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Six Keys to Communication That Can Unlock Friendship in Your Marriage

Communication in Marriage

by Roy  & Sue Milam

Six Keys To CommunicationCommunication is the pathway on which love travels. But if there are blips and barriers in our lines of communication, our love doesn’t reach its target and our relationship suffers. I’ve heard it said by many, “well, if two people love each other, love and a successful marriage will just happen – it will be natural.”  That is a myth!

There is nothing natural about good communication. Having a satisfying marriage where love flourishes, and there’s a growing closeness and friendship is not something we’re just born to be naturally “good” at. On the contrary, good communication requires advanced skills. The good thing is these skills are learnable. The great thing is, God’s Word can equip us with the invaluable, advanced communication skills that are crucial to make a marriage not only survive-  but thrive.

What ‘s Necessary for Real Communication to Take Place?

Researchers tell us that the words we speak only make up about seven percent of the communication process. Real communication is seven percent words, 38 percent tone of voice, and 55 percent non-verbal (facial expression, gesture, posture).

There are at least five major levels of communication. Level one is cliché conversation-“How’s it going? Fine. See you later.” Level two is reporting facts- “Are you going to pick up the kids? Yes. I’ll be home at five.” Level three is ideas and judgments- “What do you think about that? Let me get your opinion on this.”

Level four is where we go deeper; it’s about feelings and emotions, and it’s here that true growth begins to happen. Level five goes even beyond sharing emotions to wide open communication, mutual understanding, and total honesty. This is where we unzip our hearts, put them out on the table, and share everything. (Men often have a difficult time with these last two levels, because we’re led to believe we shouldn’t show our emotions.)

How much time are you spending with your spouse in levels four and five? As a couple, or even among close friends, intimacy does not occur unless levels four and five occur. These levels appear “dangerous” because they open us up to pain, risk, fear, and vulnerability. But they can be deeply fulfilling forms of communication.

Been Totally Misunderstood?

If you’ve opened up in the past, only to be misunderstood and burned, you’re probably tensing up and right now, saying, “I’m not going there…this won’t work for us.” But let me suggest that the reason it may not have worked is because you haven’t really practiced it God’s way. Let’s look in the Bible at Ephesians 4 at five key ways we can open up the communication highway in a way that is safe, effective, and fulfilling.

Key 1 – Be Honest

“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into all aspects unto Him, who is the head, even Christ…Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:15,25)

The principle is-speak the truth in love. It may be easy to tell the truth and it may be easy to be loving, but it’s often difficult to do both-to speak the truth in love. Let me give you a skill that will help you do this: make direct requests.

If you’re a woman and you want to go for a drive or a bike ride with your husband, don’t say, “It’s a beautiful day. The sun’s out. It’s nice walking weather.” You didn’t ask for anything (and we men are too direct to get your hint)! Here’s how to make a direct request: “Honey, I would like to take a walk with you this afternoon. Would you be willing to do that with me between one and two?”

And guys, the same goes for you! If you’re in the mood for love, don’t tell your wife she smells good or looks nice in that dress. You haven’t made a direct request. Instead, you may try something like this: “You look very attractive and I don’t know what you have planned for this evening, but I would really enjoy getting together with you tonight…” You get the picture. Communication is key.

Key 2 – Deal with Anger

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26)

The principle is, deal with anger appropriately. Be angry, but don’t sin. Roy says, “If you are angry, be sure that it’s not out of wounded pride or a bad temper. Never go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil that sort of a foot hold.” See, most of us have learned not to deal with our anger. We stuff it, we leak it, and it oozes out and sabotages our relationships.

Anger is one of the most destructive emotions in the world, but God has positive uses for it, at times. The command is to be angry, but not let the sun go down on it-don’t let it turn to bitterness and sin; deal with it in a way that doesn’t harm your mate or your relationship.

At one time in our marriage, Sue was upset because I was often late for dinner. Under control, she said, “Honey, I feel very hurt and unappreciated when I spend hours preparing a meal to communicate how much I love you, and you repeatedly come home late and miss it, you’re communicating to me that you don’t care.” I got the message and changed. Communication is key.

Key 3 – Be Intentional

“… but rather let him labor… in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.” (Ephesians 4:28)  Be willing to work hard on your relationships. That’s what Sue and I have decided. We try to schedule things on our calendar that will enrich our marriage. For instance, we try to block off at least fifteen minutes a day to simply connect, catch up, and talk. We also try to get out on a date once a week. And, I believe it’s important for you and your spouse to get away on an overnight trip two or three times a year.

It’s tempting to steal from the time that our marriages deserve, even pouring it into our kids, our work, our hobbies, our homes, and such. But God says, “Don’t do that.” Work hard on your relationships. Be diligent. Don’t take shortcuts, because there’s no product without the process. Communication is key.

Key 4 – Slow Down and Watch Your Words

“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, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

How many unwholesome words?  None! The word “unwholesome” is a picture of spoiled meat or fruit. That’s what unwholesome communication is-ugly, smelly, good-for-nothing. Don’t wound with your words. Speak at the right time, in the right way, and allow God to use your words to help others.  When talking to your spouse, use words that build up, not break down. That means no labeling, no yelling, no screaming, and no unwholesome words; no saying, “You’re just like your mother.” “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1: 19). Please, write that verse down, memorize it, and ask God to help you learn to think before you speak. Communication is key.

Key 5 – Keep Your Relationship Clear of Debris

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32). Good communication cannot take place unless its pathway is paved with forgiveness. What’s wrong with being the first to say you’re sorry? That’s God’s way. Be kind to one another be quick to forgive. That’s where real maturity and love comes in. Let’s put it this way-does God want us to sweep our sin under the carpet or wait until we get our act together to talk to Him? No! In the same way, Christ took the initiative to reach out to you and forgive you, so you should be quick to forgive your spouse. Communication is key.

Key 6 – Listen With Your Heart –  Not Just Your Head

“…that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Early in our marriage, when Sue was working as a Medical Malpractice claims manager… she shared with me about a big communication mistake she had made when reporting a claim to the CEO. I listened with the best of intentions, and I wanted to be helpful, so I started in helping her solve her problem. I gave her a Roy’s “excellent” advice which after 18 years in business, I might have entitled “Management 101. ” Next, I started to describe to her how it was like this flow chart. Suddenly I was befuddled when she started to cry and said, “I don’t want a diagram. I don’t want advice. I don’t want you to “FIX” anything! I just want some understanding about how this made me feel…so upset and in turmoil.”

I learned a huge lesson in communication that day. And I’ve learned to ask her, “Do you want my advice or just my ear?”   Now-  if she just wants to vent, she tells me ahead of time, and I listen with my heart and validate her feelings.  Practice these five keys and as you do you’ll see how your love and friendship will flourish and your intimacy grow richer and deeper day-by-day. You guessed it… comunication is key.

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