Marriage Communication part 2 -- Becoming One
Years ago, when I was living in California for seminary, I was once driving down the 5 which is the main interstate in California, and suddenly my car started wobbling! It was so bad, I could hardly keep the car under control, and I immediately thought I must have blown a tire. I started to change lanes to get to the side of the road, and as I was looking around to be sure I could weave through the traffic, I could see that all the other drivers also had panicked looks on their faces, as their cars were wobbling too, That’s when I realized, we were having an earthquake.
Earthquakes are fairly common in California. Most earthquakes are classified as “inter-plate earthquakes”. Inter-plate earthquakes are when 2 tectonic plates crash into each other and exist as one new landmass. The San Andreas Fault is the most famous union of two tectonic plates, and as these two plates crush together, the ground sends out shockwaves that emanate for miles around.
That’s kind of like a marriage. Marriages are when 2 people come together as one. Genesis 2:24 says, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” And when a man leaves his parents and joins with his wife, that home starts out with two sets of goals, two sets of habits, sometimes two sets of dishes and sofas, and bed sheets, and computers, and all kinds of stuff! And because these two lives are coming together, someone’s stuff has to go. Maybe they get rid of his dishes and her sofa and only use his sheets for guests.
So much goes into the process of “two becoming one”, that there is room for all kinds of upheaval! How that couple handles the process of “becoming one”, has a huge impact on their marital happiness.
As I was finishing this sermon, I came across an article from Focus on the Family that pretty much summarized everything this entire sermon is saying about having homes that are not filled with earthquakes, as the two become one. According to Focus on the Family, there are six predictors of marital happiness: The first is a rich relationship of friendship, respect, affection and humor. In other words, they like each other, and they like being around each other. Second, at least five positive interactions for every time they have a negative one! They’re consistently nice to each other, and kind to each other. Third, when they’re talking, they give each other their full attention! Fourth, disagreements start out gentle before getting heated. Fifth, the husband accepts influence from his wife. And sixth, each spouse is aware of, and respects what their other spouse needs, likes, dislikes, and they know how their spouse is doing.
In many ways, that describes what it means to “become one” and this morning, we’re going to look at several passages about relationships, (these aren’t particularly “marriage passages”) but we’ll look at them through the lens of “marriage” and see several biblical principles that goes into bringing together two tectonic plates without creating massive earthquakes.
This is our fifth sermon in this series on marriage. We’ve probably got only a couple more to go. So far, we’ve seen that God designed marriage to glorify Him. He designed it to reflect His unity, the relationship within the Trinity, and Christ’s love for the church! So, marriages have a high purpose.
There’s also “work” for them to do! One of the things that Jesus wants to accomplish in our marriage is to make us more like Jesus (we’ll be unpacking that more today). Another thing that Jesus wants to accomplish in a marriage is to bring these two lives together in such a way that they join Him in His work that will last for eternity! And when we join Jesus in His work, He will give us the grace we need to transform our home into a place where He is glorified.
Last week we explained that our ability to fulfill God’s purposes in our home is often tied to our ability to have godly speech. We explained that godly speech comes from a desire to please God. It flows from a godly heart that rules our emotions so that we’re not constantly defiling our relationship with Christ.
We ended last week’s sermon asking the question about how to maintain these principles in the midst of disagreements? What do you do when you’re disagreeing about real, serious things? Often the answer is found in becoming like Christ and becoming one.
So, let’s pick up where we left off last week, and let’s talk about the kinds of friction every home, has as the two tectonic plates of husband and wife crash into one another! And so, the first point we need to understand is to reduce earthquakes in our home we need to learn to be considerate of one another.
Point #1 Be Considerate of one another
Please turn in your Bibles to Titus 3:1. Titus 3:1–2 says, "Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men." Most earthquakes occur because the tectonic plates are moving around. The weight and force of these movements creates massive upheaval that affects everyone and everything in that vicinity.
