What Was That I Never Heard You Say?
April 8, 2006
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the woman who went to see a lawyer about getting a divorce. The lawyer decided it would be helpful if he could get a little background so he asked the woman if she had grounds for a divorce. “Yes,” she said, “as a matter of fact, about an acre and a half.” He replied, “Perhaps I was not communicating well. Let me try again. Do you have a grudge?” The woman said no, but she did have a double carport. He decided to try one more time. “Does you husband beat you up?” She answered, “No, I generally get up before he does.” At that point he realized he was going to have to use an entirely different approach. “Are you sure you really want a divorce?” She answered, “No, I don’t want a divorce at all. It’s my husband who wants it. He says we have trouble communicating.”
We laugh because it is so close to the truth. Communication has been a problem ever since Adam blamed Eve in the Garden of Eden. Whenever two people start talking, there are at least four messages flying back and forth: What he meant to say, what he actually said, what she meant to say, what she actually said. Add to that what he thinks she said and what she thinks he said, and it’s no wonder we have trouble understanding each other. It’s amazing anything gets through at all.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that communication is a big problem. In fact, Dr. Paul Faulkner of Abilene Christian University quotes one study which says that 96% of all problems in marriage ultimately go back to problems in the area of communication. Most marriage counselors would agree. The average couple could solve the vast majority of their problems if they would only learn to communicate with each other.
The Key is in the Ear
Our topic is communication. The word itself comes from the word “commune” which means “to share together.” Communication is what happens when we begin to talk with each other and not at each other. Here’s a simple definition: Communication is mutual understanding achieved through mutual listening. That suggests a basic thought–the key to good communication is in the ear, not the tongue. Many people think that the more they talk, the more they have communicated. Usually the opposite is true. If you want a basic Scripture to chew on, consider Proverbs 10:19, “Where words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
Before the Magic Faded
A while back I came across an intriguing article in a secular magazine entitled “Ten Major Reasons Women Get Divorced.” The second reason is simply “You can’t talk to each other anymore.” Here’s a portion of what the article had to say:
Before the magic faded, you talked about everything from childhood traumas to your favorite ice-cream flavors. When he delighted or distressed you, you let him know.
Somehow, though, you’ve stopped communicating. Little things bother you. He watches football all weekend and forgets you’re there. He leaves his breakfast dishes for you to wash when you get home from work. You don’t tell him how irritating this is, because you’re reluctant to start another fight, but your angry feelings won’t go away. They surface later in sneaky little ways. You “forget” to take his underwear to the laundromat with your clothes, or you shrink his favorite sport shirt in a too-hot dryer. You “accidentally” throw out the Time magazine he wanted to read. (Cosmopolitan, March, 1988, pp. 242-243)
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Men and women do communicate very differently. Not only do we say things differently, we mean different things when we say the same thing! Communication is a big problem in marriage and, therefore, good communication is one of the keys to a healthy marriage.
Roadblocks to Good Communication
I’d like to begin by mentioning four roadblocks to good communication. These are not the only boulders in the road–many others could be mentioned–but they are representative of the problems modern couples face.
Roadblock # 1: Exhaustion</font color>
According to researcher George Barna, time is the currency of modern life. That means that when we are faced with a new opportunity (or obligation), our first question is, “How much time will it take?” Contrast that with our parents who asked, “How much does it cost?” Times have changed drastically. We used to think that “time is money.” Now we know that “time is life.” We would rather spend money in order to save time than spend time in order to save money. Time is more precious to us than money. That’s a major switch from the way people made decisions in past generations.
Why is this generation so stressed out? One word. Overcommitment. You say “yes” to your work, “yes” to your hobbies, “yes” to your children, “yes” to your friends who need a favor, “yes” to a second job, “yes” to everyone else but your spouse. We’re always ready to do one more thing. But you can’t say “yes” to one thing without saying “no” to something else. And so husbands come home exhausted, wives come home frustrated, nobody wants to talk, nobody has the energy to listen. You pass like ships in the night, sharing the same address, living in the same house, eating at the same table, but never communicating. You are simply too exhausted to make the effort.
