Communication in Marriage
July 26, 2022
by Maria Fontaine
Communication in Marriage
In one of my recent posts on the importance of communication,1 we looked at various ways that people communicate and how pivotal the subject of communication is to effective relationships with others. In this post, I’d like to focus on specifics regarding how we can make our relationships stronger and happier.
I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned from the context of a marriage relationship, but it’s important to remember that many of these principles can be applied to other relationships. So, if you aren’t in a marriage relationship right now, you can apply these principles to other relationships or areas of your life.
I recently read about Tim Keller, a well-known author, counselor, and pastor, who was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in May 2020. I loved his attitude when he was told that he would not live through this and what he had to say about his priorities for the time he had left on this earth.
When Dr. Keller was asked, “What are the things that you want to focus on, considering how short your remaining time in this life is going to be? What comes to the top of the list for you?” he said:
My wife, Kathy, and I are fairly well known as being a team. In many ways, we are joined at the hip.
Right after the cancer was diagnosed, we realized it wasn’t right to come to the end of our lives without improving our marriage in places where it could be better.
There were some things that she felt she could not talk to me about because I didn’t respond well, and she had given up trying to do it. But now we’re finding breakthroughs in being able to talk about certain things and deal with them in a way we were never able to before.2
I was very impressed by this, because if Tim Keller, living in the shadow of cancer, can make bettering his marriage one of his most important focuses, how much more should we be able to do that in our relationships.
Another thing I was very impressed by along these lines was a story of a man who was about to go through a divorce. He and his wife had tried everything else, and nothing was working. He loved his wife and he wanted to remain with her.
So, he came up with the idea that every day he would ask her what he could do for her and do his best to accomplish it. The first three times he asked her, she thought he was kidding when he would say, “Honey, what can I do for you today?”
She decided to test him and gave him a big or difficult job like cleaning out the garage or doing an overhaul on the garden. She made it as hard as she could since she thought he would never uphold his side and keep doing what she asked.
But as day after day he continued to ask her what he could do for her and then wholeheartedly put his strength and effort into doing those things, she started to believe that he really was determined to do whatever it took to convince her of his love. Through his willingness to perform actions that would serve as a tangible expression of his love, their marriage was saved.
It took all he could muster, but it was what his wife needed. It was a manifestation of his love as he acted out the biblical precept to “serve one another in love” because “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (Galatians 5:13, John 13:35).
When the Lord is at the center of our marriage and He is the most important Person in our relationships, His love brings us into unity and oneness. When His love motivates us, then we can know that we are pleasing Him, even if the response from our partner might not always be what we would hope for.
Giving God’s love to others is not a contract designed to get what we want in exchange from someone else. It is a gift freely given without the expectation of reciprocation. Sometimes we do things for our partner, expecting them to reciprocate. We do something nice for them and we want them to do something nice for us in return. Many times, that will happen because love begets love, but we may not see that return come back to us in the way or at the time we hope for.
If we are motivated by what we expect to get back, then what we’re giving is not fully given in love. We would do better to model Jesus’ love; He gave everything for us, knowing that we could never repay Him.
Tips for relationships
- “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”—James 1:19
- Good communication is an important part of any marriage. Good communication ensures that both you and your spouse feel respected, validated, and understood.
- Keep a solid relationship with Jesus at the heart of your marriage. Faith gives you and your spouse a common ground, a kind and loving foundation from which you can build a marriage that nourishes you both and brings you closer to each other through His Spirit.
- Practice forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 tells us to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Faith in God’s love and forgiveness is essential to straightening out most misunderstandings and empowers you when working through problems. It contributes to a happier future together.
- The Bible and the Holy Spirit can be a source of inspiration, strength, and encouragement. This guidance and wisdom, if implemented, can help to heal, improve, and shape your marriage.
- A considerate thing to do for your spouse or significant other may be to leave a note, either a handwritten note or a text on their phone, to let them know what you are doing and where you are when something in your usual routine changes, so they won’t worry about you.
- It can sometimes be difficult to know how to relate to your spouse if their interests are very different from yours in practical ways. One spouse might like to stay indoors and read while the other is an outdoors person and loves to fish and hike, etc.
Of course, the wonderful thing for a couple who loves Jesus and works together for Him is that they will always have this very beautiful common ground that they can share together built on their faith and love for the Lord.
It is important to find ways to show an interest in what your spouse enjoys doing. Some couples decide to take turns choosing to do something that is important to them, to ensure that both can experience the things they enjoy most.
Another approach is to integrate some of your spouse’s interests into your activities. Learning a little about each other’s interests can show your spouse that you not only love them, but that you are interested in the things that make them feel content and fulfilled.
If your spouse talks excitedly about fishing and the fish caught that day, even if you have no interest in fish, you can show an interest by asking a few questions, such as what kind of fish they are or how to best catch them.
Try to show an interest because in doing so you are learning something about the one you love. Or for the men, perhaps your spouse gets a new dress at a great sale price and comes home excited about it, and you might compliment her on her gift for spotting good deals and how great she looks in the dress.
- Because God loves us, He is interested in the smallest details that pertain to us. He uses every opportunity to inspire, encourage, comfort and help us to grow in every way. That’s what love does. It’s a quality we can model in our marriage.
- If your spouse says something to you and you feel like it might be an accusation, it’s best to get it straightened out right away. Don’t “go silent” or get angry or feel hurt. Begin with the presumption that they didn’t mean what you think they meant and determine to not take it personally. Small misunderstandings, if kept in your heart, can lead to hurt, resentment, and bitterness. It’s a lot easier to forgive if you’ve already chosen to do so no matter what, than it would be if you’d mulled it around until it had gotten its tentacles into your heart and bitterness had grown on top of it.
Bible verses on relationships
“Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.”—Ephesians 5:25
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”—Proverbs 15:1
“Let all bitterness, and rage, and anger, and clamor, and slander, be removed from you, along with all malice.”—Ephesians 4:31
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”—Proverbs 17:17
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.”—Proverbs 31:10–11
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”—Ecclesiastes 7:8–9
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”—John 15:12–13
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they will not become discouraged.
“Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men, because you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as your reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”—Colossians 3:18–21, 23–24
“Be humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”—Ephesians 4:2–3
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”—Ephesians 4:29
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”—1 Peter 4:8
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:6–7
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:2–8
1 See “Life Essentials—Communication,” Directors’ Corner, May 17, 2022, https://directors.tfionline.com/post/life-essentials-communication/
2 Tish Harrison Warren, “How a Cancer Diagnosis Makes Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Mean More,” New York Times, April 10, 2022.