These are hurtful words:
"Why didn't you pick up something for dinner?"
"Can't you help with the kids?"
"You don't have to play on the computer again, do you?"
"You never accept anything I say?"
"Why are you always so critical of me?"
One stinging, critical phrase leads to a defensive, stinging retort. The fight is on. The fight actually never stopped. There was simply a break in the action. Going to work can sometimes feel like a reprieve from the verbal violence that occurs regularly in the home. If this sounds familiar, don't feel alone. Millions of other couples slip into this kind of derogatory, disrespectful language. Christian couples, praying couples, Bible-reading couples fall into this terrible pattern of interacting.
Ephesians 4:29: "Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth…."
First, take responsibility for your words. Understand that every word you say to your mate either builds them up, or tears them down. Every attitude you bring in the door of your home either is uplifting, or degrading. Watch how you communicate and be open to feedback about what kind of language you use in your marriage.
Second, every couple has communication challenges. You're not alone. Even the most well-adjusted couple on the planet must work at healthy communication. We often portray our best front to friends and family, but behind the scenes we become lax and relate in destructive ways.
Third, marriage has unique challenges. It never comes naturally. We can never completely relax, especially in our marriage. Marriage is where the real challenge of healthy relating takes place. Marriage contains challenges not found with friends or the workplace.
Fourth, it takes significant effort, and practice, to learn healthy communication skills. They usually cannot be fully mastered by reading a book or attending a few counseling sessions. Many need marriage counseling, where you sit with a coach/ counselor who watches your interactions closely and helps you understand where you are making mistakes.
Fifth, even after learning communication and conflict resolution skills, you need to practice, practice and practice them some more. Don't get discouraged as you struggle to discover a new way of relating. Like learning a foreign language, or any new skill, it won't necessarily come easy. Don't give up.
Sixth, one person, changing their response, can alter the pattern of communication. You can decide not to engage in a verbal battle. You can refuse to offer a defensive retort. You can choose to offer encouraging words that build your mate up. You can insist on ongoing couples counseling.
Finally, pray for God's guidance. The Holy Spirit is our greatest counselor, and will guide us into truth. Be prepared for conviction as the Counselor reveals areas needing change. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16: 13) Pray that the Holy Spirit reveals words that must be changed.
FLO Ministry Team