Roadblock #2: Materialism</font color>
This is a common problem–particularly among Baby Boomers. Men especially try to replace themselves with things, a practice that leads to all kinds of bad behavior. You constantly have to buy something new–a house, a car, a diamond ring. So you work two or three jobs and are gone all day and into the night.
The answer is simple. We have to learn to live with less. It is possible. Not long ago I heard an encouraging story from a man whose income probably stretches into the low six figures. They live in a very comfortable lifestyle in a fashionable subdivision in a major city known for its preoccupation with the visible signs of wealth. As I listened, I realized they were wealthier than I thought, because he mentioned having a butler and a maid. He said that he and his wife had just sat down with their kids and asked what they thought about the way the family lived. The man said, “I was amazed to find our kids don’t like it. The house is too big for them so they feel embarrassed to invite their friends over and they don’t like it when the chauffeur comes to pick them up at school.” His wife spoke up and said, “It’s wonderful to hear them talk that way. Now we’re looking for a way to get into a smaller house, one that will enable us to open our home to those in need.” That’s a telling story, isn’t it? We tend to think that having more is the answer. Sometimes having more is the problem.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Frustrated
But there is a larger lesson to be learned. People who think that money will make them happier are deceived. There is no intrinsic relationship between money and happiness. The Bible warns us that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” (I Timothy 6:10) Solomon gave us a penetrating analysis in Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 of the rich man and his special problems:
1. He is perpetually dissatisfied with what he has. “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” (v. 10) It’s like the story of the man who asked the millionaire, “When are you going to stop working and start taking it easy?” Answer: “When I make enough money?” Question: “How much is enough?” Answer: “Just one more dollar.” Money has a way of doing that to you. Money is a narcotic. The more you have, the more you want.
2. He amasses a great fortune only to see others consume his wealth. “As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner, except to feast his eye on them?” (v. 11) Nobody keeps his money forever. Even the man who corners the market in soybeans will eventually have to sell his soybeans or see them rot in the warehouse. The only benefit a man gets from his riches is feasting his eyes on his possessions. After all, you can only wear one pair of pants at a time. You can only eat one meal at a time. You can only drive one car at a time. The rest is just for show.
3. He loses sleep worrying over his vast empire. “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.” (v. 12) Here is the picture of the classic Type A personality. Hard-driving, demanding of himself and everyone around him. A workaholic. Up early. In bed late. Stressed out. Worried about protecting his investments. Doesn’t exercise because its a waste of time. Doesn’t eat right because he doesn’t have time. Doesn’t spend much time with the kids because he’s got a business to run. His wife? Which one? His first? His second? His third? Or his mistress? Call 911. The guy is on the A Train heading toward Heart Attack City. He’s living on the edge with a time bomb ticking inside his chest.
And do you know the worst of it? He can’t sleep. The poor fellow tosses and turns, adjusts the pillows, lies awake staring into space worrying about his investments and whether he can fight off that hostile takeover. This man eats, sleeps and drinks his work. Which is why he doesn’t eat right, sleep right or drink right. He’s a mess, and his marriage is probably a wreck.
Meanwhile, the employee who runs his computer system for him is sleeping just fine. And why not? He doesn’t have the boss’s money; he doesn’t have his problems either. His wife sleeps beside him. She works to help make ends meet. Between them they do just fine. It’s a good life, made better by the fact that they aren’t driven by the fear of losing all that they have.
Roadblock # 3: Television
I probably don’t need to say much about this one. Except that you could substitute the word “Nintendo” for television. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry about it. Many, many people turn to television as a means of avoiding their problems. That little 20-inch screen pumps out a potent video narcotic. I’ve been in some homes where the TV has to be on day and night even if no one is watching. That’s scary!
At one point Marlene and I decided that the boys had been playing too many video games. So we announced that the Nintendo was being put away until the end of school (two months away). A near riot ensued. After order was finally restored, we also decided to unplug the TV. Joshua (our oldest) was incensed at this deliberate attempt to stifle his intellectual growth. How else would he be able to watch the Cubs and White Sox games? After much discussion, we all agreed that the TV should stay unplugged.
