Let me begin by apologizing that this message is not full of scripture, but contains scriptural principles and wisdom that can make a difference in a marriage.
The saying that ‘opposites attract’ holds true and cannot be truer than in communication. If you look at it carefully, you will see the statement is true. You will se that when one is a spendthrift, the other is not. You see that when one gets cold at 80 degrees, the other is boiling at 50 degrees. When one is verbal the other is not. When it comes to communication you find that when one wants to express their thoughts verbally in words, the other clamps up.
But probably this one trait of communication, this one issue is the cause of a great deal of heartburn in marriage. In other words, communication can make or break a marriage. We have talked about selflessness and forgiveness and now the third leg of this three legged stool that is the foundation for marriage, communication.
I don’t really like the word communication because the word is greatly overused and I am using it today. The reason that I don’t really like the word communication is that it gives the impression that one person is speaking and the other person is receiving. Therefore, a better word would be conversation because conversation gives the idea of an exchange, of both speaking and listening together of one another at the same time. If you look at the causes of marriage breakdowns you will discover that conversations have at some point come to a complete breakdown, especially when there is already emotional problems like unforgiveness affecting the relationship because it causes people to not be open and honest with one another.
Now there are issues that cause a marriage to fall apart and breakdown as infidelity, but in most cases you will discover that the breakdown stems from a lack of conversation, an exchange of ideas, back and forth. Poor communications or conversation is like the man who said, “Last night my wife and I had words, but unfortunately, I didn’t get to use mine.”
In fact, there was a wife who was really trying to get a conversation going with her husband and he just himmed and hawed and gave the old, uh huh and so finally, she tried to be creative and said to him, “Bruce, do you think that my hair is the prettiest hair that you have ever seen and do you think that I have a perfect figure.” He said, “You bet.” She said, “Do you think my lips are like rubies.” He said, “sure.” She said, “Do you think that my teeth are like pearls.” He said, “you bet.” Then she said, “oh Bruce, you say the nicest things.” If the only way you can get a compliment from your spouse is if you create it by putting words in their mouth and leading them on, then you haven’t got much of a compliment. At this point in the marriage he probably didn’t agree, even if he would have earlier on in the marriage and is now just going along and pretending.
I want to deal with some of the things that hinders intimacy in marriage, particularly among young couples. One could come up with a list of things that could play a role in hindering intimate conversation between a husband and wife, but I want to share three things that can truly be a major problem in communication between a husband and wife and a fourth most important ingredient to communication. To make them easy to remember, they all start with the letter “C”. Calendar, Children, Conflict and Communication.
1. Calendar. When you look at the average family calendar, it is overwhelming. We have wall to wall schedules of many activities from long hours at work to running errands to taking kids here and there and social life and there seems to be no end to it all. In fact, a recent poll indicated that 61% of Americans have said they would trade money for time. We are stretched to the limit and we are confusing activities and business with communication. All of this running around leaves very precious little time for meaningful conversation between a husband and wife. Many marriages that appear healthy and happy on the outside are simply because the husband and wife no longer talk and communicate by conversation with one another. We have confused activities and we have confused busyness with happiness. The problem is that many couples find themselves drained, energy wise from all the running around doing what they are supposed to do. They find themselves emotionally spent and exhausted without any specific time out to focus on each other. Without a specific designated time for unhampered conversation with each other. Without a specific time for listening and speaking, where active exchange of ideas and exchange of thoughts and exchange of feelings takes place, without a specific time for uninterrupted focus time for each other. The truth is, without healthy conversation, there can be no healthy marriage. That is why it is the third in this three legged stool.
When I say conversation, I do not mean chatting and yakking all the time. There are many ways that conversations can take place even without words. But the calendars seem to clog our time and leave us with no time for meaningful conversation, which is real communication.
