When my husband and I were dating I was a single mom with three kids ages five and under; my youngest at the time was less than a year. As we moved closer to considering marriage I knew that at some point he’d want to know what to expect in regard to my cooking skills. No, I’m not from the ’50’s, but it’s important to know if either person has the ability to cook. Food is, after all, an important staple for survival. I invited him to dinner. Making Brent a home-cooked meal was no simple task, not because of my cooking skills, but because I needed to tidy the house, grocery shop, wrangle three young kids, and serve an unforgettable made-from-scratch feast.
I accepted the task set before me and jumped in feet first. Grocery shopping for dinner, check. House clean, check. Kids clean, check. Table ready, check. Now to make the meal. I chose to highlight my Italian heritage and serve lasagna with my own made-from-scratch (nothing came out of a can or jar except the olives and all ingredients are fresh) sauce that takes hours to prepare. This is a signature meal of mine and has never let me down.
As the sauce simmered and the aroma filled the air I prepared the noodles and the additional ingredients including all of the fancy cheeses. Once finished I put the lasagna together and set it to bake. Meanwhile, I assembled the salad, steamed the asparagus, poured the Chianti (just for the adults of course), and warmed the bread. Yes, I purchased the bread because let’s face it I didn’t want to set the bar too high for future meals.
Brent arrived with his appetite and charm in full. This meal was made with a lot of love and time. It was an all-day process. I enjoy cooking and it’s something I am good at. I wanted to give him a meal he’d savor and remember. I wanted him to know that even though I don’t cook like this all of the time, the option is always available. For me, this meal was a big deal and I wanted him to love my cooking abilities, and me.
While the baby slept we sat down to savor the mouth-watering meal at the dining table, which I even put a tablecloth on, and gave thanks to Jesus for the food and company. I watched intently as Brent took his first bite. His facial expressions left me perplexed so I asked him how he liked it and his response was less than terrible. I’ll admit that I had high hopes for how he’d respond to the lasagna. He simply stated in a bachelor-esque manner, “It’s good.” That’s it. “It’s good” was all he had to say before taking another bite. In that moment I made a mental note to never make him lasagna again, not out of spite, but because I didn’t want to make him something that took so much effort for him to not enjoy it.
Over ten years later we laugh at this memory and I still have not made lasagna since. Come to find out he loved my lasagna. The issue was that he failed to communicate it in a way that I could receive his true heart and I failed to alter my expectations of his response. Maybe, someday I’ll make him lasagna again.
Communication in marriage can be a daunting topic to tackle, but it is a vital part of a healthy and gospel-centered marriage. The way in which we communicate with our spouse not only reveals our heart, but in time can eat away at our marriage foundation if it is not rooted in the gospel.
Here are three suggestions to help you begin healthy communication within your marriage.
1. Love: As sinful beings, selfishness and self-centeredness seem to come naturally to all of us. When we get married we bring the baggage of selfishness into our marriage. Our goal in marriage then becomes about us and how we can serve ourselves rather than our spouse. With that, we are then failing to communicate a gospel-centered love to our spouse.
Philippians 2:1-5 directs us to set ourselves and our desires aside, focus on delivering love and putting others, such as our spouse, before ourselves. The greatest example of this is the gospel as it was lived out by Jesus Christ as he set aside himself, took the humble form of a servant, and bore each of our sins on the cross, to the point of his death. We need to love our spouse as Christ loves us.
2. Listen: Another aspect of loving our spouse is to listen well to what they are sharing, just as God listens to us (Isaiah 65:24). The language of our spouse will come to us in a number of ways, not just with voice, but in body language and behavior as well. It is imperative that we not just physically hear their words or interpret their body language. but that we truly pay attention to what they are conveying to us.
Listening is not thinking about what we want to say in response, but focusing on what they are striving to show us is in their heart. We need to be ready to serve the needs of our spouse, but we will not know what those needs are if we fail to listen. Failure to listen is one of the biggest issues in marriages. Wouldn’t it be glorious if in your marriage you were able to make it one of your greatest strengths!
3. Language: While there are a number of methods we can use to communicate our words are often the most impactful. Whether they are encouraging words delivered in love or the cutting and wicked words used like a sword to cut down anyone in our path; our words leave a lasting and deep impression. The question is, do you want your words to leave a deep wound or do you want your spouse to reflect upon the word impressions and receive encouragement and gospel-centered love? When the words we choose are wounding, our spouse will begin to withdraw and not share their heart, which is the opposite of what God desires in marriage (Genesis 2:25).
It is important that we also understand that silence can leave deep wounds and communicates to our spouse that we are apathetic to what they are sharing. We have a choice in the words and tone we use towards our spouse. Ephesians 4:29 is a great example as to how we are to speak; we are to have encouraging words to build up. Proverbs 16:24 tells us how sweet and healthy uplifting words are for our body. Those are just a few examples from scripture on how we are to speak to one another.
While these are just three ways to communicate beneficially within marriage they do cover the most ground. They help to address some of the larger root issues that creep into marriage waging war on the gospel-centered marriage foundation.
1. What is your responsibility in how your spouse is feeling?
2. Do you know what style of communication best reaches your spouse?
3. How can you pray for your spouse?
4. In what ways can you better serve your spouse?
5. Of these three points, love, listen, and language, which do you struggle with the most?
1. Plan a bi-weekly date with the objective of communicating; therefore plan for something that is conducive to conversation.
2. Have a time each day to sit and discuss your day in detail.
3. Make get-aways a priority; semi-annual is a great start.
4. Worship together.
5. Set goals and have fun together.
6. Be more intentional about encouraging your spouse in conversation and in written word.