When earthquakes occur in marriages, it’s because two tectonic plates of life are crashing together, and each person has their way of doing things, that often, negatively affects the other! Maybe she like to drink coffee in the car and sometimes spills it. Maybe he likes to leave mail out on the kitchen counter! The habits of two lives becoming one usually affects the other person, and often in a negative way. How that couple handles those differences will determine how severe the earthquakes are in their marriage. Let’s talk about some inconsiderate ways we can handle the crashing together of these habits.
First, we might just ignore what our spouse wants. One spouse says, “Hey, can we not do that?” Maybe it’s not spilling coffee in the car, maybe it’s not leaving the mail on the counter; one spouse makes their desire known, the other spouse just ignores it and keep doing their own thing! That’s being inconsiderate!
Another way we can handle the friction is to use the issue to build a wall between the other spouse. One spouse will ask for some kind of change, like not leaving mail on the counter and later on, when she sees a pile of mail on the counter, she might not elevate it to a massive earthquake, but she allows it to lower her view of him. Over time, she allows these things to become bricks in the wall that produces separation and division in her heart. That’s not a good way to handle differences.
Another wrong way to handle them is to use them as justification for their own stubbornness. Maybe the husband is annoyed when his wife spills coffee in the car and he gets into the car, sees the spilled coffee, and says to himself, since she ignores his request to about coffee, he’ll ignore her request about mail! And he refuses to change because he thinks his wife is refusing to change. That mindset breeds bitterness, which puts that home on a major fault line for an earthquake
Another wrong way to handle friction is to let bitterness spill over to anger. Maybe the wife walks into the kitchen and sees a pile of mail on the counter, and her emotions spike and the bitterness rules her spirit, and she grabs the pile of mail and storms out to the garage where he’s working, and she swings open the door like some western movie, and instead of holding a six-shooter, she’s holding Harbor Freight Ads and Credit Card offers and she says, “That counter isn’t big enough for two of us! ” And she guns him down with a hail of fluttering mail.
The issue might seem like it’s spilled coffee or mail that’s been left out but it’s deeper than that. It’s about being considerate of one another and being humble enough to endure unpleasantness because of our spouse, and still preferring a godliness over conflict. So, a key way to deal with the friction of becoming “one” is to be considerate of each other.
Husbands, God has designed you to love your wife and care for her! Wives, God has designed you to love your husbands and respect him! Just be considerate of one another! If she doesn’t want the mail left out, don’t do it! If he doesn’t want coffee spilled in the car, don’t do it, or at least clean it up! Be considerate of one another.
Being considerate comes from two sources: Valuing our spouse more than ourselves and making their values our own. Turn in your Bibles over to Philippians 2. Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves!"
This is the principle of putting off the sinful habit and putting on the righteous habit. The sinful habit is to be selfish and self-focused and self-serving. It’s thinking only about ourselves! It’s leaving mail on the counter because we’re not thinking about our wife who might need the kitchen clean for when she has friends over. It’s spilling coffee and not cleaning it up because we’re not thinking about our spouse who has to shampoo the car.
So much marriage conflict comes from being inconsiderate of the other person and often the solution for this friction might just be to give in. Jesus summarized this principle in Luke 9:23–24 when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Marital peace flows from dying to self and as you “die to self” God will use your marriage to cleanse you, of you!
So many people say, “Well, this is just how I am.” “I leave messes in the kitchen.” “I don’t turn off lights.” “I run late.” “I speak that way.” And they justify being inconsiderate because of who they are! Yet, the call of Christ is: Don’t be about yourself. Die to yourself. Being considerate means dying to ourselves and thinking about the other person!
Going back to Philippians 2, look down at verse 4 which says, "do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” That word “look out” is the Greek word “skopeo”. It has the idea of close examination and focus. It’s the root word for “scope” as in “microscope” or “telescope”. Paul’s point is that Christians who are walking with Christ, think about other people.
