For communication to work in any relationship, both members must abide by certain rules. There is a right and wrong way to communicate with each other, and over the years it has become clear to me that, while healthy communication can strengthen a marriage, poor communication can destroy it.
One of the top communication skills that must be learned in a healthy marriage is the ability to speak in a caring tone.
Early in our marriage, I had a horrible time controlling my mouth. Often, Karen would try to communicate a problem to me, and I would immediately begin to argue. I would discount her concerns and lecture her about why she was wrong.
I was more interested in winning the argument than understanding her side of the story.
When it came to communicating my thoughts, I was a pro. I would have made a great lawyer. But I knew almost nothing about listening.
After God began restoring our marriage, it became clear that this was one area of my life that had to change. I had to learn to control my tone, my argumentative words, and my compulsion to always be right.
It was harder than I expected. Even when I’d begun listening more to Karen and was trying to work things out, the way I spoke giving her another impression. She kept saying, “I wish I could record the way you talk to me. Then you’d see why I don’t feel like you’re listening.”
During that period—as has happened many times in my life—I became convicted by the words of Ephesians 5, in which husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loves the church. In that passage, verse 26 says that God uses this Christlike love to “make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”As I read, God gave me two visions. In one, Jesus was gently scooping handfuls of water over my head, with great kindness and patience. In the other, I was spraying Karen with a fire hose. She was cowering beneath the force of the water.
I finally understood what she had been trying to tell me. My attempts to “wash” Karen were hurting her. I may have been speaking truth—and I may have intended my words to be loving—but my tone was far too forceful.
Those two visions forever changed the way I talk to Karen. After that point, when we needed to discuss something, I used a quieter voice rather than repeating things multiple times and hammering her with my words. I spoke kindly. I said what I needed to say and then let the matter drop.
Karen noticed. The gentle way I had begun talking to her stood out so starkly against my previous communication that she couldn’t help but see and respond to the change.
It confirmed to me just how much my tone must have been bothering her—and I hadn’t even realized it was happening.
In marriage, how we talk to each other is just as important as the content of what we’re trying to say. A loving and caring tone is the first and most critical step when learning how to communicate effectively with your spouse.