2. Children. Children are the most important result of intimacy in marriage. But the truth is that small children or special children can be the greatest hindrance to intimacy in marriage. Children bring a great blessing to a marriage and yet they also bring the greatest responsibility in marriage. But many parents make the mistake of thinking that children come first in a marriage relationship. Normally it is the wife that is the one that does this and I have also faced that issue in my own life. When children become more important to a mother than her relationship with her husband, eventually that marriage will be dead and over. Many who make it until the children leave only to find the mother with the empty nest syndrome and realizing that she has no relationship with her husband and nothing in common and there is nothing to keep her there.
Secure children, who grow up to be secure adults, need to be taught that mommy’s number one priority in life is daddy and daddy’s number one priority in life is mommy. And that gives them a sense of security like you can never impart to them without teaching them this. It also teaches them one of the most important lessons in parenting and what to do when they become parents. Of course some parents allow their children to become the decision makers at home. This is also disastrous.
Some years ago Billy Graham was telling a story about how the younger generation was running the households. And he told about a salesman coming to the door and a seven year old boy opened the door. The salesman looked at him and said, “I want to speak to the master of the house.” And the little boy looked at him and said, “You are talking to him.”
And the reason why I want to talk about children because when they have a misplaced misunderstanding of the relationship of their parents, a common mistake between a husband and wife is because we are the ones who have made that mistake and are responsible for their misunderstanding of our relationship.
I always told my children that their mother came first and our relationship was the most important priority and that we stood together as one and so if one says “no” to a request, don’t go shopping and asking the other one, for whatever the first one says, the other will support and stand behind. I found that necessary with a child who would try his best to manipulate or put one against the other to get his way. All children don’t do that but one of mine did.
I know that the saying goes that the squeaky wheel gets the attention. And it is not that they should be denied attention and not get the attention that all children need from their parents. But if the mother is not careful, she will soon find that all her time and attention will be going to her children and she will be denying her husband the attention he rightly deserves and needs from his wife. This doesn’t happen over night, but it is easy to happen, that ever so gradually, the time and affection and attention all gets shifted to the children and all of a sudden the marriage is in real trouble and in danger of collapsing but the mother has forgotten her priorities in life and that the children are but for a season and marriage is meant to be for life.
Therein the parents then fail to maintain their own communication by important quality conversation to support their own relationship. It is similar to the false doctrine of once-saved, always saved because it says, well my sin doesn’t separate me from God and I might loose my fellowship but not my relationship. That is totally illogical. As the Lord taught us that we can learn spiritual things by the natural and he used the natural to teach all the ways and workings of the
kingdom of God, there can be no relationship without fellowship, which requires continual communication or conversation. It requires you talking to God and listening to what He is saying to you.
It is no different in a marriage relationship for if there ceases to be communication through conversation, the foundation of the marriage is lost and it will become insupportable and the two end up in the end deciding they don’t know each other any more and they are incompatible, especially when the last child has left home and the mother then faces the empty nest syndrome. The marriage then falls apart because they ceased having a relationship by fellowship or proper communication by conversation in their daily lives, to continue to know one anther, to meet one another’s need and know what each other needs to begin with. Without that there is no foundation to support the marriage relationship.
You have to purpose in your hearts to set aside time each week to work on and maintain your relationship and have times of being away alone without the children or anyone else. Yes, as a mother you are responsible for meeting the basic needs of the children and that is right. But the problem comes when this comes above what should be your first priority, which is meaningful conversation with your spouse. It is one of Satan’s oldest tricks to destroy marriages. He uses something that is perfectly natural and perfectly wonderful, a mother’s or father’s relationship with their children and he turns it for evil purposes. You must be aware against these things and guard against them and to keep your first purpose and priority in your life and marriage relationship.
You can be imperfect but still do the job before you perfectly well by keeping your heart tuned to the Lord and sensitive to Him and your spouse so that you don’t allow the enemy to use that which God meant for good, for your evil and detriment by forgetting your first priority, which is not your children.
3. Conflict. What do I mean by conflict? More closely I want to talk about fear of conflict. I have heard this fallacy many times and it is one of the greatest fallacies and that is that ‘good marriages do not have conflict; or that ‘conflict in marriage is bad.’ Who says so? Read my lips. Conflict is part of being married. Conflict is natural. If you handle conflict wisely, it will lead to greater intimacy. But if you handle conflict foolishly, it will lead to further isolation between spouses.