Now this principle applies to all relationships, but especially our spouse. Guys, that probably means running a vacuum around the house. Doing dishes. Folding laundry. Wives, that probably means learning to enjoy football and knowing who Joe Flacco is.
Being considerate is “spokeoing” our spouse and that means Looking at them while their doing something else and asking yourself: Do they look happy, joyful, peaceful? What can you do to step in and help them? If your wife is giving the kids a bath, can you get her some towels? If your husband is working on the car, can you bring him a glass of iced coffee?
Twenty years ago, I read the book “The Five Love Languages” and amazingly, every year, it sells more copies than the year before. I heard an interview with the author, Gary Chapman. He explained that he had been a Christian counselor for years and saw the same patterns of conflict over and over, and he realized that people tended to argue over 5 common areas: Not hearing words of affirmation, Not receiving gifts, Not receiving help, Not receiving quality time, And not receiving physical touch. And so, he wrote his book to teach people how to figure out the best way to love their spouse.
Now, if you want to read it, that’s fine, but a lot of people are going to say, “I don’t care about my spouse’ love language. I don’t feel like loving my spouse! They don’t love me, why should I love them?” That’s where being considerate comes in. Biblical love is not about “feelings” it’s about action. Loving our spouse is being considerate of them. It’s where you look at them and figure out what they need in that moment. Maybe they like physical touch, but don’t give them a hug when they’re changing a diaper! Maybe they like words of affirmation, but don’t give try to talk to them while their focused on something else! Being considerate of our spouse is “skopeoing” them and thinking about them and what they need in the moment.
Another way that we’re considerate is found in verse 3. Look back at verse 3. Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves." That phrase “regard one another as more important” is translated as “better” in the NIV and King James and it’s translated as “more significant” in the ESV. It’s is from a Greek word that means literally “to hold above”. One of my dictionaries defines it as, “to surpass in value.” And so, when we’re dying to self, we’re “holding the other person above ourselves.” We’re considering them to be “more important” or “better” than ourselves by giving them more worth and value than we even give ourselves.
This is a key to harmony in the home and “becoming one”. Being considerate takes humility where you make your spouse’s values more important than your own. She values a clean home, and so the husband makes that his value too, and helps around the house. He values intimacy in the bedroom and she not only agrees but dives in. She values visits to her parents and he goes and sits with them and actually talks with them!
When you make your spouses’ values your own, you’re becoming “one” with them. Their values are yours. You don’t just begrudgingly agree; you’re actually advancing their cause along with them.
So many homes would have so much more harmony if each spouse would simply let the tectonic plates fuse into one, and die to themselves, and be considerate, and make their spouse’s values their own.
The movie “Fireproof” is one of my favorite movies. It’s about a couple who rebuild their marriage on Christ. Throughout the movie, the husband is saving up to buy a boat. He’s always thinking about the boat and all it’s going to do for him. But you might remember he comes to Christ and starts growing in the Lord and he eventually takes that money he was saving for the boat and uses it to buy a medical bed for his wife’s parent. That moment was a turning point in their marriage because she saw how much he loved her, and she opened her heart back up to him.
It was a beautiful point in the movie, but we might miss the spiritual principle. The goal isn’t just give-up your dreams to make your spouse happy (though that might be necessary). The principle is: Be Humble. Die to self. Live for Christ. Make their values yours. Be considerate of them. Fulfill your duty. And become one flesh.
It may not be wrong to own a boat, but if the boat hurts your wife because it takes your time, your money, your focus; Give it up, so that her values become yours. When you do that, you’re becoming more like Jesus, who was united in His will with the Father, and you’re becoming like Him as you unite your will with your spouse.
So, when it comes to our marriages, we’re like two tectonic plates crashing into one another. We have different habits and different ways living; rather than digging in, we need to listen to the concerns of our spouse and seek to die to self and be like Christ to them. Let’s go on to our next point about how to communicate without crashing into one another which is…
Point #2 Learning to Disagree Well
For people living in LA, the biggest problem with Earthquakes is the mess they create. Plates fall out of cupboards, books fall from shelving, all of the pictures need to be straightened. And people who live there know how to prepare for earthquakes. Shelving is bolted to the walls. Heavy things are not above beds. Buildings are built on rollers.