After a week and a half, we began to notice an unprecedented thing around our house. We actually talked to each other, something we hadn’t done in months. I even saw Joshua reading a book to Nicholas (our youngest). Instead of watching TV the boys rode their bikes. Best of all, Marlene and I had at least one and sometimes two good conversations every day. Amazing.
Although our TV is plugged in again, I think our experiment has had some lasting positive effects. We don’t watch as much as we used to, we play more games together, and we left the video games in the closet. It sure is nice to come home and not feel drawn by some super-magnetic force to flop down in front of the television. Television is a potent force. If you don’t control it, it will soon dominate your life.
Roadblock # 4: Accumulated Grievances
Just this week I talked with a friend who spoke of another couple having serious marriage problems. He said, “I think for a long time they just neglected their relationship.” You could say that about most couples that have problems. Little things build up … build up … and build up like the lava in Mt. Saint Helens and then, Boom!, the top blows off. That’s why the Bible says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.”(Ephesians 4:26) There is a divine time limit on your anger. Solve your problems before you go to bed. Don’t go to sleep angry. Why is that so important? What you think about as you drift off to sleep becomes part of your subconscious. What starts as anger overnight becomes a grudge. The anger sinks in and slowly turns to resentment. Over time it hardens like concrete. Each little grudge becomes another brick in the wall that separates you from your mate. Remember: As long as you carry a grudge, you can’t communicate. You talk but your mate hears only the anger inside. You listen but your resentment blocks the message from coming through clearly. Your negative emotions have clogged the pipeline. As a result, the sludge of a bad attitude clogs up the communication line and nothing really gets through.
When one of my good friends read this manuscript, he jotted the following comment in the margin:
Beth and I were challenged to make a vow before we were married to not ever let the sun go down on our anger. The pastor who married us read from Ephesians 4, and we then vowed before God and the pastor to not ever go to bed angry. That was over 6 years ago. I can say that this has been the best single bit of advice we have ever received. We have never gone to bed angry yet–but we’ve sure had some late nights talking things out before we fall asleep.
Three Basic Steps
The Bible contains many passages that offer help in this area. In one sense the whole Bible is a textbook on how to improve our communication with one another. The book of Proverbs offers a wealth of good advice. Ephesians 4 contains many good principles. But if you want the whole thing boiled down to one verse, I don’t know of a better one than James 1:19. It contains three short and simple steps. If you take these three steps, you’ll be on your way to healthy communication in marriage.
James 1 has a lot to say about responding correctly in the time of trial. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle the problems of life. James 1:19 specifically answers the question, How do you respond to other people in a time of conflict and difficulty?
1. Listen More
The text simply says, “Be quick to hear.” The first step to good communication is listening more. As the saying goes, God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we might listen twice as much as we speak. Listening is the most basic communication skill, yet it is one most people never master. I’ve been around some women you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to live with because they talk all the time. And for every woman like that there are two men who are too preoccupied to truly hear what their wives are saying.
Psychologists talk about “active listening.” That means listening all the way through to the end of a statement. Which is not what most of us do. The reason we don’t hear what the other person is saying is because we are too busy thinking about what we are going to say back to them. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening–that is his folly and shame.” Active listening means you focus on the other person, you listen to the whole statement, you let the meaning of it sink in, then you restate it in your own words.
Here are some tips for active listening:
*Lean toward the person while they are talking to you.
*Look directly at them (instead of letting your eyes wander) while they are speaking.
*Listen with your eyes and ears. Look for non-verbal cues like crossed arms and legs, looking into space, clinched fists, fingers drumming on the table, wide gestures, the forced grin. Those cues usually indicate some level of stress.
*Don’t interrupt. Period. Just don’t do it. Don’t finish someone else’s sentences either.
*Ask clarifying questions. “Could you repeat that? How long have you been feeling that way? What else about that really bothers you? How often do you feel frustrated about the way I act?”
