By LaShunda Calvert, Ph.D.
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
Tevin Campbell famously and tunefully asked the question many years ago, “Can We Talk?”
If married couples want to increase their chances of having a healthy and happy marriage, COMMUNICATION – good communication – must be an intentional effort of both spouses. Communication can be the difference between separation/ divorce and a happy and healthy marriage.
What is communication?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.
Communication means the following to me:
C – Christ-Centeredness
O – Optimism
M – Mercy
M – Mannerable
U – Unity
I – Intentional
C – Christ-Like
A – Accessible
T – Truthfulness
I – Involvement
O – Openness
N – Nourishment (some men would say nagging, which may be true in some circumstances)
What does God say about
James 1:19 – “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
Communication does not only involve verbal dialogue but listening too. Many times, spouses are eager or quick to talk and not listen. But God’s Word clearly states to be quick to hear – be quick to listen first before you speak, slow to speak – don’t be hasty or quick to speak. Do you know how many fights, divorces, prison sentences, jail terms, premature deaths, and other atrocities can be avoided if we adhere to God’s Word? Let’s be slow when we communicate. Lastly, be slow to anger. Paul admonishes us in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is not easily provoked.
Proverbs 18:13 – “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.”
Communication involves listening first. When your spouse communicates with you, listen. However, many times we either do not allow our spouse to talk without intervening (talking over or yelling), rush them to zip it up, or we simply tune them out.
Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
This is one of my favorite scriptures. God is still teaching me how to adhere to this. Yes, sometimes responding gently when our spouses have made us mad as hot boiling grits (poor Pastor Al Green) seems almost unfair and impossible, but God says a gentle (some scriptures say soft) answer turns away wrath. He doesn’t say that it may turn away wrath – which denotes that there’s a possibility – He says it will turn away wrath. Wrath can lead to gas lighting, rage, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and even death. But, a harsh word stirs (escalates, elevates, and meddles) up anger. A “harsh word” is name calling, profanity, provoking (1 Corinthians 13 – love does not provoke). A “harsh word” is the total opposite of gentle.
James 5:16 – “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
The Greek word for confess is ekzomologeo, a word that means to declare, to say aloud, to exclaim, to divulge, or to blurt.
Healing begins with communication. God says confess (communicate, in other words) your faults to another, then pray for another, and consequently, the reward will be healing. Confessing your faults to one another may get tense, uncomfortable, unpleasant, and undeniably awkward, but God reassures that telling each other our faults (mistakes, errors, bad choices, sins) is a setup for praying, healing, reconciliation, and restoration. Notice that God did not say that when a spouse confesses one should cuss them out, scream, yell, use it against them, or engage in toxic dialogue – God says pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, and pray, that ye may be healed.
What should be
communicated in marriage?
Goals for the marriage
God, church, and religious preference(s)
How to incorporate God as top priority in the marriage?
SEX – Yes, I said SEX – the good and the bad!
Family matters – immediate and extended family
Health – good or bad
What makes you angry
EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING!
Why do spouses avoid
Fear of judgment
Fear of being misunderstood
Fear of confrontation
Consumption of time
Communication is vital in a marriage. The same efforts that are made to communicate, for instance, with our doctors, are the same efforts that should be made with our spouses. How can a doctor know how to provide the proper medical care if patients are not willing to tell them what may be ailing them? This is the same principle that must be applied in marriage. How can a spouse know how to meet the needs of their significant other, if he or she is not willing to communicate with them?
Further, in many instances, we put more effort in communicating with the cashier in the drive-thru than we do communicating with the spouse that we made vows to. I mean we will hold up the lines, strategically expressing, “I want a cheeseburger, onions, no ketchup, two pickles, no, I mean one pickle, light mayo, a little mustard, and no cheese.” But, it’s a cheeseburger. As specific as we get about how we want our food orders, let’s communicate effortlessly and eagerly.
In conclusion, my husband and I have been married for seventeen years and we are still learning the importance of incorporating communication in our marriage. Initially, communication in the early stages of our marriage was almost non-existent. When we did communicate, my husband would joke with flatulence accompanying his jokes, and you know what happened next. One, it would stink – stink bad; two, I would get mad – quick to anger; and lastly, the conversation would be terminated, which eventually led to a breakdown in our marriage. Currently, soft answers aren’t always given, and we certainly have responded quickly without listening first. However, we are making every effort with God’s grace and guidance to communicate the way God tells us to, especially with the tough conversations. And, thank God our communication has improved and is improving.
It is not always easy for spouses to communicate with one another, especially depending on the situation. However, putting God first, seeking God, making God the top priority and the center of your marriage, your communication can improve to the point that you will be able to talk to your spouse and vice-versa about anything.