In somewhat of a similar way, a married couple needs to learn how to be aware of the various shifts in their marriage, and that means learning to listen.
Listening is when we stop speaking and take in what the other person is saying. Turn over to James 1:19. James 1:19 says, "This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." These are keys to having good communication in the home. Let’s start with being quick to hear
A few years ago, there was a television miniseries about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. In one scene, Franklin and Eleanor were sitting at the breakfast table. Franklin was holding a cup of coffee in one hand, and in the other hand he held the morning paper. He was reading deeply when Eleanor proceeded to chat with him: "Franklin, did you know the Smiths have built a new home in Arlington?" He responded, "uh uh.” "Well, isn't that marvelous? Now they'll be so much closer.” "Uh huh.” "Some other news I heard is that Sarah Jones is marrying a British diplomat.” "Oh really." At this point Mrs. Roosevelt was clearly frustrated because her husband was not listening. So she said, “Aunt Gertrude is very upset. She lost her head two days ago and hasn't been able to find it.” "Uh huh.” "FRANKLIN! Put down that newspaper this instant! You haven't listened to a word I've said.” Roosevelt kept on reading and said: "On the contrary, Babs. The Smiths have moved to Arlington, Sarah Jones is not the wife of a British diplomat, and Aunt Gertrude misplaced her head two days ago. Knowing her, it's not much of an inconvenience. Refill, please.” He may have been technically listening, but that’s not the kind of listening that builds a marriage.
Various studies have been done on listening, and supposedly people spend around 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. We spend about 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. So listening is one of the most common things we do, but we may not be listening well.
It’s hard to just sit and listen to someone! We might not be interested in what we’re hearing. We might not like how the other person is talking. We might be irritated by what they’re saying. We might act like we’re paying attention when we’re not. We might tune them out because it’s a difficult topic. And we might even pursue distractions so that we don’t have to pay attention!
That’s everything Roosevelt was doing at that breakfast! And that completely violates the principle from James 1:19 of being “quick to hear.” God has design us to become one flesh with our spouse, and we can’t fulfill that principle without listening to our spouse so that their concerns are our own.
As I was preparing for this message, I came across a few principles of listening that offer some practical advice. For one thing, make eye contact. Put down the phone, turn away from the computer and look at our spouse. Likewise, engage in what they’re talking about. Clear your mind of the distractions Turn off the TV (especially at dinner time) and think about what they’re saying. Listen between the lines for the attitudes being expressed. Watch body language and facial expressions: What are they saying by what they’re not saying? Be concerned about what your spouse is saying and show it with your body language too. Let your spouse finish speaking. Don’t interrupt! And don’t just wait so that you can jump in and say what you were thinking all along! And that last thing is repeat back what you’re hearing them say. That shows you’re listening to them and it will help clear up any confusion between what they said and what you heard. So, those are some practical thoughts about how to live out James 1:19
Sometimes a person will hear something they disagree with and rather than seeking to understand their spouse, they immediately shoot back words of disagreement. The wife might say, “Honey, we’ve got guests coming this weekend, can you clean up the backyard today?” And the husband shoots back, “We have plenty of time! I don’t need to do that today!” That husband is NOT being quick to hear and slow to speak. Being quick to hear and slow to speak means ignoring the sharp words, the offensive tone, the unpleasant point our spouse is making and trying to understand what they’re trying to communicate.
When the wife asks her husband to clean the backyard before the guests arrive, she’s probably saying all kinds of things like: I want to honor our guests with a clean house, and the backyard is a mess. I’m working on a lot of things myself, and don’t have the time to clean it. Plus, most of the stuff is yours anyway!
