Tag: marriage communication

3 Tips for Talking About Difficult Topics

3 Tips for Talking About Difficult Topics

No one wants to talk about painful subjects. We don't like to feel that awkward gut knot that develops when we're dreading a certain conversation. We need to do it, though, and it doesn't have to be totally horrible. Following these tips may make it a little easier:

1. Narrow it down to a couple points. Difficult topics require planning. Don't just jump right in without thinking it through first. Weed through all your thoughts and boil them down to 2-3 main points to discuss. Having a very brief mental outline will help you stay on track and choose the best wording for the conversation. If you don't narrow it down to a few points, the conversation will quickly turn into verbal vomit. 

2. Choose the best time. Be picky about when the conversation takes place. Plan ahead for it. Don't talk about something difficult after a bad day at work or when the kids are screaming and running through the room. Select a time that is fairly peaceful, and without distractions. It's tempting to just jump right in when the mood strikes, especially if you're angry, but that won't yield the best results.

3. Keep calm. Getting emotionally charged will not help. Lay out your points calmly and kindly. Even difficult conversations can, and should, be respectful. There is no need for yelling or name-calling, which will only make the situation worse. Prepare ahead of time so you can remain calm during the conversation. Be sure to listen when it's your turn for that, too. Consider the other person's viewpoints.

Not every confrontation needs to turn into a knock-down-drag-out. Following the tips listed above will help you keep calm and talk it out. 

When Personalities Clash

When Personalities Clash

[This article contains affiliate links, meaning we earn a commission for purchases made through those links.]

Ryan and I are so different. We disagree on so many things. Our interests aren't even in the same realm. We are total opposites.

We don't agree about politics.

We don't agree about parenting.

We don't agree about ice cream flavors.

How on earth have we managed to stay happily married for twenty years?

The answer to that question is simple: We learned about personality differences, and we use them to our advantage.

You see, those differences that sometimes annoy the heck out of us can be used to strengthen our marriage.

Where I am weak, Ryan is strong. And vice versa.

Ryan loves details. He likes to have things all planned out, and he's skilled at making sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. I'm more spontaneous and would rather fly by the seat of my pants. Sometimes when I have to sit down and work through too many details I get overwhelmed and feel panicky. So when we need something planned, it's wise for me to just turn it over to Ryan and let him run with it. Everything gets planned thoroughly, and I don't have to do it. It's a win-win. 

Early on in our marriage, before I understood personality differences, it drove me insane when Ryan wanted every detail planned out. It drove him crazy that I wouldn't plan the details (or I'd plan them badly). One book made all the difference for us: Personality Plus, by Florence Littauer.

In her book, Florence includes a personality test. Ryan and I both took the test and laughed our heads off at the accuracy. We then delved into the chapters of the book to understand our strengths and weaknesses. That helped us learn to work together as a team and to utilize each other's strengths, overlook annoyances, and fill in the gaps for each other's weaknesses.

That book revolutionized our marriage.

Once we had kids, that book helped us understand our children in a way we could not have otherwise.

Personality Plus is the book we recommend most often in our communication coaching business. Our clients need to understand the people around them in order to communicate effectively. So many personality tests do a great job describing personalities, but they don't go far enough in explaining what to do with that information.

That's where Personality Plus excels. It digs deep, gets real, and tells exactly how to relate to each personality type.

Ryan says this information has helped him to be a better salesman as well because he quickly recognizes a client's personality and can give them what they need based on that information.

If you're baffled by your spouse or kids, this book is for you. If you're annoyed by the quirks of those around you, this book is for you. If you just want to understand and relate to people better, this book is for you.

It's an absolute must-read.

Get yours here (affiliate link): 

Staying Connected with Your Spouse with Small Children in the Home

Staying Connected with Your Spouse with Small Children in the Home

Staying connected with your spouse while having small children in the home can be a major challenge for many couples. Often one or both of you is working full-time, or staying at home with the kids (which is tons of work), and the sheer physical exhaustion from caring for the home and kids can leave you feeling disconnected from your spouse.

So how does a couple with young children in the home stay connected?

First, you need to have the right mindset.

Accept the phase of life you are in, and realize that it is a phase.

Often I have become very frustrated about the challenges of staying connected with my husband during this time in our marriage. What has helped me, though, is to recognize that this is a phase, and that it does get easier over time.

    Now that our daughter is slightly older, it is easier to do some of the things that were more difficult when she was an infant and toddler.

    So keep in mind, first of all, that this phase of life will change. And recognize that there may be things you WANT to do as a married couple that are just not possible right now. Instead of wishing the time away, do your best to enjoy the phase you are in currently, and try not to become resentful of the demands that young children place on you and your spouse.

    Prioritize your marriage.

