In recent weeks, we’ve discussed skills for healthy communication between husbands and wives. These are: speaking in a caring tone, frequent communication, and intimate communication. Another vital skill is honest communication.
An atmosphere of openness and honesty means each partner gives the other permission to pose any question or complaint—no matter how sensitive—without fear or intimidation.
I can’t tell you how many times, in a counseling situation, someone struggling in their marriage will open up to me about an important issue. I will then ask, “Have you talked to your spouse about this?”
The usual response: “Oh, no, I could never talk to them about this. They would be furious.”
Wives learn which issues are hot-button topics, and they steer clear so their husbands don’t fly off the handle. Husbands learn that certain subjects might make their wives withdraw emotionally or withhold sex.
I’ve heard Oprah Winfrey say, “You train people how to treat you,” and she’s right. But it’s not healthy. A marriage where some topics are off-limits is a marriage with barriers and walls. A walled-up marriage is a toxic marriage, marked by tension and insecurity.
Healthy communication is always open and safe. It is free of walls, hot buttons, or sensitive issues. It is saying to your spouse, “No topic is off-limits. You can tell me anything, and I promise not to hold it against you.”
This kind of marriage doesn’t just allow honesty, but seeks it out. In a healthy marriage, a wife knows her husband offers her a safe place to speak anything on her mind without judging or belittling her. And husbands enjoy the same freedom with their wives.
Karen knows I would never hurt her feelings on purpose, but there have definitely been times when something I’ve said has upset her. When that happens, she knows I want her to tell me about it. When she speaks this truth, she never attacks me personally.
Instead, she’ll say something like, “Jimmy, when we were running late yesterday and you kept asking me to hurry, I know you weren’t trying to be harsh or sound angry, but that’s how I took it. It hurt my feelings. I just wanted to let you know that.”
This is what it means to speak the truth in love. It means learning to be honest without attacking. It means choosing your words carefully before saying them. It means checking your motives before speaking your mind.
“…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15).