I think we’ve all done it at one time or another: saying something we later regret. Or maybe it was just a misunderstanding that our spouse took it the wrong way. Either way, these things can cause a cascade of hurt feelings, sometimes lasting for weeks, months or even permanently if it’s never addressed. It can put a wall between you two, and even affect your relationship with God. So how do you avoid such potholes? Let’s talk about it.
Table Talk Notes
- The busyness of life and the pursuit of financial wealth have many of us so busy that we are not taking the time to have meaningful communication with one another as spouses. We come home from work, eat dinner and do something to “unwind” like flopping in front of the television for 3-4 hours—and then we go to sleep.
- Marriages are like owning an automobile. The best automobile needs regular care and maintenance or it will break down and turn to junk. Marriages need regular maintenance—and praying together, talking, sharing and learning about each other is the best maintenance plan available to keep our marriages strong and protected against the enemy who wants to destroy or damage marriages.
The important significance of Christian marriage and how it relates to the gospel of salvation as recorded by the Apostle Paul
Ephesians 5:25-33 | “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Satan wants to damage or destroy Christian marriages because they represent the relationship between Jesus Christ as husband and the church as his bride. He thinks if he can damage or minimize marriage he can damage the church.
You are no longer separate individuals—you are one as husband and wife
Matthew 19:4-6 | “He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
- When we understand this truth, communication goes from a competition to cooperation where the goal is to make the marriage better. We realize if I “gain” something at your expense, I have really lost, not gained anything.
- When our flesh is in control of our thought process it will seek to gain at the expense of our spouse or others. The world is teaching us that there must be winners and losers in communication—that the only way I can gain is if you lose. The teaching from Jesus on marriage clearly shows us this is foolish.
Principle #1: Unless both spouses grow and gain from communication, both lose since the two are one.
On average, an American woman speaks 20,000 words a day. The average American male speaks about 7,000 words per day. It is no wonder the Bible speaks volumes about the words we speak.
Proverbs 10:19 | “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
Proverbs 17:27-28 | “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”
2 Peter 2:3 | “And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
- The Bible teaches us consistent principles about the words we speak. A fool speaks many words without thinking; false teachers deceive people with false words; and the wise man chooses his words carefully.
- The statistics we mentioned about the number of words women and men speak daily show that generally women want to talk things out while men resist sharing what they are thinking or feeling. Why are men more apt to ‘clam up” and not share?
- Men have generally been taught that they are to be “the strong, silent type”—this is seen as strength by the world. They have also been wrongly taught that sharing their emotions is a sign of weakness. Satan has spread these lies to undermine effective communication in marriages. As husbands and leaders we must refute these “Life Commandments” and take the lead in establishing a marriage with open, honest communication. But how we share and communicate is crucial.
Our words carry great power and influence in the lives of others. Many people today live shattered lives because of parents who spoke devastating life commandments into their lives. In fact, some research shows people can recover easier from physical or even sexual abuse than from destructive verbal abuse. So when we speak we must understand, and take seriously, the potential for good or evil that our words can be used for.
James 3:4-10 | “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
Principle #2: Every word we speak should be carefully thought out, with the intent of edification, not condemnation of another.
Wars have been fought over the careless use of words—and marriages irreparably damaged because we were careless and selfish with the words we use. Remember Jesus said a husband and wife are “one”, so if a spouse says something that damages the other, they are also damaging themselves!
To grow in holiness, and help others grow, effective communication is critical. What we say, why we say it and how we say it is essential to effective communication and fellowship. In the Bible, godly people generally followed three guidelines in communication:
- Make statements on yourself. (Sharing)
- Ask questions of others. (Learning)
- Answer others’ questions of you. (Sharing)
Ungodly interaction is the opposite
- Make statements on others. (Accuse) (can be bearing false witness against another)
- Don’t ask questions of others. (Pride, assuming you “know” what they are thinking)
- Don’t answer the questions of others. (Isolate)
Good: Open ended questions or statement of fact.
“How are you doing?” or “That car is green.”
Not Bad: Close ended question or statement of your opinion.
“Did you like that movie?” or “I don’t like the color of that wall.”
Bad: Projection (telling someone what they think or feel) or judgment.
“You don’t like that movie.” Or “You’re stupid for liking the color of that car!”
Worst: Negate another.
“What is your favorite color?” They answer “red”. You state: “No it’s not, it’s blue!”
Principle #3: The worst way to communicate is tell others what they think, feel or believe.
This is pride and abuse toward our spouse.
- Communication should be about learning and sharing. We learn more about what our spouse thinks, believes, desires or fears. We share these same things about ourselves with our spouse. This builds a bond of intimacy and trust.
- Be careful what you share about your marriage with others. Complaining to a friend can be humiliating to your spouse and damage the bonds of trust and intimacy. Instead of complaining to others about your marriage, learn how to openly share with your spouse your concerns—and ideas on how your marriage can be better.
Resolving Problems in our Marriages
The important thing is our motive in conflict resolution. Is it to prove ourselves “right”? Or to improve our marriage? This requires patience, listening and humility.
Ephesians 5:22-26 | “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…”
Chicken or Egg Question: Which comes first—wives submitting or husbands loving their wives unconditionally?
In other words, which comes first leading to the other? Should a husband love his wife when she submits to him in all things? Or should a wife only submit to her husband when he loves her perfectly? Both are causes and both are effects. They are spiritually intertwined, one leading to the other. Husbands need to love our wives even when they are not submissive to us as leaders. Wives should submit to their husbands even though he loves you imperfectly and makes bad decisions.
Which comes first: wives submitting, or husbands loving their wives unconditionally? Click To Tweet
It is a human thought process to make love or submission conditional. It is agape love and a Godly thought process to love and submit without preconditions.
Principle #4: When you have a conflict, it is important to focus on the issue not on your spouse.
Approach the problem, don’t attack your spouse. The goal is to improve your marriage, learn from the conflict and figure out how together to avoid that conflict in the future.
- Identify the issue causing stress in the marriage. Look for the causes.
- Pray together, asking God to reveal the real issues.
- Separate for a time of individual prayer, asking God to convict you of anything wrong in your heart.
- Come back together and share where God has convicted each of you.