When we’re quick to hear, we’re thinking about what they’re saying and why. We’re thinking about their concerns and worries. We’re not getting offended at the nagging tone and the implication that we’re slobs, and the fact we have to stop doing something we’d rather be doing. We’re trying to understand them.
But what if you can’t? What if you’re quick to hear but you can’t do what your spouse is asking? What if you’re working on the car—doing an oil change—you’re past when the oil should have been changed, it’s supposed to rain in a couple of hours and you’re trying to get it done while you can. That’s where you’re in danger of a tectonic crash and you need to be slow to speak.
We mentioned last week that Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Being slow to speak means you gently incorporate what you’ve heard from your spouse in your answer. You can respond something like, “I know the backyard is important to you, and you want to honor our guests. And because this is important to you, it’s important to me. But this oil change has been hanging over my head for a month and if I don’t get it done today, it may be another month before I can get to it, and I don’t want to damage the car. How about I work on the car now, and try to get to the backyard when I’m done?” With that answer, you’re being quick to hear what she’s saying, and you’re being slow to explain why you can’t do what she’d like.
Maybe she’ll see your point, but maybe she won’t, maybe she’ll be unreasonable. My wife has never been unreasonable so I’m going to use the example of a roommate I had years ago. I had a roommate who was incredibly neat. If I made dinner (which was usually just a hot dog) he wanted all the cooking stuff put away before I even ate. He was a good friend of mine and I didn’t want to hurt the relationship, so I tried to put everything away. He was often annoyed, but I was trying.
He was being unreasonable. But what did it cost me? 15 seconds to put away the pan? Having to be accused of making messes? The fact is, most of the time, people don’t do what their spouse wants because they think it’s unreasonable. And they use that to justify ignoring their spouse’ requests when they really should be seeking to die to self and be considerate of what their spouse wants!
Now, there may be times when our spouse crosses a line into an area that’s sinful. Maybe the husband says, “I can’t clean the backyard now because I’m working on the car” and she might say, “I don’t care about the car! I care about what our guests think when they come here!” That’s where you need to be really slow to speak.
In that example, it sounds like she’s being driven by pride and what people think. But maybe she misspoke maybe she doesn’t mean that and so, in that moment, we can be quick to speak and turn that disagreement into major rumble, or be slow to speak and step back and let cooler minds prevail.
That’s where prayer kicks in. More than likely, something needs to be said but not right now, and not as an attack. It’s something that we should take to the Lord, seek His grace to speak about it in the right way, and prayerfully look for a time when we can bring it up to our spouse in a way that encourages them and gets them thinking about things from a more biblical perspective. During these times, we need to be asking the Lord: Should I say this? Should I say this now? Should I say this in this way? My grandmother used to say, “The right thing at the wrong time is no longer the right thing.”
And part of not having earthquakes is learning how to deal with the friction, by being quick to hear and slow to speak. Let’s go to one more way we can reduce the earthquakes in our home. We’ll reduce the earthquakes in our home by…
Point #3 Speaking Words of Grace
Let’s turn back to Ephesians 4:29. We talked about this verse last week. Ephesians 4:29 says "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
The end of that verse tells us that our words are to give “grace”. How do we typically define “grace”? God’s unmerited favor.
The crashing together of the two tectonic plates of a husband and wife is going to cause friction and you can reduce that friction with word of grace…words that are filled with unmerited love and kindness. Let’s look at three ways we can handle friction with words of grace.
The first is that gracious words do not grieve the Holy Spirit. This is coming from verse 30. Look down at verse 30 Ephesians 4:30 says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Notice that this verse comes right after the end of verse 29 about having gracious words. And notice how it goes right into verse 31 which says, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." And so, when our words are pure and don’t grieve the Holy Spirit, they will be kind and tenderhearted. Galatians 5:22 tells us that when we’re in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, He will produce in us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Another way we can speak words of grace is by encouraging our spouse. Let’s turn over to 1st Thessalonians 5:11. Martin Luther once said, “Let the wife make the husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” That’s a great principle and so much of it will be lived out through our words. If our communication is gracious and encouraging, our home will be a place where love flourishes.
