Do you know a couple, who you can say, has had a successful marriage? What are the things you have observed about them that could be responsible for the success of their marriage?

There are always many things that people blame for alienation separation and divorce in marriage today. People often blame lack of money, sexual incompatibility, children, family pressures, and temperamental differences as common triggers of marital problems. Small irritations quickly grow unless they are dealt with immediately. Situations that could be resolved with a little time and effort become huge and form barriers that seem surmountable. However, when couples have learned to communicate about little things in life, they are better equipped to face the bigger issues together. This lesson focuses on how couples can communicate effectively with each other.

The Place of Communication in Spousal Relationship

A husband and his wife should be the best of friends. What distinguishes such friendships from other relationships is the sharing of deep thoughts and complete self-disclosure that exist in their communication. It is the type that existed between Jesus and His disciples, where everything is laid bare.“…I have made known to everything I heard from my father”(John 15:15). As sex in marriage promotes physical and emotional intimacy, communication promotes relational intimacy.

Thus, effective spousal communication plays a very vital role in every successful marriage. Great communication promotes great intimacy in all areas of marriage. When a couple enjoys open and honest communication, they demonstrate real love for each other. They gaze into each other’s eyes and express their feelings in a hundred smiles, glances, touches, and whispers. They are locked in their world held together by the bond of marriage. They identify with each other’s joys and pains, they understand things from the other’s perspective, and they walk in each other’s shoes. Effective communication is not only beneficial to the couple but also to the entire family.

Do you think it is right for couples to keep certain secrets from each other? How can this affect the spousal communication?

Factors that Enhance Effective Spousal Communication

No child is born talking; we all learn to talk over time. So it is not only possible but also important that couples make a deliberate effort to learn skills for improving the effectiveness of their communication. Here are four elements of effective communication that can be great, if couples pay attention to them.

The Content: This has to do with what to say. We need to watch the kind of things we say when talking with our spouses. Some people are very insensitive about what they say. This teaches us to avoid unwholesome words that tear others down in our communication; “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what helps build others up according to their needs, that It may benefit those who listen here this(Ephesians 4:29). If there is any relationship instruction is most needed, it is in marriage. Couples should always aim at speaking words that help build each other up. This does not mean flattering or avoiding telling the truth. In Ephesians 4:15, we are instructed to speak the truth in love. If friendship and love are to grow between couples, there must be honest mutual revelation and down-to-earth openness. A relationship that is built on deception and lies cannot last. At times, couples have to tell each other difficult things. Marriage is not just about sharing our bodies, it also involves opening up our minds. We start communicating when we share ideas, opinions, decisions, dreams, joys, hopes, and fears.

Delivery: This has to do with how to say what we have to say. Delivery is very important to effective spousal communication. Bad delivery can kill the impact good content is intended to make. Delivery involves the approach we use to communicate our message. It covers all aspects of verbal and non-verbal communication cues-which include tone of voice, facial expression, posture, touch, gestures, eye contact, and spatial distance. At times, we may not mean to hurt our partner by what we say, but the way we say it might result in disagreement and rancor. It is important and helpful to speak lovingly with our spouses; we must learn to speak in a gentle tone of voice, our faces showing that we are interested in the conversation, with appropriate eye contact, touch, posture, and welcoming gestures.

Setting: This has to do with where we say what we have to say. It requires being sensitive to the effect our conversation can have on our spouse based on where we choose to talk with them. It may not be bad to correct our spouses for doing a wrong thing, but doing so in the presence of friends, children, or in-laws would amount to demeaning them in the presence of others. Some issues are best discussed in the bedroom when it is just you and your spouse. At times, it might mean going out together to a special place, where you are relaxed and away from distractions. Choosing the appropriate settings to deliver our messages requires self-control and discipline. It means restraining from talking whenever and wherever but rather waiting for the most appropriate place. It is a sign that we are sensitive and considerate of each other.

Timing: This has to do with when we say what we have to say. We may have wonderful content and deliver it in the most appropriate setting but still fail to achieve the intended purpose because the timing is wrong, Timing requires that we know our spouses well and that we are abreast with all that is going on in their lives at any given moment. Be sensitive to emotions. Do not speak when you or your spouse is upset. Wait until you have thought about the situation and decided the best course of action. Do not start a discussion on a very serious issue late in the night when the two of you are tired or straight after an angry exchange. Calm down and consider whether you need to apologize before talking.

What other things can couples do to strengthen their communication?

Common Blockages to Effective Spousal Communication

Sometimes, couples allow bad attitudes or unkind words to block their line of communication. Drastic action is required to remove such blockages before they cause emotional outbursts, anger, or interruptions in the relationship. David and Janet Cunningham, in their book, Enjoy Your Marriage, identified some ways couples relate with each other that are potential barriers to effective spousal communication and should be avoided: talking too much, talking too little, talking too loudly, whispering, criticizing, complaining, abusive talk, negative talk, evasion, nagging, digging up the past,over-reaction, lack of response, dogmatic assertions, sarcastic statements, aggressive questions, too many questions, and notaccepting responsibility.

If your partner decides that she will not talk to you because she is angry with you, what can you do to open the communication line again?

Maintaining good and healthy communication is not always easy for both husband and wife but it is the dynamic that holds the relationship together. It is, therefore, important that couples get rid of everything that can hinder effective communication between them. Couples must also understand their differences in age, temperaments, education, socio-economic background, and other such issues that affect their communication and make necessary adjustments to accommodate such differences. Effective spousal communication is the secret of a happy marriage.

Prayer: Ask that God will help spouses to speak words that bring unity, oneness, and peace to their home, in Jesus’ name.

Post-Group Activity: Share some of the ideas of this lesson with a couple you know are not relating well with each other this week.