*Don’t plan your response while you are listening to them talk.
*When they are finished, say something like, “Let me see if I can put that in my own words.”
You’ll know you’ve been a successful listener when you can put their thoughts in your words to their satisfaction. After all, the bottom line on listening is not that you think you heard, but that they think you heard.
By the way, did you know that listening is good for your health? Dr. James J. Lynch, a researcher at the University of Maryland, says that “while we speak with words, we also speak with every fiber of our being.” He discovered that blood pressure and heart rate rise rapidly whenever people talk. It also falls rapidly when people listen. For people with a history of hypertension, talking often raises the blood pressure into the danger zone. It happens, he says, because they tend to talk intensely and breathlessly, interrupting and speaking over other people. “They frequently fail to listen; they are on guard, defensive. So their pressure stays up.” Here is his conclusion:
How can we enjoy conversation yet keep blood pressure down? By listening more, by breathing regularly while talking, by alternating between talking and paying attention to what the other person is saying. (Readers Digest, 4/86, p. 124)
A tribute was once paid to a great linguist that he could be silent in seven languages. It’s a wonderful and rare gift. More of us need to use it. Communication begins with listening more.
2. Talk Less
The text says “Be slow to speak.” Proverbs 29:20 has a helpful word about this. “Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Ogden Nash put this principle into a neat little rhyme: “To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the loving cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, shut up.” It’s so easy to kill a marriage with unkind words. How many times have we said something in anger only to regret it a thousand times later?
In this context, the command to talk less probably refers to a tendency to speak when you are angry and frustrated. I’m sure you’ve heard it said: Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret. How true it is. When I was a child, people used to say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s a nice, brave saying, and it works pretty well if you have no feelings. Words hurt far more than sticks and stones and the wounds they leave take far longer to heal. Unkind words don’t break bones; they break hearts.
Remember, there’s a direct correlation between talking and listening. Talking less enables you to listen more. And listening more opens up the door to good communication.
3. Calm Down
The Living Bible says, “Slow to rouse your anger.” James is not saying don’t get angry. That’s unrealistic. We’re all going to get angry from time to time. That’s part of being married. The word translated “anger” actually refers to a deep-seated rage. It doesn’t refer to a passing moment of displeasure which is soon gone and forgotten. No, James is speaking of that deep emotion which, when released, is like a volcano erupting. It spews red-hot lava all over the living room.
James clearly believes that anger is under our control. Sometimes we talk of “blowing up” as if it happened against our will. But that’s a cop-out. Anger is an emotion we control. Here’s the proof. Have you ever had an argument with your spouse and the phone rang right in the middle of the argument? You’ve been raising your voice and getting red in the face and then, “Hello, how are you? I’m so glad you called. Goodbye.” You hang the phone up and go at it again. That’s because anger is an emotion you can control.
But notice the progression. If we are quick to hear, we will be slow to speak. But if we are slow to hear, we will doubtless be quick to speak. And quick speaking leads to quick anger. And the angrier we get, the faster we speak and the less we hear. (I remember hearing one jokingly remark that he and he his wife never have any cross words. He said whenever they argue, their words fly so fast they don’t have time to cross each other!)
Here are some basic steps for getting yourself under control when you feel anger getting the best of you:
*Take a deep breath and relax your muscles. You can’t stay angry without getting tense. That’s why taking a walk or working in the garden helps dissipate anger. Get rid of the tension and the anger will leave at the same time.
*Ask yourself, “What exactly am I upset about?” Be specific–”I’m angry because my husband promised to help put the kids to bed, but he’s downstairs watching TV while I’m with the kids.”
*Ask yourself, “How important is this?” The answer will usually be, “Not as important as I’m making it out to be.”
*Be factual, not emotional when you speak. Don’t say, “I hate the way you look,” when what you really mean is, “I’m disappointed that you didn’t stay on your diet.”
