This is part three in a series on communication in marriage by Pastor Steve Carr. Part two can be found here.
3. Check your actions. The specific actions you take while you interact will either enhance or hinder your ability to effectively communicate. Let’s look at some of these actions.
Are you a good listener, or are you quick to interrupt when your spouse is talking? This disrespectful action will greatly frustrate your mate and tends to stir up anger. James said you must be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). When you interrupt, it means you are thinking of how you want to respond instead of really listening, and this hinders meaningful and enjoyable conversation with your mate.
A related action to interrupting is sentence-finishing. This occurs when your spouse takes a pause to think about what he or she is about to say, and you help your mate out by finishing the sentence. Such behavior, is again, extremely frustrating and reveals that you are not listening or trying to understand. It indicates that you have already pre-judged his or her thoughts and declares that you think you know what your spouse is about to say. Solomon said, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13). Rather, allow your spouse to fully complete the sentence, then respond. This will demonstrate you care and are truly listening in order to understand.
Explosive anger is another pitfall and is often only used to control a conversation. Sometimes people use anger to simply manipulate the other party into doing what is desired. This person knows that his or her spouse will cower and retreat in the argument once the rage appears. Yet, this ploy is very foolish because you may seemingly win the argument, but in the end you risk losing relationship and intimacy with your spouse in the process.
However, there are times when anger is not a ploy used to control another. Sometimes an individual just has no control of the emotions that rage inside, due to a lack of desire or understanding as to how to control them. Such a person is simply out of control. Irrational anger is what drove the religious people of Jesus’ day to attempt to throw Him over the cliff at Nazareth. These religious people were simply out of control. Luke says the people were “filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city…that they might throw Him down over the cliff” (Luke 4:28,29). If you have explosive anger that is not dealt with, deep and intimate communication will be impossible. No one ever wants to communicate the deepest things of their heart with someone who is raging out of control in an angry fit. Remember, “…the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Your wrath and anger can never produce something good or righteous in your marriage relationship. What you need to do is get some specific counseling from your pastor regarding how to control your anger. The sooner you take this action, the sooner you will learn how to communicate effectively.
Third, beware of blame-shifting. This is usually done when your spouse points out one of your faults and you quickly cover yourself by shifting the blame to your mate or to another. This is what Adam and Eve did when they were first confronted by God for their sin. Adam said that it was, “…the woman You gave to be with me, she gave me to of the tree, and I ate”. Eve also shifted the blame to Satan, “…the serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12,13). Neither Adam nor Eve would take responsibility for his or her own actions. Adam in one breath blamed God for giving him this woman and blamed his wife for giving him the fruit. Eve in essence replied, “The devil made me do it.” What solves this problem? Simply take responsibility for your own actions. Blame-shifting is the result of pride and dishonesty. You know what you have done and your spouse does too, so why not admit it? Without you personally taking responsibility for what you’ve done, all you will do is play the blame game which only delays progress to a solution. This is a game that no one will win.
The last action that hinders good communication is the unwillingness to confess your faults during or after an argument. This is a problem that results from that same attitude of pride, and to resolve it the Apostle James suggests, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord…Do not speak evil one of another…Confess your faults one to another…” (James 4:10.11; 5:16). God requires you to humbly and honestly look at your own actions and not shift the blame. When either husband or wife takes this action of first confessing personal faults, it usually softens the other to do the same, and communication is restored.
But, you may ask, “How do I change all these sinful attitudes, words, and actions?” Take heart, there is a way!
Click here if you missed What it Means to Love Your Spouse – Part I
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, visit Covenant Keepers