    Although the phase of having young children in the house may mean that life will look different than at other times in your marriage, it also is a very good idea to prioritize your marriage.

      As a couple, you need to decide that you will make your marriage a priority. It is often said that many divorces take place once the children are grown and moved out the house. Why? Because the married couple didn’t stay connected while the kids were living at home. They focused so much on the children and their needs that they lost their identity as a married couple.

      If you want to avoid this, then you must mentally make the decision that your marriage will come first-- before your relationship with your children.

      Once you’ve accepted the phase of life you are in, and you’ve made a decision to prioritize your marriage, it’s time to begin putting into action some steps to stay connected as a couple.

      Here are a few strategies that have worked really well for me and my husband:

      1. Date Nights. I am a firm believer that having a regular date night--even when the children are young--is absolutely essential to staying connected and maintaining your communication.

        My husband and I often attempt to have conversations around the house. I say attempt because we are inevitably interrupted by our 7-year-old, who loves to talk non-stop. We have learned that it’s basically pointless to try and discuss anything of importance when she is awake.

        I'm sure we're not alone in this situation. That's why date nights are so essential. Having a specific time when you go out together allows you to have a full conversation without being constantly interrupted or having to run and change a diaper, get someone a drink, or clean up puke.

        In our marriage, Saturday nights are reserved for each other. Once a month we go out, and the other Saturday nights we do something together at home. After our daughter is in bed, we make an effort to talk, play a game, watch a movie, or do something else that helps us stay connected.

        Having this time reserved for date night--whether at home or out and about--allows us to look forward to that time together where we are not dealing with other responsibilities. 

        2. Weekly Meeting. Okay, this one is not as exciting or sexy as date nights. But it can be very beneficial.

          My husband and I have often run into challenges over our schedules. He works part-time as a pastor at our church and runs his own business. I homeschool our daughter and run my own business as well.

          So, very often, there are events, plans, and situations that arise on one of our schedules that affects the other person. However, sometimes we do not communicate about these things until the last minute. For me, last minute communication about events equals stress.

          So this year, we began touching base once a week about our upcoming events and schedules. Our goal is to sit down once a week and review the next week’s schedule. We discuss any changes outside of the normal routine. We talk about whether either one of us will be doing an activity with friends, or if there is a date night to plan, or a church activity going on.

          This also is a time when we often discuss how we are doing in terms of our own needs and our needs as a couple. These conversations have helped us to stay connected and stay on the same page about our marriage and our family life.

          3. Show Appreciation. The years of raising young children are incredibly demanding on both parents. There are sleepless nights, loads and loads of laundry, bills to pay, and mouths to feed. Especially when the kids are too young to really help out, and all they do is make a mess-- this can be emotionally and physically exhausting.

            That’s why it is SO important, during these years, to show appreciation to your spouse for what they do.

            It is very easy to become overwhelmed with everything you have to do that you neglect to notice what your spouse is doing. This happened with me and my husband after our daughter was born, and we both ended up feeling unappreciated and unloved.

            It took a couple years of feeling very frustrated in our marriage and finally going to therapy to realize that lack of appreciation was a major cause of our unhappiness.

            I also realized that I needed to change my attitude towards my husband in order to improve our marriage. I needed to begin recognizing what he WAS doing for our marriage instead of focusing on what he wasn't doing.

            So taking the time to notice, and appreciate, the little things your spouse does is vitally important to staying connected. When you feel appreciated, you are more likely to feel connected to your spouse.

            4. Schedule Sex. Often, in the midst of raising young children, your physical intimacy as a married couple can suffer. In the busyness of life, sometimes having sex becomes an item on your long list of “to-dos” instead of an important aspect of your relationship.

              But maintaining your physical intimacy is vital to the health of your marriage. It may seem strange, but scheduling sex can truly help to keep that connection healthy. Rather than just waiting for the right moment to happen--which, let’s face it, with kids around, is unlikely to take place--you can take control of this as a couple and actually plan it.

              I first heard of this idea at a marriage retreat that my husband and I attended, and then I’ve heard it a few other times from other couples and on podcasts. My husband and I have implemented this practice and it has helped us to stay connected even during challenging times in our lives.

              5. Have fun together. Humor and laughter in a relationship is truly beneficial to maintaining a strong connection.

                During the times that have been the most difficult in my marriage, I have noticed that we have not had very much fun together. On the other hand, when we are doing things we enjoy together and having fun, we tend to be more connected emotionally as well.

                So make an effort to do fun things that you both enjoy! Sometimes these can be the simplest of activities, but they can produce great amounts of joy.

                A few ideas: Play a board game together, either as a couple or as a family. Play a sport outside together-- kick a soccer ball around, play a game of toss, or badmiton, or go for a bike ride. These activities often result in laughter and fun naturally.