*Judge behavior, not motives. Our tendency is to impute good motives to ourselves and bad motives to the people who make us angry. The truth is, we don’t even understand our own motivation most of the time (cf. Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus’ warning against judging (Matthew 7:1-5) applies at precisely this point. We are not to pass judgment on the motivations of people who hurt us because we are not mind readers. It’s much better to say, “I was hurt when you walked out of the room while I was talking,” than to say, “You don’t care about what I think.” The first touches an observable behavior; the second an unseen motive. If you focus on the first, God can take care of the second.
*Use word pictures to convey your feelings. One of the hardest things to do is to convey the depth of your feelings when you are angry or hurt. Instead of saying, “I feel hurt”, you might say, “When you won’t listen to me talk about my day, I feel like a prisoner in an isolation cell when the guards have slammed the door and walked away laughing.”
*Shoot up an “Arrow Prayer” to the Lord. An arrow prayer is a short, terse prayer uttered in the moment of extreme crisis or provocation. It’s hard to pray when you are angry, so don’t try to be pious about it. A simple “Lord, have mercy” can work wonders and keep you from saying something you will greatly regret later.
If you want to learn how to communicate better, a critical step is to get a grip on your anger. Don’t give in to impulse to anger. Remember the words of Proverbs 16:32, “Better a patient man than a warrior; a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”
Seven Practical Tips For Better Communication
Let’s wrap this chapter up with some practical tips.
1. Learn the 16 most important minutes of the day. There are 16 crucial minutes that set the emotional tone for the whole day. By paying attention to these special times, you can greatly improve your communication effectiveness. Here they are:
1. The first four minutes after you get up.
2. The last four minutes before you go to work.
3. The first four minutes after you come home from work.
4. The last four minutes before you go to bed.
I’ve investigated the matter thoroughly over the years and found that this is true! Those 16 minutes make or break the whole day. They cover the “transition times” between home and work and between today and tomorrow. Many couples could dramatically improve their marital happiness just by concentrating on these 16 minutes.
2. Pray conversationally. Some couples do this naturally. Others have to struggle. Marlene and I fall into that second category. Praying together does not come easily for us. It helps to remember that God isn’t concerned about the form of our words. There are many ways to do it. You can pray out loud or you can pray silently. One can lead one day, the other can lead the next day. The specifics don’t matter. But prayer itself draws a couple closer together.
Honest prayer opens doors to communication because as we talk to God, the innermost feelings of our heart begin to come out. If something has been bugging us all day long, it will no doubt show up when we pray. If we’ve been carrying a secret hurt, sooner or later we’ll start praying about it. If we are scared, if we feel trapped, if we don’t know where to turn, if we are harboring bitterness toward anyone (including our spouse), it’s bound to come out when we pray.
The beauty of this principle is that we can eavesdrop on our spouses while they talk to God. A wife may blurt out something in prayer that she doesn’t know how to express to her husband. Likewise, a godly man will unburden himself of his dreams for the future when he prays. When I hear my wife praying for wisdom in disciplining our three boys, that sets a red light flashing in my brain. If she is so concerned about that, then it probably means I’ve been preoccupied with my own work. Her prayer not only reaches God; it also reaches me.
3. Do some double reading. That is, read the same book together. Marlene and I have done this several times and we find it an excellent way to stimulate conversation. Several years ago we read “All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren, “The Wall” by John Hersey and “The Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler. More recently we both read “From Ashes to Glory” by Bill McCartney, “The Firm” by John Grisham and “The Sum of All Fears” by Tom Clancy. Reading together gives you a common ground for talking together.
4. Use a scale of 1-10. I’m not sure where we picked up this little idea but it really works because it helps us get our true feelings out. So often we ask, “Do you like this dress?” or “Would you like to try that new Chinese restaurant tonight?” or “What do you think about the new green paisley sheets?” Those questions are hard to answer with a simple yes or no. Answering on a scale of 1-10 lets you say, “The dress is 9, the restaurant is a 5, and the sheets are a -17.”
