A thriving marriage requires honest, open, ongoing communication. These are simple but powerful principles.
God tells us in Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth—communicate—“in love.” God’s love is outgoing concern for the good and welfare of others. His communication “in love” has a profound effect.
Levels of Communication
Here we’ll look at three aspects of communication: talking, listening and understanding. The first aspect of communication is talking. There are different levels of quality in talking. Talking just for the sake of talking is not the same as effective, healthy, constructive communication. Good communication reveals one’s true thoughts and feelings about an action or situation. It is an open expression of what is in your mind.
Level 1: Cliché conversation. This is where a person hides behind the safety screen of clichés and small talk. He or she shares nothing personal. The conversation always stays on the level of “How are you?” or “Looks like it is going to rain.”
Level 2: Reporting facts. In this kind of conversation, information that is perhaps interesting or useful is shared, but no personal views enter into the discussion. Facts are simply quoted, much like a newsreader.
Level 3: Expressing ideas and judgments. Here is where some real communication begins. The person steps out from his comfort zone and goes beyond just sharing facts: He also shares his ideas and judgments about those facts.
Level 4: Expressing feelings and emotions. Here the person begins to share genuine feelings about issues. There can be no truly effective communication in marriage until both parties interact with each other on this level. Without such, neither will know how the other feels on vital issues.
Level 5: Openness and honesty. This is the ultimate level—one of absolute openness and honesty. All deep relationships, especially the marriage relationship, must be based upon honest communication—otherwise the relationship will suffer.
Speak in Love
We must also add to this God’s biblical instruction of “speaking the truth in love.” When we move our conversations beyond clichés and share not only facts but also ideas, judgments and feelings with openness, we create a world of communication that builds beauty and harmony into our relationships.
We don’t want to use communication to create a world of misery. For a marriage to have beauty and harmony, the husband and wife must be committed to speak the truth in all things. Truth with love sometimes hurts, but this is part of healthy communication. Healthy communication always carries an overall positive and helpful message (Ephesians 5:25; Proverbs 10:19-20; 15:4, Psalm 37:30).
Words can create or destroy relationships. They make life brighter or darker. They can spread a great deal of misery or joy. They can forge a chain of grief or satisfaction (Proverbs 25:11; 12:25). Words create an atmosphere of good or evil (Proverbs 17:9; Matthew 12:36-37; Colossians 3:8). Our communication produces either unity, harmony and goodness, or the opposite. It either builds us up or pulls us down.
God spoke to an Earth that lay in tohu and bohu—chaos and confusion. God’s Word brought about beauty and harmony, making it “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
If your marriage has a degree of chaos and confusion, then kind words can heal the problem (Ephesians 4:23, 29, 31-32; 5:2-4; 1 Peter 3:1-7).
Satan’s speaking brings about wholesale misery (John 8:44). When God speaks, there is always a wonderful result (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18-24; John 13-17).
Each of us must speak the language of love in our marriages (Ephesians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
The tone of your voice is also very important “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Some communication experts say that words compose 7 percent of the message, 38 percent is tone of voice, and 55 percent is body language. What you say is often less important than how you say it.
The second aspect of communication is listening.
James 1:19 states, “[L]et every man be swift to hear ….” (See also Proverbs 1:5; 19:20; 25:12). In a troubled marriage a ready listener is often lacking.
Here are three areas that interfere with effective listening:
Defensiveness: You are not listening when you are busy thinking of ways to shoot down the other person’s comments or thinking of all the reasons why you are right.
Self-centeredness: You are not listening when you are talking, interrupting, being impatient or being intolerant toward the other person.
Physical or mental fatigue: You are not listening when you are tired.This certainly can dull your ability and desire to listen.
The challenge is to listen not only to the words but also to the feelings and meaning behind the words. If a person feels understood, then he or she will be less defensive and more receptive.
Understanding Your Mate
The third aspect of communication is understanding.
Seek always to understand your mate. Communication or the lack thereof is a matter of cause and effect. All behavior has a cause.
“God made humans to be free moral agents,” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong. “He set in motion His inexorable law, which, if obeyed, causes peace, blessings, abundance; but which, when disobeyed, causes curses. He compels humans to choose. Each must make his own choice—either positively or by neglect. God has made His truth available!” (Why Marriage—Soon Obsolete?).
God expects you to grow in your marriage by using the vital tool of communication. If we all work on this regardless of how long we have been married, our unity with our spouses and quality of our marriages will grow stronger.
At all times, let’s talk, listen and understand in a way that builds beauty, unity and strength in our marriages. If we do, we will be developing the divine righteous character of God in preparation for the ultimate spiritual marriage of Jesus Christ to the true Church.