“As apples of gold in silver carvings is a word spoken at the right time for it.”—PROV. 25:11.
1. How has good communication helped marriages?
“I WOULD rather spend time with my wife than with anyone else,” said a brother in Canada. “Any happiness in life is multiplied and any pain is halved when I share it with her.” A husband in Australia wrote: “In our 11 years together, not one day has passed when I have not spoken with my wife. She and I have no insecurities or concerns about the strength of our marriage. Frequent and meaningful communication is a prime reason for this.” A sister in Costa Rica stated: “Good communication has not only enriched our marriage; it has drawn us closer to Jehovah, protected us from temptations, united us as a couple, and made our love grow.”
2. What factors can work against good communication?
2 Do you and your spouse enjoy pleasant communication, or do you find meaningful conversation to be a challenge? Understandably, difficult situations may arise, for marriage unites two imperfect people who have different personalities, including traits that reflect their culture and upbringing. (Rom. 3:23) Moreover, a couple may have different communication styles. It is not without reason that marriage researchers John M. Gottman and Nan Silver state: “It takes courage, determination, and resiliency to maintain a long-lasting relationship.”
3. What has helped couples to strengthen their marriage?
3 A successful marriage is, indeed, the product of hard work. But the results include immeasurable happiness. Mates who love each other can truly enjoy their life together. (Eccl. 9:9) Consider the loving marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. (Gen. 24:67) Even after they had spent some time together as husband and wife, there is no indication that their affection for each other had waned. The same can be said of many couples today. Their secret? They have learned to convey their thoughts and feelings to each other honestly, yet kindly, by cultivating and displaying insight, love, deep respect, and humility. As we shall now see, when these fundamental qualities characterize a marriage, the lines of communication are always open.
4, 5. How can insight help a married couple to understand each other more fully? Give examples.
4 “He that is showing insight in a matter will find good,” says Proverbs 16:20. That certainly is true in connection with marriage and family life. (Read Proverbs 24:3.) The best source of insight and wisdom is God’s Word. Genesis 2:18 tells us that God made the woman to be a complement to the man, not a copy of him. Her role is reflected in the way she communicates. Of course, individuals vary, but women generally like to talk about their feelings, people, and relationships. They appreciate warm, intimate communication, for it reassures them that they are loved. On the other hand, many men are less inclined to discuss their feelings and are more likely to talk about activities, problems, and solutions. And men desire to be respected.
5 “My husband wants to solve problems quickly rather than hear me out,” remarked a sister in Britain. “This can be really frustrating, when all I want is ‘tea and sympathy.’” A husband wrote: “When my wife and I were first married, my tendency was to find a quick solution to whatever problem she had. However, I soon learned that what she really wanted was a listening ear.” (Prov. 18:13; Jas. 1:19) An insightful husband takes note of his wife’s feelings and tries to adapt his approach accordingly. At the same time, he reassures her that her thoughts and feelings are important to him. (1 Pet. 3:7) In turn, she tries to understand his viewpoint. When a husband and wife understand, appreciate, and fulfill their Scriptural roles, their union is a thing of beauty. Moreover, they are able to work together in making and carrying out wise and balanced decisions.
6, 7. (a) In what way can the principle found at Ecclesiastes 3:7 help marriage mates to show insight? (b) How can a wife show discernment, and what effort should a husband make?
6 An insightful couple also know that there is “a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Eccl. 3:1, 7) “I now realize that there are times when raising an issue is not appropriate,” observed a sister who has been married for ten years. “If my husband is overwhelmed with work or other responsibilities, I let a little time pass before I raise certain matters. Our conversations are much smoother as a result.” Discerning wives also speak graciously, aware that a well-chosen word “spoken at the right time for it” is both appealing and appreciated.—Read Proverbs 25:11.
7 A Christian husband should do his part not only by listening to what his wife says but also by striving to express his own feelings clearly. An elder who has been married for 27 years said: “I have to work at telling my wife what is deep in my heart.” A brother who has been married for 24 years observed: “I can bottle things up, thinking, ‘If I don’t talk about this issue, it will go away.’ Yet, I have come to realize that it is not a sign of weakness to show my feelings. When I struggle to express myself, I pray for the right words to say and the right way to say them. Then I take a deep breath and start talking.” Also helpful is the right setting, perhaps when the couple are alone considering the day’s text or reading the Bible together.
8. In making their marriage a success, what added motivation do Christian couples have?
8 Important for both husband and wife are prayer and a strong desire to improve their communication skills. To be sure, it can be hard to change old ways. But when a couple love Jehovah, ask for his spirit, and view their union as sacred, they have the kind of motivation that many lack. A wife of 26 years wrote: “My husband and I take Jehovah’s view of marriage seriously, so we do not even consider separation. This makes us work harder to resolve problems by discussing them together.” Such loyalty and godly devotion please God and result in his rich blessing.—Ps. 127:1.
GROW IN LOVE
9, 10. In what practical ways can a couple strengthen their bond of love?
9 Love, “a perfect bond of union,” is the most important quality in a marriage. (Col. 3:14) Genuine love grows as a loyal couple experience life together, with its joys and challenges. They become even closer friends and cherish each other’s company. Such marriages are nourished, not by just a few great deeds, as portrayed in the media, but by countless smaller acts—a hug, a kind remark, a thoughtful gesture, a telling smile, or a sincere “how was your day?” These little things can make a big difference in a marriage. One couple who have been happily married for 19 years phone or text each other during the day “just to see how things are going,” the husband said.