This works for two reasons: First, most things in life are not black and white. You like some things a lot, some things a little, and some things not at all. Using a point system enables you to sort out your feelings in a rational way. Second, it provides a neutral means of giving an opinion. Somehow a “6” sounds better than, “It was okay but not great.” Giving a numerical score to personal preference enables both you (and your spouse) to save face. Third, it works because it helps you make decisions in areas where no one has a strong opinion. If the new book you just read is a “7”, then maybe I won’t bother to pick it up since I’ve got plenty to read already. But if you say, “This is a 10+,” I’m probably going to drop everything and start reading. Fourth, it’s fun to use. Believe me, you can have some great conversations when you rate some woman’s new hairstyle as an “9” and your wife gives it a “4″! (Incidentally, this works best with non-emotional issues. I wouldn’t advise giving a numerical answer to the question, “What do you think about my mother?” No matter what you say, your answer will get you in trouble.)
5. Write out your feelings. Sometimes there are things you just can’t say face to face. Maybe you fear what the other person will say in return. Or maybe you want to surprise your husband or wife. Writing helps you sort out the good from the bad, the important from the trivial. Sometimes you can say things in a letter that you just can’t say face to face. Sometimes you need to write out your feelings for your benefit. Remember, you don’t have to share your letter (or your journal) with your husband or wife. Just the act of putting your feelings into words may give you the clarity and emotional focus you need. If you are having trouble communicating because of the strong emotions on both sides, why not have both of you write a letter at the same time? Then write a response. A simple technique like that can defuse the tension and drain some of the hostility out of you relationship. At least you’ll be able to see in black and white how the other person really feels.
But this also works on the positive side. Writing out your feelings may give you a chance to express your love in new and creative ways. Such a letter, thoughtfully written, will be treasured for years. Other correspondence will be thrown away, but a love letter from you will be kept forever.
6. Spend five minutes in the car before you come inside. This is for all you husbands and wives who bring your work home with you. It takes you 30 minutes to de-pressurize. So when you get home, if your mind is still plugged in back at the office, sit quietly behind the wheel for a few minutes. Don’t just hop out of the car with your mind filled with the problems of the day. That’s not fair to the people inside who are waiting to see you. Take a deep breath. Exhale,. Repeat that three times. Think for a moment about your husband or your wife. Get a picture of your children in your mind. You are home now. You’re safe. It doesn’t matter what the boss said to you or whether you got that big project done on time. You’re home, where the people you love are waiting to see you. Breathe a simple prayer, “Thank you, Lord, for bringing me safely through another day.” Now smile, open the door, get out of the car, leave your worries behind, and go say hello to your family.
Please don’t skip this step, or think that it is unimportant. You can ruin a whole evening by dragging your work home with you. The first four minutes after you come home from work are part of the 16 most important minutes of the day. So don’t blow it. Remember, the people inside the house want to see you, not some zombie from the office.
7. Ask–”What is your gut feeling?” This is where you apply the biblical admonition–”You have not because you ask not.” So many times you don’t know how your spouse is feeling because you don’t take the time to ask them. So if you don’t know how they feel, ask them. Then be quiet and pretty soon they will tell you. It works. And the more you listen, the more they will tell you. Pretty soon they’ll ask you, “What’s your gut feeling?” Go ahead and tell them. That’s what communication is all about.
Seeing the Real Person
It’s quite possible that some of these principles are not new to you. That’s because the basic principles of good communication are things we’ve heard about for years. They are biblical and practical and workable. Communication is possible whenever one person is willing to look at another person and see beyond the outside to the real person inside.
Perhaps you recognize the name Dave Roever. He’s done a lot of speaking in the last few years to young people all across America. Twenty years ago he was on river patrol in Vietnam when a phosphorus grenade exploded in his hand. It burned most of his upper body and blew away half his face. It was a miracle that he survived. But survival meant dozens of operations and a permanently disfigured face.
As he lay in the hospital he wondered how his wife Brenda would respond. He was in a ward with other badly burned men. To use his word, they were “monsters.” The nurses would take the loved ones to see other patients first because the shock was so great. Nothing totally prepares people for the sight of burn victims. Dave Roever said, “I imagined Brenda saying, “Thank God, that’s not my husband.” He feared she would take one look at him and simply walk away.