If you look at 1 Thessalonians 5:11, it says, "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” We’re supposed to be a source of encouragement for the people around us, how much more our spouse? But instead, there are times when a spouse is a source of discouragement. It’s not supposed to be that way. We’re supposed to encourage our spouse and kids.
Now, this may not be easy. To encourage someone means to speak God’s words over their fears. When you’re encouraging someone, you’re recognizing their fears and giving them God’s truths to trust and believe! Think about your spouse; What are their fears? Every spouse has them. Make a list of them right now.
If you’re not sure what their fears are, they’re probably the very things you’re battling over. If you’re fighting about spending, they’re probably fearful of having enough money. If you’re fighting about your work hours, maybe they’re fearful of having to shoulder all of life’s burdens. If you’re fighting about how much TV you watch, maybe they’re fearful about your character or who you’re becoming. As you think about their fears, your job is to encourage them. Your job is to know what the Bible says on those matters—especially if you’re the husband—and to speak them into your spouse’s heart with love and kindness and grace.
Often, what robs us from encouraging our spouse is our own sin. When we think about our spouses’ fears, sometimes they’re offensive to us because they are fears about us, and we may not like them. And that’s why we laid the foundation last week that godly communication is not easily offended. When you’re easily offended, it’s because the idol of “you” just took a hit and you’re trying to defend your idol. But when Jesus is the One you worship and serve—you know that your marriage is to give you places to die to self and become more like Christ, you’ll hear your spouse’s concerns and you’ll respond with words of encouragement. This kind of speech are truly words of grace.
One final kind of speech to bring up with our spouses is thankful speech. You look over at 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 says, "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." This principle of replacing ungodly speech with thanks is pretty common in the Bible. Ephesians 5:4 also says, "…and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” In other words, if someone were to listen in on our conversations, they shouldn’t hear crude, crass jokes, etc. Instead, they should hear us giving thanks.
This is an important principle for peace in the home. Once you know a person, you know their faults. I know Corinne’s faults better than anyone on the planet, and she knows mine. But the reality is, God is sovereignly using us to help each other be more like Christ. And so, our faults are like sandpaper in each other’s life. We shouldn’t be stubborn about them. We should seek to change and grow. But the fact is, God is using my faults in Corinne’s life, and He is using her faults in mine and we’re both learning to die to self and become more like Christ. And so, there’s much to be thankful for. And our praise to God should overflow with gratitude for the ways He has used our spouse in our life to make us more like Christ.
And that’s a key: Thankfulness comes from what we’re focusing on. Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD." God has blessed us with our spouse. Of all the people in this world, our spouse is a unique tool in His hand to make us the people He wants us to be. But when we’re focusing on our spouses’ faults and failures, we’re not following Jesus. Jesus calls us to focus on the good in our spouse so that we develop the discipline of being grateful in all circumstances. And a regular part of our communication should be speaking to them with kind, encouraging words that focus on their good qualities, and they blessing God has given to us when He gave us our spouse.
So, to pull all of these principles together…
A marriage is like two tectonic plates coming together as one. God has designed a husband and wife to be “one flesh”, but that “one flesh” dynamic is often the very source of pain and conflict. Yet that pain and conflict is what God will use to make us more like Christ.
We learn to be like Christ when we handle the source of friction with consideration. God has sovereignly given you your spouse, warts and all. The sources of friction are often the very things Jesus wants to transform in your life for you to be more like Him. Be considerate of your spouse, and die to self, and put them first.
Likewise, learn to disagree well. Listen to one another and seek to understand one another. Be quick to listen, slow to speak and in your words speak words of grace. Gracious speech is the fruit of the Holy Spirit It’s kind and encouraging and thankful.
As we learn to communicate with our spouse this way, we’ll be like two tectonic plates that come together, but in peace and unity and without the earthquakes.