“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
The idea of treating others the way we want to be treated sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? And yet, nowhere in life is this more tested than in marriage. To the person we’ve entered into covenant with, the idea of loving, honoring and cherishing them with our words as well as our actions sometimes becomes challenging.
We struggle to control our tongues, and instead, we can succumb to the temptation to lash out when difficulties arise or life becomes hectic. One sharp response leads to another and then another. Before long, we’ve developed a habit that brings only anger, pain and sadness. If you want to improve your marriage so it reflects a more loving and kind communication style, then here are seven tips to get you started.
1. Respond in Love, Not Anger
The enemy loves to stir up strife, and one of the best ways to do that is to entice you to give in to anger. Proverbs 14:29 wisely tells us, “People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.” Foolishness has no place in our marriages. That’s not to say that we can’t address issues that need addressing or speak our minds. In fact, it’s dangerous to the health of our marriages if we don’t, but when we address issues, we should do so in love, not in anger. Our goal should never be to punish or cause pain, but rather, to bridge our differences and bring about godly understanding.
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2. Believe the Best
As spouses, we play unique roles in the life of our mates—as encouragers, truth-tellers and prayer warriors, just to name a few. Our spouses need us in their corner. They need us to believe that they are doing their best at work and at home. Their best may fall short of perfection, but everyone’s does, even our own. Instead of expecting the worst, anticipating their shortcomings, or worse, throwing their shortcomings up in their face, we can stand in faith believing that they are doing all they can to be the best possible spouses and parents. It’s one more way we can live out the Golden Rule.
3. Forgive… Completely
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). Marriage will absolutely give us chances to practice walking in forgiveness. If we have truly forgiven our spouses of their shortcomings and mistakes, then we won’t return to former wounds when we have an argument. No, if we forgive, then we will put the incident in the past and refuse to dwell on it. And when that incident comes to our minds, instead of dwelling on it or giving the enemy a foothold in our marriage, we can proclaim, “I have forgiven that, and I refuse to dwell on it. I plead the blood of Jesus over that memory and that offense, and I make the quality decision by faith to put it behind me.”
4. Speak Kindly to Your Spouse
As believers, we know there is power in the words we speak. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the words we speak “can bring death or life” (Proverbs 18:21). In relation to our spouses, our words can either build them up so that they can effectively accomplish God’s plan for their lives, or our words can tear them down. We must recognize that we wield an immense power in their lives. Therefore, we should speak kindly when we talk to them and refuse to give into flippant, hurtful, accusatory or even sarcastic words.
5. Speak Kindly About Your Spouse
Just as important as it is for us to speak kindly to our spouses, it’s equally important to speak kindly about them. How we speak about them will affect how we and others perceive them. If we want others to love and respect our spouses as much as we do, we must commit to speaking kindly and respectfully about them.
6. Communicate Openly and Honestly
Good communication is key in marriage, but it doesn’t always come naturally. If you need help learning how to communicate effectively—with kindness, openness and honesty—then you should find a marriage seminar through your local church, meet with a Spirit-led counselor to help you learn, or find a respected mentor to encourage you.
7. Disagree Honorably
Disagreements will happen in marriage. It’s simply part of two people living together for any length of time. However, those disagreements don’t have to become abusive or destructive. No, we can disagree honorably and openly by addressing our points of view without succumbing to destructive accusations. We can eliminate words like always and never from our communication. For instance, we can avoid saying things like, “You never spend time with my family,” “You never stick to our budget,” “You’re always late,” or “You’re always critical of the kids!” A good Spirit-led counselor can assist us in learning how to disagree honorably, thus strengthening our marriages instead of weakening them.