“Welcome Home, Davey” </font size></font color>
When the day came, she walked straight up to his bed, paused at the chart, and looked right down at him–to the man she had married, his face now twisted and sagging, permanently contorted by the grenade that nearly took his life. In that moment, Dave Roever wondered what would happen next. Without the slightest hesitation she bent down and kissed him on what was left of his face. Then she looked him in his one good eye, smiled and said, “Welcome home, Davey. I love you.”
Dave Roever said it this way. “The surest evidence I have of the love of Christ is in the love my wife showed me.” So we come again to the cross of Jesus Christ. He took a look and saw us as we really are. He saw all the pain and hurt and all the evil we carry inside. But he didn’t turn around and walk away. Instead, he loved us enough to climb up on that cross and die for the whole human race. That’s what love is all about it. If you’re looking for love, start right there.
The apostle John said, “Beloved, if God so loved us, even so ought we to love one another.” (I John 4:11) This is what it means to really love someone. You live with them for years and see them every single day the way they really are. You know them better than they know themselves. You know their weaknesses, their failures, their hidden fears. And when the bad times come, you don’t turn around and walk away. Instead, you reach over, you smile, you give them a kiss, and you say, “I don’t know why, but I love you.”
To say that is to put communication in a very profound light. True communication happens whenever you look at another person and say, “I see you the way you really are, and I’m not walking away. I’m sticking with you to the very end.” That’s what real love is all about.
Questions for Thought and Discussion</font color=blue></font size=2>
1. Are you surprised to learn that 96% of all problems in marriage go back to the area of communication? Why do you think that is true?
2. Study the quote from Cosmopolitan magazine. What further examples could you give of communication breakdown in marriage?
3. Consider the statement: “Men and women do communicate very differently.” Do you agree? What are some of the differences?
4. This chapter listed four common roadblocks to good communication. How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5–with 1 meaning “Does not apply at all to our marriage” and 5 meaning “Yes, this is a definite factor in our communication.”
Exhaustion 1 2 3 4 5
Materialism 1 2 3 4 5
Television 1 2 3 4 5
Accumulated Grievances 1 2 3 4 5
5. Read Ephesians 4:26. Why is it important to take care of your grievances before going to sleep? What happens when you neglect this biblical principle?
6. What is active listening? How does it differ from the kind of listening most people do?
7. Why don’t many wealthy people sleep well? And why does the working man sleep like a baby? How does a fixation on money negatively affect communication in marriage?
8. T ? F Anger is an emotion we can control.
9. Why is it important to judge behavior and not motives? How do you react when someone passes judgment on your motives? What happens in a marriage when the partners constantly each other’s motives?
10. The chapter concludes with seven practical tips for better communicaton. Which ones seem most relevant to your situation? What other practical tips would you add to the list?
Let’s Talk</font color=blue></font size=2>
This particular project is designed to increase the flow of conversation in your marriage. It only takes 15 minutes to complete. In order to make it truly effective, both of you should agree in advance to set aside a certain time to do it. Don’t do this project on the spur of the moment. This might be a good thing to do on a date this week. (Men, please take note.)
Listed below are a number of topics for discussion. Choose the one you feel the strongest about. For 5 minutes the husband may talk without interruption about his topic. Then for 5 minutes the wife may talk without interruption about her topic. During the final 5 minutes you may discuss what has been said.
If I had three wishes
This is what I think heaven is like
The job I wish I had
My life 10 years from now
My biggest fear is …
How I feel about my parents/your parents
How I would spend $1 million.
Things people would be surprised to know about me
How I feel about the way I look
Three places I would like to live and why
How I feel about our sexual relationship
Bad habits I am trying to break
How I would like to serve the Lord
Three people (historical figures) I would like to meet and why
My dreams for our children
Things I worry about
My own spiritual life
The reasons why I got married
The reasons why I stay married
My best friends are …
God’s will for my life
Note: Stick closely to the five minute limit so that no one makes any long speeches. After the 15 minutes are up, you can discuss the topics in more depth.