After dinner a few weeks ago, my wife graciously and privately pointed out that I tend to quickly devour my food without engaging the family as much as I should during the meal. I immediately replied by reminding her of the specific questions I asked the kids during dinner that night. I also described other ways I often engage the family before and after the meal, challenging her perspective before resting my case that I am indeed a paragon of thoughtful and selfless family engagement.
The whole situation demonstrated doubly that I have a communication problem: First, in how I interact at the dinner table, and second, how I respond when my wife shares input.
I am not alone in my communication problem in marriage. Whether your marriage is happy or hurting, every couple needs help communicating. How can we speak in ways that fit the occasion? How can we build up and give grace with our words, rather than tear down? How can we honor God in response to the weaknesses and sins of our spouse, or in the midst of conflict?
Rob Flood is a fellow pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church and a good friend. Many marriages in our church, including my own marriage, have benefited from his counsel over the years. Rob has written an excellent guide for communication in marriage called, With These Words: Five Communication Tools For Marriage and Life. I found the book so helpful that I gave a copy to each couple in our church family, as a way to strategically invest in marriages.
The book is shorter than most books on marriage, making it ideal for use in counseling and pastoral care. Each chapter has questions for discussion and reflection. Rob’s goal is not to set out a comprehensive understanding of marriage—there are other books that accomplish that goal. The unique value of With These Words is its focus on practical application and life change in communication. The case studies and stories throughout the book connect God’s truth to our marriages.
The five tools presented in the book are 1) First response (How to respond to sin and weakness in your spouse), 2) Prayer, 3) Physical touch, 4) Mirroring (Repeating in your own words what you understand your spouse to be saying), and 5) Proper timing.
There is much wisdom to be found in each chapter. For the couple experiencing conflict, Rob explains that “The course of a conflict is determined by the person who responds, not the one who initiates” (60). For the busy couple not communicating sufficiently, Rob encourages scheduling conversation: “Couples who don’t plan to communicate are not going to communicate well” (104). For the couple fixated on each others weaknesses and sins, Rob says that in order to honor the Lord in marriage and grow as God intends, “you will need to make Christ your goal, not fixing or judging or adjusting your spouse” (140).
If you feel distant from your spouse because of poor communication, you are not alone. If you have lost hope of improving communication with you spouse, don’t give up. If you, like me, have a communication problem and desire to grow, this book is for you. The gospel provides hope for power and change. Christ makes unity and closeness in marriage available as we humble ourselves, seek his glory, and apply God’s word. Do your marriage a favor and read this book.