                Allow yourselves to be silly. Some of me and my husband’s funniest moments are late at night, when we are both exhausted, but we just start laughing and making crazy jokes. It can be a fun way to end a day if you are able to laugh together.

                Staying connected as a couple while you have small children running about is challenging, but not impossible. If you have the right mindset, and you put some simple habits into place, you are likely to see improvements in your relationship.


                Esther LittlefieldEsther Littlefield is a feisty pastor’s wife to her husband, Scott, and mom to her spirited daughter, KJ. They live in Maine where they enjoy as many outdoor adventures as possible in the midst of homeschooling, business, and church life. In her free time, you’d probably find her with a cup of coffee, a good friend, and a sink full of dishes. Esther is the founder of WellnessMomLife, helping moms balance marriage, motherhood, and ministry by caring for their personal, physical, spiritual, and relational wellness. Please visit her blog at, and join her FREE 5-Day Better Attitude Marriage Challenge. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.

                Mistakes Wives Make

                Mistakes Wives Make

                In our previous article, Ryan wrote 10 Mistakes Husbands Make, so we decided to follow it up with this article discussing the most common mistakes made by wives.

                Here are the top 5 mistakes wives make:






                There aren't any! That's right... wives don't make mistakes.

                Anything that goes wrong in a marriage is clearly the fault of the husband!

                Just kidding.

                We work with couples all the time, and we see a few issues over and over again. These are not true of all wives, of course, but they are the most common ones we see.

                Lack of Communication

                Many times, wives think they're communicating just fine, but when we dig down deeper we find bitterness, resentment, grudges, and unexpressed issues. A wife will tell us a whole litany of things that are going wrong in her marriage, but when we ask if she's talked to her husband about it, she looks like a deer in the headlights. Sometimes she's talked so much about the issue with everyone except her husband she doesn't even realize she hasn't talked to him.

                Ladies, we absolutely have to get good at talking to our husbands. 

                When an issue arises, we need to be lovingly honest and tell him.

                If he doesn't hear it the first time, tell him again. And again. And again, until he hears it, understands it, and acts on it. Do not stop communicating.

                I'm not talking about nagging him. Nagging is not an effective form of communication. The sound of nagging is like nails on a chalkboard. Instead, sit down with your husband without distractions, and be direct about whatever the issue is. Be kind, respectful, and polite, but be honest and direct.

                Afterward, show grace and let it go. 

                Lack of Respect

                Men need respect, even in the middle of a time when they have screwed up big time. In fact, that's probably a time when they need it most. In those instances, your husband is probably already doubting himself and needs to be built up. Men need respect like women need unconditional love. If you don't believe me, there's a whole book about it called Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. All couples should read that book.

                Nothing good gets accomplished when wives treat their husbands with disrespect.

                Screaming at him, embarrassing him in public, telling his secrets, scolding him, treating him like a child, or questioning his abilities all show disrespect. None of those things will make your marriage better and could tear it apart instead.

                Your husband probably married you because of the way you made him feel about himself. Back when you were just dating, you probably made him feel like the king of your life. He relies so much on you for his self-worth, so be gentle and respectful.

                Your words are powerful. Use them wisely.

                Lack of Interest

                Many wives get so busy with children or with their careers that their marriage gets put on the backburner. Obviously, this isn't just the fault of the wife, and husbands can be just as guilty, but it's definitely an issue we see in couples we've worked with. Most times, it's not intentional.

                Let's face it, ladies... we're busy.

                We're busy driving kids around. We're busy paying bills. We're busy writing books and baking cakes and doing laundry. We're busy with work and with church and with volunteering. By the end of the day, we're completely exhausted.

                If we aren't careful, our busy-ness can translate into lack of interest in our husbands.

                Husbands and wives alike need to make their marriage a priority. Your marriage is important, so you need to intentionally make time for it.

                Schedule a date night or a weekend getaway. Go for lunch together on a weekday. Fill a thermos with coffee, go for a drive, and have a coffee break with some beautiful scenery. Show your spouse you care by spending time together.

                Time = Love. 

                Turn it Around

                If any of these issues resonate with you, turn it around. Identify the areas in your marriage that need improvement, discuss them honestly with your spouse, and then make the necessary corrections. It's never too late to make your marriage everything you want it to be.

                How to Apologize to Your Spouse

                How to Apologize to Your Spouse

                When I was younger, I was not big on apologies (unless, of course, the apology came from someone else). I rarely thought I was wrong about anything, and an apology would somehow equal defeat. Unfortunately, my relationships suffered as a result.

                The older I got, the more I realized the need to admit wrongdoing. This became especially apparent once I was married. I realized that an apology was not so much a symbol of defeat as a way to restore a relationship. If I have hurt someone in some way, I need to apologize. An apology does not necessarily mean that I "lose" something; rather, I gain something.

