All of the problems that are listed among the top reasons for divorce could potentially be solved if people were willing to communicate with one another. In general, people are not as discordant in their views as one might expect in Christian counseling situations.  In all types of communication, there are various things to consider and different factors that can influence how well people can communicate.  Marriage is of no exception.  For a while, let us consider some suggestions that might help people to communicate with their spouses and other people better.

Avoid assigning nefarious motives to communications.  We must learn to be honest with one another and take each other at face value.  2 Corinthians 8:21 says, “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”  While we may have an idea of what our spouse is thinking, we should avoid jumping to conclusions about what they are saying.  We must allow others to fully express themselves and take them for what they say.  On the flip side, telling lies in a marriage nearly makes it impossible to avoid assigning motives.

Avoid making all communications and deeds negative in nature; especially when the intention is pure and good in nature.  Have you ever heard the old cliché “If you ever start to dislike something about someone, pretty soon you won’t like anything about them!”  There is a modicum of truth to this statement.  John 7.24 says, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”  If you are having a disagreement with someone, do not assume that all they have to offer is bad.

Avoid dealing with multiple conflictual issues at one time.  When one attempts to offer all of his grievances at once, the person he is speaking with can become confused and overwhelmed.  This can cloud the real issue of conflict under consideration.  We should avoid being continually contentious in our communications.  Proverbs 21:19 says, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”   This same principle is applied to men in Proverbs 26:21, which says, “As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”

Avoid pulling additional parties (i.e. children, in-laws, and friends) into conflictual situations.  Marriage is a leaving and cleaving institution. It is not healthy for a married person to work at making allies against their spouse in marital conflict; especially if that ally is a member of their family. This can result in more anger and embarrassment for the one who has a coalition formed against him. Matthew 19:5-6 says, “And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” The primary unit in a family is the husband and wife.  No person should become an interloper in that God authorized union.

Avoid having major arguments in front of children.  Small disagreements are okay for children to overhear, because they need to learn how parents work through their problems.  Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  Major or mature topics (such as sex) should never be aired out in front of children.

Avoid interpreting “neutral” issues as negatives.  There are areas of conflict that have no overarching importance.  That is, they boil down to a matter of preferences or opinions.

Avoid personal attacks when discussing grievances.  It is possible to disagree with someone without being disagreeable.  As a marriage and family counselor, I have heard people say things to one another that most would never consider saying to a complete stranger.  Treat your mate with respect, love, and dignity.  Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

Avoid having arguments in public.  This can be very embarrassing for one who is being berated in a public setting.  This would include social media pages such as Facebook.  We should never be willing to air out our dirty laundry in public.

Avoid allowing you anger to linger for a long period of time.  We are told in scripture to avoid this very thing in all manners of communication.  Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”  One characteristic of a strong marriage is that they work out their problems at the earliest possible convenience.  Allowing the conflict to go on unresolved can present greater problems for couples later on in the marriage.

Finally, never, never, never hit one another in the middle of a heated argument.  This goes for men and women.  Ephesians 5:28-29 says, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.”  There is never an excuse for striking or pushing one’s mate.  As mature human beings, we should be able to work out our differences without reverting to violence.

Communication is the key to solving many if not all of the problems in a marriage.  If couples will attempt to talk about the issues that separate them, greater harmony, acceptance and love can be developed in the relationship.

By Dr. Johnny O. Trail, MFT