It’s been said that problems in a marriage don’t become catastrophic until the couple can’t talk about them. It’s also been said that the most frightening sound in marriage is silence. The Bible certainly gives us many verses that pertain to communication. Consider these (all from the N.K.J.V.):
-Psalm 34:13: “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”
-Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
-Proverbs 10:11: “The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.”
-Proverbs 10:21: “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom.”
-Proverbs 12:18: “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.”
-Proverbs 13:3: “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.”
-Proverbs 15:1: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
-Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
-Proverbs 21:23: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”
-Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
-James 3:6: “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”
-1 Peter 3:10: “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.”
I’ve read that there are five levels of communication in marriage. As I name these five, see which one best describes your marriage:
#1: The frivolous level: This kind of communication centers around small talk about the weather, clothes, the neighbors, etc. It’s just chit chat that has no depth whatsoever. A husband says, “It’s cold out there today.” His wife says, “Yes, it’s supposed to be warmer tomorrow.”
#2: The factual level: This kind of communication involves the reporting of facts without emotion. A wife says, “I saw that a state trooper had someone pulled over today.” Or a husband says, “The Thompsons bought a new grill.” The factual level is little more than a notch above the frivolous level.
#3: The fellowship level: At this level, married couples talk about ideas and philosophies. A wife says, ” Some people strongly believe that our nation should never go to war.” Her husband responds, “Yes, Linda at work holds that opinion, but Charlie is always arguing with her that wars sometimes have to be fought to ensure the greater good.” You see, neither spouse has staked out a position, but the topic is bigger than anything from the previous two levels.
#4: The feeling level: Here spouses really open up and speak in very personal ways. The wife says, “Well, I agree with Linda. Our nation has seen enough war. We need to try pacifism a while.” But the husband responds, “No, Charlie makes the better argument and I’m with him on this issue.” Each spouse has now opened himself or herself up to potential criticism and rejection.
#5: The freedom level: At this highest level of communication neither spouse holds anything back. Every hope, dream, fear, opinion, belief, etc. is out there on display. There is no worry about being judged, put down, or rejected. Even if one spouse doesn’t agree with the other, there is unconditional love and acceptance.
Always keep in mind that intimidation through temper is not good communication. Taking a superior, arrogant tone and belittling your spouse is not good communication. Out yelling your spouse is not good communication. Out talking your spouse is not good communication. Guilt trips created by crocodile tears is not good communication. If you are in the habit of wielding any of these weapons when you talk to your spouse, STOP IT. You are killing any chance that your marriage has at reaching the freedom level, that highest level of communication. For that matter, you might very well be killing your marriage.
And here’s one last thought: Communication cannot occur until someone is ready to listen. If your idea of communicating is getting the floor and holding it, you’re half a person. James 1:19 says: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” Tell me, how swift are you at hearing? The swifter you are, the better you will be at communication.
Believe me, many a marriage can be shored up, made better, or even saved if one spouse will just look at the other and say, “I have dominated the communication around here for a long time. So right now I’m going to just sit here and listen to anything you want to tell me. I promise not to get mad, defensive, or defiant. I’m genuinely interested in what’s on your mind these days.” Maybe you are one that needs to give this little exercise a try. You’ll probably be surprised at what you hear, and I guarantee you that your marriage communication will be taken to a higher level.