of these four negative ways of communicating, the more likely it is that the relationship will break down.

Of course, no marriage is a ceaseless stream of blissful communication. Every couple is going to disagree, argue, hurt feelings and have conflict. As Tommy Nelson says: “No marriage is without conflict. Frankly, a marriage without any conflict would be very boring. There likely would be a lack of deep or meaningful communication.”

So how do you maintain good communication even when you and your spouse aren't seeing eye to eye?

James 1: 19 gives the following helpful advice:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”

Where the is disagreement or conflict, we need to think carefully before we speak. As Proverbs 18 reminds us: “The tongue has the power of life and death.” (v. 21) There should be some things you will never say to your spouse and a tone of voice in which you would never speak.

The old maxim that ‘it’s not what you say but how you say it’ is so very true within marriage. “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” (Prov. 25:11) You can say some really difficult things to someone when they know that you love them.

Finally, remember in conflict, your attitude can't be, “I'm going to win.” It's not you against your spouse. It's both of you against the conflict. Jim Burns sums it up well:

“Good communication goes back to mutual respect and mutual submission. Good communication is showing respect and honour to your spouse. It is possible to bring affection, warmth, and encouragement to your marriage even in the challenging area of communication. You can change the tone of your relationship by changing the way you communicate with your spouse.”

We look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9.30 am, 11.30 am and 7.00 pm.