For our entire relationship, communication has been a struggle for my husband and myself. For many, many years I have placed exclusive blame on my husband’s private nature. Over the past couple of months, however, the Lord has been taking me on a journey regarding my own communication weaknesses. I am left humbled and embarrassed to admit that the bulk of our communication struggles have, truly, been mine.
Communication involves two important factors: speaking and listening. While I used to think I was an expert in both… I am realizing that is my weaknesses in both areas that have made the past decade a struggle.
My husband is an introvert who has always lovingly joked that I have “a lot of words.” He’s right. I am an extrovert who, usually, does not struggle to verbalize my thoughts or feelings. Over the years, I have been so hurt by the times I felt that my husband was choosing not to listen to me, but I never considered that it was the way I was communicating that hindered his listening skills. My tones and words do not always invite my husband to tune in and truly listen. I mumble, blabber, speak with my mouth full, and can be critical and negative.
I don’t speak in such a way that my husband loves to listen to me.
Being intentional in marriage is of the upmost importance. I am intentional in how I spend my time, in not cultivating a friendship with the opposite sex, in prioritizing physical intimacy with my husband, and in honoring him in my thoughts. Yet, I am not, ever, intentional in filtering my words. I have a tendency to ramble which leads to purposeless words being spoken without restraint or forethought.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. (Matthew 12:36)
In a quest to fill the silence around my house, I have mastered in small talk. I can bring up a dozen different conversations with my husband about our calendar, the weather, or home improvement projects. While discussing these things is a part of sharing life together, it is keeping our emotional intimacy in an infancy stage. I need to grow more comfortable with silence and, when I feel led, I need to discuss deep matters of the heart and soul which will strengthen our relationship.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt… (Colossians 4:6a)
The messages I send to my husband should be positive and up-lifting. Do I make the most of my words by utilizing them to set the stage for him to be the hero of our home? There is no room, in a healthy marriage, for a critical or nagging wife. I desire to be an Ephesians 4:29 wife who only speaks words that are beneficial for building my husband up.
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) Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife. (Proverbs 21:9)
Marriage is a call to listen. Oh, how I struggle with this. This area, in particular, is where the Lord is revealing to me that I am a hindrance to healthy marital communication. While I accuse my husband of not sharing his feelings with me — the truth is — I am not a safe place for him to do so.
I don’t listen in such a way that my husband loves to speak to me.
As I listen to my husband, I often interrupt him. Sometimes I become so eager to express my opinion that I cut him off completely. Other times, I assume I know the direction he is taking the conversation, so I simply finish the sentence for him (even though, there have been countless times when I have said what I thought my husband was going to say and yet I was far off base). When I interrupt him, I am communicating that his words aren’t important. My choice to not listen well limits his desire to dialogue with me!
To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
Another example of how my listening skills need improvement is in the fact that don’t give my husband’s words the respect that they deserve. Rather than listening to his heart, I quickly become defensive if his opinions differ from my own or I don’t like what he has to say. I have been known to throw his words back at him in nasty and critical ways that limit his eagerness to continue intimately communicating with me. I must become a safe person for my husband to talk to which will require me to become a better listener!
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… (James 1:19).
What is a wife to do?
If your marriage, like mine, struggles in the area of communication… please know that you are not alone! At the beginning of our marriage, I prayed and prayed for the Lord to give my husband a desire to share with me his deepest thoughts and struggles. For years, that prayer has gone unanswered. Only in the past few months, as I have switched my prayer, asking the Lord refine me, have I seen a breakthrough in our openness and vulnerability. The difference has been in the changes I have made! As I strive to speak in such a way that my husband loves to listen to me… I realize my ever-present need to be diligent about guarding, filtering, and choosing wisely my words. As I strive to listen in such a way that my husband loves to speak to me… my eyes have been opened to how unhealthy my listening skills have been. You can’t change your husband’s communication quirks, you can look at your own style of socialization and pray for God to open your eyes to where you need improvement. If we focus on improving ourselves as wives, our marriages will certainly be blessed!