How to Communicate Better With Your Spouse

The keys to good communication with your spouse are tone, timing and technique. Here’s how they work together.

You may know what you are talking about, but does your spouse know what you are talking about?

It’s a pretty sobering question if you really ponder it. All too often, I take for granted—because of our 20 years of marriage—that Anne is just going to get what I’m saying. Not necessarily true.

In fact, there is are more assaults on marriage through “assumptive communication.” That simply means that I believe my spouse understands everything I’ve been conveying. And if there is a misunderstanding, it’s probably her fault as I feel that I was clear enough with what I said. So instead of reviewing the “how” of my approach, I keep talking and talking, waiting for her to “get it.”

More talking doesn’t mean better talking. Sometimes there is so much information given that your spouse cannot digest what just came out of your mouth and your heart. Quality trumps quantity in communication. Think of it like the difference between going to buffet and a having a quality meal. You’ll walk way from a buffet feeling full but unable to digest the copious amounts of food, saying to yourself, “I’m not sure what I ate, but I’m full.” Now look at a good planned-out meal. You’ll have the proper portions based on the palate of the person(s) present. Not only will those eating enjoy the meal, but they’ll be able to digest what was presented (served).

1. Quality communication is intentional; it doesn’t just happen.

Our communication has to go beyond information to strategy. So often I bring up the “3 T’s” of communication (time, tone, technique). Why? Because it is how you and I can intentionally convey what’s on our heart to share. Without that approach, we can feel like we communicated to our spouse, not realizing, perhaps, that our tone destroyed our message or that our timing undermined our intention or that our technique misconstrued our heart.

In trigonometry and geometry, triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by forming triangles to it from known points. What we can do with our communication is to triangulate the communication “sweet spot” by making sure all of our information is strategically approached. Doing this is an act of stewardship. God has given us a voice as a gift and we have a responsibility to steward/manage that gift.

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2. Quality communication necessitates a lifetime of adjustment.

It’d be fine if we, or the person we are married to, didn’t change. But we all do. My oldest is 18 and just completed her freshman year of college. I don’t talk to her the same way I did back in 1999. Why? It sounds overly obvious to say she’s older, at a different maturity level of comprehension and in a drastically different season of life than she was when she was first born.

Why is it we are able to adapt to children and their “seasons” but we don’t allow those adjustments with adults—specifically, our spouse? I think it’s potentially because we disassociate the idea of growth from adulthood. You may not be growing “upward” any longer, but you can grow deeper. And it is incredibly difficult for the marriage to grow deeper if you are unwilling to adjust how you communicate to your spouse.

When you weigh the amount of time and effort needed to recoup from miscommunication, to forgive faults and heal from misunderstandings, it really is beneficial in every way to approach your communication in a healthy way.

I think of any athlete approaching game day based on the conditions they’re playing in. Rain, wind and bright sunshine are all taken into consideration before they engage in their activity. Why? The conditions can dramatically affect the results. The same throwing motion in two different conditions can produce different outcomes because of the circumstances at hand.

Sounds like a lot more work doesn’t it? Actually it isn’t. When you weigh the amount of time and effort needed to recoup from miscommunication, to forgive faults and heal from misunderstandings, it really is beneficial in every way to approach your communication in a healthy way. Intentionally communicating and adjusting to the time and seasons of life actually is much less work and more effective in allowing your marriage to grow deeper and aiding in seeing a greater level of joy between you two.

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What do you need to start or stop doing in your communication? How can you approach each other in a way that limits miscommunication? Talk to each other about it. Share with your spouse how you plan on being more strategic with your communication.

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Dave Barringer (@PDBarringer) is the lead pastor at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God in Portage, Michigan, and the author of Mosaic Marriage. He blogs about pastoring and marriage at