I can tell you with certainty that if a husband and wife have never had any conflict then they most likely have never had healthy conversation. They do not have healthy communication. But if you make conflict to be your ally instead of your enemy, then you can grow and benefit from conflict. Please don’t misunderstand me in this. In most conflict avoidance situations, you will find that one or both are stuffing the hurts and their feelings and emotions into a very internal deep sock and the problem with such stuffing is that one day the consequences, whether mental, emotional or physical will be disastrous because they will simply blow up and “loose it”.
So what is the answer? First, learn how our spouse is wired. Often you find that one spouse is a problem solver and wants to solve all conflicts very quickly and move one and the other doesn’t want to talk about it. So how do you solve a problem? First, both must agree on identifying the area of conflict. Secondly they must discuss how they must deal with that area of conflict. Third, develop a mutually agreed upon procedure to address the area of conflict every time it happens. But before you get to this point, you need to spend time in prayer.
But listen to what I will say about prayer. You begin your prayer with a confession of your own sin, not your spouses’ sin. “Oh Lord, forgive her.” NO! Lord, forgive me! Prayer must be a surrendering of self and your will and agenda, not your spouses. Pray that God may reveal to each of you your own inadequacies and weakness and failures. Finally pray for the Lord to pour His love into each of your hearts that you can love each other with the love of Christ.
Some marriages have already come to the point of having no meaningful conversation and there is no real communication between the two. They long stopped conversing. It doesn’t matter where you are in your relationship or at what point it is, if two people will pray as I have mentioned, then the God of the impossible will intervene and He is able to jumpstart your communication by conversation anytime and get the ball rolling in the right direction again. But you must both ask Him too and be willing to respond to His leading.
Begin to think of those romantic times you had when you dated. Think of the tender moments of your earlier time in marriage. Then trying to make some strange sounding words, like telling you mate that he or she is God’s gift to you. Say things like, “I love you and I adore you.” Above all don’t forget there are a hundred ways to have a conversation and non-verbal conversation can be just as important to drawing you closer to your spouse. Conversation can take place through a smile. Conversation can take place through an adoring look or simple touch. Get creative. There are hundreds of ways to say “I love you.”
Then find out what is your spouses love language and then speak that language and practice that language and learn that language. That is what Jesus Christ had done. He could speak from heaven, “I love you,” But He understood our love language and so the very God became a man. Just think about it. We cannot fully comprehend it. Then to know that the wages of our sin is eternal death, damnation and suffering is necessary when there is sin against a holy and righteous God. And the wages are dependant upon Him, the perfect sinless God, very God, taking our sins upon Himself, dying for our sins to pay the wages of our sin so that we could be forgiven and redeemed and have eternal life. And still even today, every time we feel rejected, every time we feel discouraged or unappreciated, He tells us in a thousand ways in His Word, I love you, I care for you. He tells you “my everlasting arms are under you, my plans for you are for good and not evil, you are engraved on the palms of my hands, I am carrying you on my shoulders and He who touches you touches the apple of my eye.” That is a love language that the Lord Jesus Christ communicated with us human beings, full of failures, forgetfulness and sin; that we can understand in a tangible way. And He showed us and demonstrated His love for us in an undeniable way.
Before you ask Him to jump start your marriage, you have to ask Him to come into your life and forgive your own sins and wash you and fill you with His love so that you can forgive and love your spouse. For until you understand His forgiveness and love you cannot fully and truly forgive and love your spouse as He wants you too. Then as you confess your sins and ask for His love and He pours it into your hearts by the Holy Ghost, He will enable you to love as He loves. Then all the problems and conflicts of a marriage that is failing can be healed and made new, as we are made new by the blood of Jesus. If we will not understand His forgiveness and love to us, we can never show that same forgiveness and love to our spouse.
