Communication within a marriage doesn’t come easy. Actually, that’s not true. Communication is going to happen whether we intend it to happen or not. But sometimes we may intend for our thoughts or actions to communicate one thing, and our spouse may translate it in a completely different way.
For example, I remember a time when Megan came to me and said she needed to talk with me for a while. And before she started she prefaced by saying, “I’m going to cry a lot while I talk.” (Uh-oh…I bet I’ve done something wrong, I thought to myself.) “Have I done something wrong?” I asked. “No, no…I just need to talk.” (Hmm…well that’s a relief. Maybe she needs help solving some other problem, then.)
And as she talked and cried there were times when I would try to interject – times when I would try to find whatever solution “I” thought she was looking for. I really thought she needed my insight. I thought she needed me to help her solve a problem she was having. But every time I tried to interject she would say, “I just need you to listen. I don’t need anything fixed. You haven’t done anything wrong…I just need to talk and cry a bit.” I was perplexed. Really perplexed. I just didn’t understand the language she was communicating.
Sadly, there have been other times in our marriage where our communication had a complete breakdown. Occasions where one of us had a desire to do one thing and the other was on a completely different level. And I know we’re not the only marriage to have these kinds of thoughts…other marriages may think things such as:
She thinks, “I’d love for you to spend more time with the kids.” He thinks, “I’m going online for an epic Call of Duty battle.”
He thinks, “Let’s save our money and put it into the kids’ college fund.” She thinks, “These designer boots are on sale for a really good price, and if I don’t buy them know I’m never going to have them.”
She thinks, “I’d really love to go out to dinner and talk.” He thinks, “I’d like to go out with the guys and watch Monday Night Football.”
He thinks, “Pornography doesn’t really hurt anybody.” She thinks, “Pornography is just as bad as an affair.”
There are a variety of reasons as to why we each have these varying thoughts. One is selfishness. Each person wants to do whatever it is they want to do. Another is family culture. The family background the husband grew up in and how his mom and dad interacted with one another and their roles and responsibilities is something he brings into the marriage and expects to see lived out. And the same thing happens for the wife as well.
But this is important: as individuals we all must realize we’re not operating in our own family culture anymore. When we get married we’re each creating our own new family unit. Not only that, but we have to understand that while we may each bring different ideas about marriage to the table, it is God who created marriage. We’re operating in a relationship that we didn’t think up on our own…He designed it. And if we’re operating in something He designed, we have to follow His rules, or His culture. Megan and I have noticed that when we do this, communication between us flows so much easier. When we best understand and accept God’s design for marriage, communication is so much easier for us both.
What is that design? What is God’s purpose for marriage? While entire books have been written on the subject, one simple passage sums it up quite nicely:
Genesis 2:24 (ESV) – 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Those last two words make all the difference in the world in a marriage relationship. “One flesh.” Not two individuals. Not two relationships. But one…one flesh. When two people begin to operate in this system, something special happens. When each person understands that God designed marriage – and that outside their relationship with Him their relationship with their spouse is the most important relationship they can or will ever have – they begin communicating differently. They begin to understand that their words and actions don’t only affect them as an individual, but that their words, thoughts and actions impact the marriage relationship as a whole.
We’ve got much more to say in the coming days about communication in a marriage, but if you can take only one thing away today, make it this:
Everything you say impacts your marriage relationship. Everything. Are you communicating to or about your spouse in such a way that it’s having a positive impact, or are you communicating to or about your spouse in such a way that it’s having a negative impact on your marriage relationship?
Let us know how your communication has impacted your marriage. We’d love to hear from you!