What I am about to share is slightly difficult to explain in person let alone through a short article. However, at the risk of being misunderstood, I would like to share with you what I find is a very powerful communication tip for married couples.
Separate Your Communication into 3 Parts
There are 3 things that couples should communicate to one another in order for their communication to be healthy communication. These three include: how they feel, what is right, and their plan of action thereafter.
Unfortunately, many couples fail to break their communication into these three parts. Consequently, they end up expressing how they feel in a way that causes the entire conversation to start drowning in emotion. Once this occurs, right principles and a plan of action are hardly ever communicated in a healthy fashion.
Learn to Communicate Feelings in a Safe Setting
In order to have healthy communication, couples must be able to communicate how they feel without feeling as if the other person is going to do one or more of the following:
1. Get defensive
2. Take it the wrong way
3. Attempt to manage those feelings
4. Criticize them for having such feelings
This is a huge point. And, most of the time, it is why couples fail to find resolution through conversation. It is also why some couples simply move from one emotionally charged discussion to another without an end in sight to their dysfunctional conversation.
Couples should be able to converse in this manner:
“I feel scared about this. I do not know exactly why, and I am not saying it is your fault. But, I just want you to know how I feel.”
“I feel grouchy today. And I am having a hard day. I am not saying it is your fault. I just want to start the conversation by telling you how I feel.“
“I feel hesitant about this decision. I do not even know if I am justified in feeling this way. But, I want to start by letting you know how I feel.”
When couples have an understanding that they are both allowed to communicate in such a way, they will find that they will be able to transition to actually looking at Biblical principles thereafter and deciding upon a plan of action. However, if you and your spouse are never able to get past communicating how you feel without an emotional bomb of sorts going off, then you will only progress so far as a couple.
Matthew Henry said, “When chiding [fighting] runs high, reason runs low.”. This is why it is vital that couples learn to put forth their feelings and then have an agreement to move toward actually solving the problem. If this does not occur in your marital discussions, you simply perpetuate dysfunctional cycles of communication that have probably existed for generations in your family tree.
After Feeling is Communicated
After couples are able to say things like I am scared or I feel as if I should be concerned, then they should be able to say things like this once the air has been cleared of those raw emotions:
“Though I am scared, what is the best plan of action for us to take in order to alleviate my fears.“
“Though I feel you may be doing this, could you supply more facts so that I can feel a little better about the situation.“
“Though I have hesitancies, here are the Biblical principles that should help to guide us away from our fears.”
Complete the Conversation
After a couple has verbalized their emotions and the principles that they should follow, a conversation is not complete until both commit to following a certain game plan.
Whether Moses was complaining to the Lord (Numbers 11:11-16) or Elijah was expressing his exhaustion (I Kings 19), we find that God allowed His servants to express their feelings without too much push back from Him. In fact, it is interesting to note that in many passages in the Bible, when God’s people expressed their concerns, complaints, or their fears, God did not take it defensively nor did He try to realign their feelings. As a loving Father, He often verbalized a solution and then encouraged appropriate action thereafter.
In fact, go back and read Numbers 11 and I Kings 19. It is interesting to see how the Father allowed both of His servants to express their emotions. Then, He succinctly provided a solution.
In chapter 11 of our marriage book, we teach couples how to stay in what I call a problem-solving mode when communicating with one another. Check out our marriage book, How to Fight for Your Marriage Without Fighting with One Another, by going to our online resource center to learn more.