4. Communication. Finally, I want to go one step further in talking about necessary communication to maintain a healthy, godly marriage as God intended. That is what I call transparency or total honesty and truthfulness with each other. It will only happen in a marriage when there is total trust and faith in one another because you have to both be mature enough to make room for each others humanity and put love about everything else or it will not work. It also requires a full commitment to one another without reservation. When there is a lack of commitment, when there are any reservations in the relationship, anything that one feels they can’t share with the other, then that is a communication block and a place that Satan can manipulate to cause havoc and bring division, misunderstanding and trouble in a marriage.
Do you fully trust your spouse? Would you trust them with your life? Do you trust them with your life? Can you trust that your spouse will keep every confidence and that when you share a deep secret or dream or whatever that your spouse will not make fun of you, belittle you, take your trust and willingness to make yourself vulnerable lightly? Believe me when I say that if you do put down, belittle, take lightly or make fun of something your spouse share or confides in you, you will be causing a wall to be erected between you and your spouse will clam up the next time and not share with you that special feeling, thought, idea, dream or desire but keep it to themselves.
It is when you fully trust one another and are fully committed to one another because of the Lord Jesus and your commitment to Him that you can come to the place of fully trusting your spouse to share everything, every need, problem, temptation and desire with your spouse. This type of trust and commitment has to be built up and you have to prove yourself to one another that you can trust your spouse to the degree that you can be bluntly honest and totally open and transparent with him or her. It is when you are transparent, that you are truly communicating and the devil will find no place to get in the middle with misunderstanding and hard or hurt feelings. If you have a question, you ask. If you think you are being misunderstood, you open up. If you have a need or burden, you share it. If you need prayer or help, you confess it.
When you start acting as partners in life and become spiritual partners that your bond of marriage will become stronger and stronger and the enemy will find that he has no place to get into your marriage by misunderstanding or miscommunication or hurt feelings because of such.
Yet, if your spouse says something that you feel inside is hurtful in some way, you need to be able to say so and work it out. You need to be able to trust that your spouse will do what you need, will help you and support you in whatever way you need and be there for you. That is what being partners in life is all about. It is about being there for one another. Your spouses need becomes your need. Your spouses hurts becomes your hurts. You learn to laugh together, cry together, work together, play together, plan together and work things out together by transparency in your relationship which can only happen through total and open honest in your relationship which is only possible through open communications and total trust.
Galatians 6:2 “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
Romans 15:1 “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” V.33 “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
Ephesians 4:15 “But speaking the truth in love,”
1 Peter 1:22 “see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:”
1 Timothy 4:12 “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
1 Peter 3:7-10 “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:”
You have to have pure communication, honest communication, transparent communication, without hypocrisy, without guile, in love and then you will have a relationship that is open and united, one in spirit and one in purpose and direction. You can not be fully united and one unless you fully understand and know how each other thinks and their ways, desires, wants, likes and dislikes. You cannot become one any other way, without melding and joining of hearts, minds, desires, wishes and spirits. That is making two into one, of one mind and spirit, going the same direction, working for the same purposes and goals, working together as joint heirs in life. And the key is communication, but not just talking and saying nothing, but sharing and being able to share anything and everything with your spouse knowing that nothing will be criticized, made light of or ridiculed, but considered and understood.
Every marriage requires attention to maintain. So, you must set and have date nights, away times, away from the children, for a day or a weekend. Date nights alone should be weekly. Away times must be done at least four times a year. That is not an absolute number but a good idea, it has to be enough to benefit and give the time needed for the marriage to stay strong and give them something to look forward too, when they can focus on each other. It will make all the difference in the world as the children get older or when the nest is empty. Many, when that happens and the kids have been the main focus for up to twenty years, all of a sudden the parents look at each other and decide they no longer have anything in common and they don’t love each other or love being with each other or doing things with each other. In fact, they don’t really even know each other. The consequences are horrible.
These things will help any who do accordingly, whether believer or unbeliever. They are the process of keeping and maintaining a healthy marriage. A good, healthy marriage that will last the tests of time requires selflessness, forgiveness and communication. These are the way to a strong marriage that will endure.
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