3 Ways to Improve Communication in Marriage

Photo by  Eric Ward  on  Unsplash

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

When I was in college, I came back from a summer mission trip to find the apartment I had reserved for the fall semester was still under construction. Thankfully, my campus pastor’s wife had compassion on my homelessness and offered me the opportunity to live in their home. I shared a room with her daughter and spent many nights talking with her over tea. After a few months in their home, my campus pastor spoke this observation over me: “Sharie, I think your greatest need is to be understood.”

I did not understand the depth of my campus pastor’s insight until years later my husband asked me, “Why do you feel the need to repeatedly ask, ‘Do you know what I’m saying?’ when we are in conversation?” I repeatedly asked because one of my deepest desires was to be understood, not just the words coming out of my mouth, but the intentions behind my words and actions.

My personality is one which is concerned with motives, intentions, and almost obsessed with making the world a better place. I have a lot of thoughts in this small head of mine, and when I want to get them out it takes me awhile. I want to communicate exactly what I mean the way I mean it, but because I am not a perfect person, I can become frustrated to speak for fear I might be misunderstood.

My husband, Clayton, was not so afraid of his thoughts or words when we first met. He was more confident, speaking clearly and without hesitation.

When we married, we knew good communication was essential for a good relationship, but we underestimated how much time, effort and emotional energy it would require. We’ve spent years fighting, crying, laughing, and loving each other through our communication blunders. After 20 years of marriage, we’re still not experts, but we do know more than when we started. Therefore, I thought I’d share three things I’ve had to overcome in order to become a better communicator in my marriage.

Seek To Understand Rather Than To Be Understood

My husband used to always ask me questions in an effort to see inside my heart and emotions. Honestly, I dreaded his questions. As each one escaped his mouth, I felt attacked and criticized. He wasn’t trying to attack me, I just misinterpreted his intentions.

His questions were actually a beautiful intention to understand me, not an attack on my character.

Therefore, I had to learn how to let my guard down and welcome his questions. And he had to learn how to present his questions more tenderly, and listen and contemplate my answers more intently before his next inquiry.

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. When you communicate, are you genuinely seeking to understand, or to be understood?

  2. Are you trying to come together, or trying to prove a point?

  3. If you’re at a standstill in your understanding of one another, would you be willing to find a mediator (a friend or counselor) to help you get through your communication barrier?

Embrace The Conflict

I have NEVER been one to like criticism or conflict. My personality craves peace and order. But, Jesus ironically (but not ironically) has given me this little leaning toward the prophetic; trying to right all things wrong.

In fact, when my brother and I got in trouble as teenagers, my step-dad ruled with an iron fist. His method of parenting was manipulative and controlling. My brother and I approached his discipline with different strategies. My brother decided my step-dad’s lectures weren’t worth his time and energy, so he simply said whatever was required to escape the lecture and was off the hook.

I was a sucker. The prophet in me refused to succumb to an unjust judgement or punishment. Although I despised the feeling of the conflict, I endured for the sake of truth. By the time Clayton and I married, I avoided conflict at all costs. My past experiences with my step-dad taught me that self-expression and honesty were not worth the anxiety. I had learned to bury my emotions and opinions.

For the sake of good communication in our marriage, I had to unlearn this habit. In the safety of our relationship, Clayton taught me to speak up, and to embrace conflict for the sake of healing and health.

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. Do you and your spouse welcome open and honest communication? Why or why not?

  2. Do you need to learn to embrace conflict?

  3. What kind of environments help you open up? What could your spouse do to help you embrace honesty more readily?

Learn How To Let Go

Whenever we speak on marriage, Clayton likes to recount the best advice we received as an engaged couple. Our advisor looked us in the eyes, and then pointed to Clayton and said, “You need to learn how to say I’m sorry.” Then he pointed to me and said, “And you need to learn how to forgive.”

This advice has been indispensable.

Now, you might be thinking, “Why didn’t he tell Clayton that he would need to forgive?” I wondered that too, and I can’t speak for your marriage, but I am more prone to hang on to my resentment. It builds and builds. Letting go of an offense is harder for me than for Clayton. However, when he is willing to apologize, my heart cracks open letting my bitterness escape.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you let things go, or hold offenses hostage in your soul?

  • Take a minute to remember a time you forgave. What helped you let go of your offense?

  • Do you need to let go, or forgive your spouse for a failure (or many failures)? What are they? What is a step you can take to pursue forgiveness?

Communication within marriage is no easy task, but it is essential. Differences in personality, your past, communication styles, and opinions can lead to misunderstanding and conflict if handled incorrectly. However, the Lord is quite capable of teaching us how to understand and truly appreciate our differences.

I hope this blog has been useful to you, but I would also love to hear from you. What are some successful communication tricks you and your spouse apply in your marriage?


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More on Marriage Communication

And, in case you are unaware, I am in the middle of releasing my Overcoming Monday Podcast Season on Marriage. Clayton and I recorded Episode 41, Communicating Expectations in Marriage, with our friends Jessica and Justin Brock. This podcast is delightfully funny as well as perfectly practical. Take a listen today on iTunes, Spotify, or on my website!

Sharie KingComment