I have always considered myself a “chatty-Kathy” and because I talk a lot I have also thought that I must be pretty good at it. So, when challenges arise in my marriage due to communication problems I have often looked for ways that I can help my husband improve his skills in this area. After 18 years of marriage, I am learning that I need just as much help in communicating and that just saying a lot of words doesn’t necessarily make us closer. We have learned that many times our conversations lead to more hurt and distance rather than leading to decisions, change or resolution.
When our conversations in your marriage become more harmful than helpful, either you or your spouse (or both) will most likely want to stop talking altogether. Let’s look at three types of conversations that can do more harm than good in marriage, and then three types of conversations that bring change and closeness.
Do your conversations do more harm than good?
What are some types of conversations that tend to do more harm than good?
Ritual conversations are conversations we have just because we should. A ritual conversation is when your spouse asks “How was your day?” and you relay the events of the day but don’t share your heart. The danger with a ritual conversation is you can fool yourself into thinking you are talking but don’t really go deep into your heart. In ritual conversations we avoid being wrong, and we are afraid to fight or to get deep. We don’t want to hurt our spouse’s feelings and this keeps the conversation shallow and never leads to closeness or real change.
A lying tongue hates those it wounds and crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
Prov 26:28 (AMP)
As this scripture says, when we aren’t totally honest we end up hurting our spouse. How honest are you daily with your spouse about what you are really thinking and feeling? Have your conversations become ritualistic? Do you just check in with each other periodically or do you fight to go deeper?
Reactionary conversations happen because we are only focused on how the other person is making us feel – if we feel attacked we attack back. We just want to stop the other person from their perceived attack instead of listening to understand. Reactionary conversations tend to lead to arguments and not decisions to change.
A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, But harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger.
Prov 15:1 (AMP)
Resentful conversations may be less volatile than reactionary conversations, but they still don’t lead to growth and change. Resentful conversations are focused on making our spouse understand the damage they have done to us. When conversations are marked by bitterness and a lack of forgiveness they don’t lead to resolution.
They sharpen their tongues like swords and shoot bitter words like arrows.
Ps 64:3 (NCV)
When we are resentful the Bible says we shoot bitter words like arrows. Needless to say, this doesn’t usually leave our spouse feeling very close and motivated to change, so we just end up more frustrated. Have you shot any sharp arrows of bitterness at your spouse lately? How do you think these bitter arrows have affected the people around you?
Do your conversations with your spouse lead anywhere or do you feel like you just keep going in circles and having the same conversations day after day and year after year? No matter how long you have been married, I think everyone can benefit from learning to have real conversations that lead to change, decisions and resolution. So what are a few ways to have real conversations in marriage?
Real conversations in marriage
Considerate conversations lead to decisions
Don’t tear down another person with your words. Instead, keep the peace, and be considerate. Be truly humble toward everyone.
Titus 3: 2 (Voice)
Consideration means that you think about your spouse’s opinion and you value their thoughts. You are truly listening to understand rather than waiting for your turn to make your point. Years ago when we were having a hard time waiting to adopt our second child, I wanted to just stop the process and presented my husband my arguments so that he would see things the way I did. Looking back now I am so thankful that I listened to my husband and considered everything he was thinking and feeling – this led to us patiently waiting until we were able to adopt our daughter at 8 weeks old.
Do you have conversations to understand your spouse in order to be unified, or do you approach your spouse trying to convince and persuade?
Courageous conversations lead to change
Instead, we will speak the truth in love. We will grow up into Christ in every way.
Ephesians 4:15 (NIrV)
It takes courage to speak the truth and to listen to the truth. Last year we felt stuck in our marriage; we knew we weren’t growing or changing. I was fearful in our conversations and not honest about the needs I had, the struggles I was facing or the hurts I was feeling in our marriage. I was also too afraid to hear how my husband was really feeling towards me – he felt I was always rushing ahead trying to prove myself rather than wanting to be close to him. We had many honest conversations that were painful for both of us but they led to us being aware of each other’s needs and the negative impact we were having on one another. These talks led to changes in our marriage by making each other a priority over ourselves and our own agendas.
Are you willing to face truths about yourself, your spouse and your marriage so that you can change and grow closer? Having the courage to be honest about deeper and more vulnerable parts of ourselves will prevent our marriages from getting distant.
Compassionate conversations lead to resolution
Banish bitterness, rage and anger, shouting and slander, and any and all malicious thoughts—these are poison. 32 Instead, be kind and compassionate. Graciously forgive one another just as God has forgiven…
Ephesians 4:31 (Voice)
Throughout our marriage we have had many long conversations that made us feel more distant than close and connected. Often compassion was missing in these times and resentment made us both feel like the other person was not going to understand. It has helped our marriage for each of us to ask God to help us be compassionate towards the other person and to understand their struggles and challenges. Having compassion on your spouse helps you not take everything personally and realize that we need each other to overcome our weaknesses. Resolution takes two people with compassion and willingness to let go of wrongs.
Do you start your conversations with a compassionate view of your spouse? Or do you start conversations already assuming your spouse won’t understand you?
Whether we are newly married or have had many years together, consideration, courage and compassion can help us have conversations that strengthen our marriages.