Marriage, such a wonderful institution! Wonderful it is, yet not without its hardships. Unfortunately there is no easy “go-to” manual that gives you exact details to follow for your specific marriage. I truly wish there was, it would make my job as a marriage therapist a bit easier.
Though this is not the case, there are general principles that we can observe from marriages through the years. Even more importantly, are the principles that can be directly or necessarily derived from scripture. In this case, we happen to have both. (As a side not, whenever you are faced with a situation where these two areas do not agree, always follow scripture, not experience). The following verse will be the standard for this blog:
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19, ESV).
I bet you didn’t expect this verse, or did you? Let me give a brief explanation of why I chose this verse. A concept that I use a lot when working with individuals or couples is intentional communication. To communicate intentionally can look a number of ways. Let me try to explain my thoughts on what I mean.
Everyone communicates in marriages. Directly or indirectly, verbal or non-verbal, active or passive, in one way or another, we all communicate. I believe this verse provides an excellent outline to how communication can flourish!
Quick to Hear
These words have probably been echoed through every Christian marriage book, pastoral counseling session, and certainly in all Godly advice. However, even with the popularity of this verse, it cannot be overstated. Be quick to hear.
But what do I mean by using this in terms of intentional communication? Well, simply, to be eager, willing, and actively attempting to listen, inquire and hear what your spouse has to say. Many times when marriages are at a rocky point, one can agree that there hasn’t been any effort to complete preventative maintenance. Such as a car need frequent oil changes to prevent future issues, one cannot wait until there is an issue to begin practicing their intentional listening.
Ask your spouse, while things are “good”, how they feel about the marriage, their job, parenting, church, etc. Show your care about their needs, even if they do not seem to have many issues going on. This can do a lot of good for you, them, and the marriage as a whole. Taking interest in their wellbeing is a daily thing, there is no reason whatsoever, to go a day without a simple check in with your spouse.
Slow to Speak
I would hope that all who are reading this understands that this next portion of the text is not speaking to the tempo of the conversation. The ability to be slow to speak, in the context that I am presenting it is referring to the ability to not act impulsively in conversation. An opinion I have about this concept, is the willingness to show your spouse that their feelings are worth more than your “rights”. Let me explain: Oftentimes, in arguments individuals have the right to their emotions. Being angry at a spouse is not always because you are being irrational. However being able to feel a certain way is not the same as having to express that same emotion.
Wait! Don’t we have a term for that……Oh, yeah: MERCY!
Please, do not read this as me telling you to not express feelings or emotions ever. But rather, hold your impulses, and be merciful. One way of allowing the communication to be more effective is to use your speech to reflect what the other has said. This serves two main purposes, to ensure to you and the spouse that you have correctly understood the other’s communication, and also, to allow your response to be more meaningful. Another quick tip, so to speak, is to consider your own feelings if you were in their “shoes”, once you have correctly reflected their feelings back to them.
Slow to Anger
All I feel the need to address about this final point is: if you are being slow to speak, be slower to anger. That is to say, that if you are going to hold your tongue on certain feelings, be twice as eager to not show anger. Again, even if you feel you are in the right to do so.
A lot of stress and frustration can be cleared up when we show mercy to one another. Express the importance of the other person’s feelings, while often forfeiting your own right to feel a certain way.