Improve Communication with Your Spouse

Author:
Dr. James Dobson

Under Mosaic Law, a newlywed husband had a specific responsibility to "cheer up his wife which he hath taken" (Deuteronomy 24:5, KJV). That still sounds like a good idea. Time must be reserved for meaningful talks. Taking walks and going out to breakfast and riding bicycles on Saturday mornings are conversation inducers that help keep love alive.

With a little effort, good communication can occur even in families where the husband leans inward and the wife leans outward. On the other hand, women must understand and accept the fact that some men cannot be what they want them to be. Masculine emotional structure makes it impossible for these men to comprehend the feelings and frustrations of another—particularly those occurring in the opposite sex.

Shirley has contributed immeasurably to my development as a man. I've said many times that she believed in me before I believed in myself and that her respect gave me the confidence with which to compete and strive and risk. Most of what I'm doing today can be traced to the love of this devoted woman who stood beside me saying, "I'm glad to be on your team."

You are in a position to do the same for your husband. Give him what he needs, and I'll bet he will return the favor.

The sexes are designed with highly specific—but quite different—needs. Each is vulnerable to the other in unique ways. Women need men to be romantic, caring, and loving. Men need women to be respectful, supportive, and loyal. These are not primarily cultural influences that are learned in childhood, as some would have us believe. They are forces deeply rooted in the human personality. Indeed, the Creator observed Adam's loneliness in the Garden of Eden and said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). So He made Adam a helpmate, a partner, a love—designed to link with him emotionally and sexually. In so doing, He invented the family and gave it His blessing and ordination.

Millions of marriages are in trouble today because of an inability of the sexes to get along. Perhaps the fundamental problem is one of selfishness. We're so intent on satisfying our own desires that we fail to recognize the longings of our partners. The institution of marriage works best when we think less about ourselves and more about the ones we love.

The foundation—the cornerstone—on which your entire relationship should be constructed is the establishment of a Christ-centered home.

Commit your home, your relationship, your children if God grants them to you, and your entire lives to His purposes. My wife, Shirley, and I did that, and the time we have spent on our knees has been the stabilizing factor throughout fifty-five years of marriage. In good times, in hard times, in moments of anxiety, and in periods of praise we have shared this wonderful privilege of talking directly to our heavenly Father. No appointment is needed to enter into His presence. He is simply there whenever we bow before Him. Some of the highlights of my relationship with Shirley have occurred in these quiet sessions we've shared with the Lord.

The second dimension to a Christ-centered home is regular time set aside to study the Scriptures and apply them to everyday life. By reading this inspired and holy Word, we are given a "window" into the mind of the Lord. What an incredible resource! He created the vast reaches of the universe by simply speaking the heavens into being. This same God has also provided us with the secrets to healthy family life. After all, marriage and parenthood were His ideas, and He has told us how to live together in peace and harmony. Everything from handling money to sexual attitudes to the discipline of children is discussed in Scripture, with each prescription bearing the personal endorsement of the King of the universe. Why would anyone disregard this ultimate resource?

Finally, the Christian life lends stability to marriage because its principles and values naturally produce harmony between people. When put into action, Christian teaching emphasizes giving to others, self-discipline, obedience to divine commandments, conformity to the law, and love between a husband and wife. It is a shield against addictions to alcohol, pornography, gambling, materialism, infidelity, and other behaviors that could be damaging to the relationship.

Is it any wonder that a Christ-centered relationship is the ground floor of the stable family? If you build your marriage on that solid foundation, you will not face the bitter fruit of divorce.

From Dr. Dobson's book Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide.

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