10 Love also impels a couple to continue learning about each other. (Phil. 2:4) In turn, such knowledge makes their love grow even stronger despite their imperfections. A successful marriage is not static but grows richer and stronger with time. So if you are married, ask yourself: ‘How well do I know my mate? Do I understand his or her feelings and thoughts on matters? How often do I think about my spouse, perhaps reflecting on the qualities that attracted me to him or her in the first place?’
11. Why is respect vital to a successful marriage? Illustrate.
11 Even the happiest marriages are not perfect unions, and a loving couple may not always see eye to eye. Abraham and Sarah did not always agree with each other. (Gen. 21:9-11) Yet, their differences did not drive a wedge between them. Why not? They treated each other with dignity and respect. For instance, Abraham said “please” to Sarah. (Gen. 12:11, 13) She, on the other hand, obeyed Abraham and thought of him as her “lord.” (Gen. 18:12) When a couple lack respect for each other, this usually becomes evident in their pattern of speech or tone of voice. (Prov. 12:18) If they do not address the underlying problem, their marriage may be headed for tragedy.—Read James 3:7-10, 17, 18.
12. Why should newlyweds work especially hard to cultivate respectful speech?
12 Newlyweds should work especially hard to speak kindly and respectfully to each other, thus creating an atmosphere of free and honest communication. “The first years of marriage, while being joyful, can sometimes be frustrating,” a husband recalled. “As you come to terms with your wife’s feelings, habits, and needs—and she with yours—things can get a bit wobbly! However, it will stand you both in good stead if you have a reasonable approach, a sense of humor, and the stabilizing qualities of humility, patience, and reliance on Jehovah.” How true!
DISPLAY GENUINE HUMILITY
13. Why is humility a vital factor in a healthy, happy marriage?
13 Good communication within marriage is like a stream that flows gently and peacefully through a garden. Being “humble in mind” plays a key role in keeping that stream flowing. (1 Pet. 3:8) “Humility is the quickest route to resolve a difference because it moves you to say, ‘I’m sorry,’” noted a brother who has been married for 11 years. Happily married for 20 years, an elder commented: “Sometimes the words ‘I’m sorry’ are more important than ‘I love you.’” He added: “One of the quickest shortcuts to humility is prayer. When my wife and I approach Jehovah together, we are reminded of our imperfection and God’s undeserved kindness. That subtle reminder helps me put things in proper perspective.”
14. How can pride affect a marriage?
14 Pride, however, is anything but conciliatory. It stifles communication because it takes away both the desire and the courage to apologize. Instead of humbly saying, “I’m sorry; please forgive me,” the proud person makes excuses. Rather than courageously acknowledging a weakness, he points to faults in the other person. When hurt, instead of pursuing peace, he takes offense, perhaps retaliating with harsh words or icy silence. (Eccl. 7:9) Yes, pride can be lethal to a marriage. It is good to remember that “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—Jas. 4:6.
15. Explain how applying the principle found at Ephesians 4:26, 27 can help a married couple deal with differences that may arise between them.
15 Of course, it would be naive to think that pride will never surface. We need to recognize it and address it promptly. Paul told fellow Christians: “Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state, neither allow place for the Devil.” (Eph. 4:26, 27) Failure to heed God’s Word can lead to needless distress. “On occasion, my husband and I have not applied Ephesians 4:26, 27,” lamented a sister. “The result has been some of the worst nights’ sleep I’ve ever had!” How much better it is to discuss matters right away with reconciliation as the goal! Of course, marriage mates may need to give each other a little time to cool down. It is also fitting to pray for Jehovah’s help to get in the right frame of mind. This includes having a humble spirit, which will help you to focus on the problem, not on yourself, lest you aggravate the situation.—Read Colossians 3:12, 13.
16. How can humility help a couple to see their individual strengths in the right light?
16 Humility and modesty help a married person focus on the strengths of his or her mate. To illustrate: A wife might have special talents that she uses for the benefit of the family. If her husband is humble and modest, he will not feel challenged by her but will encourage her to use her gifts, thus showing that he values and cherishes her. (Prov. 31:10, 28; Eph. 5:28, 29) At the same time, a humble and modest wife will not flaunt her abilities or belittle her husband. After all, the two of them are “one flesh,” and what hurts one hurts the other.—Matt. 19:4, 5.
17. What can help present-day marriages to be happy and a cause for praise to God?
17 No doubt you want your marriage to be like that of Abraham and Sarah or Isaac and Rebekah—truly happy, long-lasting, and a cause for praise to Jehovah. If so, cleave to God’s view of marriage. Look to his Word for insight and wisdom. Cultivate true love—“the flame of Jah”—by thinking appreciatively about your mate. (Song of Sol. 8:6) Work hard to develop humility. Treat your mate with respect. If you do these things, your marriage will bring joy to you and to your heavenly Father. (Prov. 27:11) Indeed, your feelings may well reflect those of a husband of 27 years, who wrote: “I cannot imagine life without my wife. Our marriage continues to grow stronger every day. This is because of our love for Jehovah and our regular communication with each other.”