                By apologizing, I gain restoration of a relationship.

                Do you find it difficult to apologize?

                It isn't always easy to apologize. We're prideful people, and it's tough to admit when we're wrong. Remember Fonzie on Happy Days? Even he found it tough to admit when he was wrong.

                It was funny for Fonzie, but if we want strong relationships, we have to be willing to admit our mistakes and ask for forgiveness. This is especially true in marriage.

                Your spouse is your greatest ally on this planet, so keeping that relationship strong is vital. If anything causes strife in marriage, it is worth resolving as quickly as possible. An apology is the way to do just that.

                Admittedly, I am not always right. It kind of hurts just saying that. But, it's true. No one is right all the time. We all screw stuff up. We hurt people's feelings. We say things we shouldn't. When we do, we need to apologize.

                Here's how to apologize to your spouse in the most effective way:

                1. Swallow your pride. Pride is ugly, and it will cause you to be stubborn and full of yourself. Pride will tell you that you are right and don't need to apologize. Recognize and banish those thoughts and tendencies. Marriage is a union of two people who have become a team. There is no room for strife in that team. When you mess up, be quick to admit it, and throw your pride to the wayside. Approach your spouse with humility, and don't make excuses for yourself.

                2. Admit your wrongdoing. Don't be Fonzie. Be straightforward and state exactly what you did wrong. Say it out loud in detail. Your spouse needs to know that you fully understand what you are apologizing for. 

                3. Say, "I'm sorry." Actually say the words. Telling your spouse "I'm sorry" signals that you feel regret for your actions or words. Even if you believe you are right in the situation, you can at least apologize for hurting your spouse's feelings or for arguing.

                4. Express a plan to fix the situation. Sometimes you'll need to take steps to rectify the situation. Other times you'll need to share a plan to make sure your wrongdoing will not occur again. Either way, verbalize your intentions so your spouse knows you're serious and can see how you will change.

                5. Be patient. Your spouse may not accept your apology immediately. While it's important for both spouses to show grace and give the benefit of the doubt, understand that it may be difficult for your spouse to do that right away. Don't explode if your spouse needs some time or is angry. Give your spouse the time and space they need to work through your apology.

                We all make mistakes and do things we wish we hadn't. We need to get good at apologizing if we want our marriages to remain strong. Humility and willingness to rectify a bad situation will go a long way toward restoring your relationships.

                You Need Date Nights

                You Need Date Nights

                If you are married or are in a significant relationship with someone, you need date nights on a consistent basis. Every couple does. There is no possible way to grow your relationship or keep it strong if you aren't spending quality time together.

                Lounging on the couch together while drooling on yourselves in front of the television is not quality time, by the way.

                I know you're busy, exhausted, and have other things to do. I get it. I really do. We have five kids, I homeschool them, I work from home, and Ryan works a full-time sales job. We struggle to schedule date nights, too. At times money gets tight, and we don't want to spend it on date nights.

                But we understand that date nights are vital to the health of our marriage, so we make sure they get scheduled as often as possible. Date nights don't have to break the bank, either. 

                Date nights are necessary because they give us a chance to get out of the house and away from our usual routine. They get us away from interruptions like phones, work, and children. Date nights motivate us to de-stress and give us the opportunity to fall in love all over again. They force us to focus on each other and talk about issues, ideas, goals, and dreams. Date nights provide a great opportunity to communicate with each other.

                As Communication Consultants, Ryan and I work with couples all around the world. We host Marriage Communication Masterminds that give us the opportunity to chat with couples about marriage communication topics like listening, speaking clearly, appreciating differences, and conflict resolution. We listen and learn more about each couple and help them strategize a gameplan to improve their communication and strengthen their relationship. Through our discussions with couples, the number one problem we find is that most couples are not intentionally spending enough quality time together. Everything else falls apart when there is not enough quality time.

                It's impossible to communicate effectively if you're not spending quality time together with your spouse or significant other.

                Luckily that's a problem that is easy to solve. Simply start scheduling date nights together on a regular basis.

                We recommend weekly date nights, or biweekly dates at the very least. The dates can take place away from home, or they can happen in the home after the kids go to bed. It's best to get out of the house, though, because when we're home we're tempted to do dishes, laundry, deal with children, or get distracted by other household issues. Even taking a walk alone together after dinner can be a nice date night.

                Date nights don't have to be formal or fancy. Our favorite ones are simple and cheap (or even free). For example, one of our favorite date nights consists of sitting on the porch alone after the kids go to bed. We light candles, drink coffee, and talk. It's peaceful and gives us the opportunity to spend time together. We share stories, reminisce, and chat about important topics. That kind of date night doesn't take much planning and doesn't cost much at all.

                If money is an issue, inexpensive date nights like our porch dates are easy to plan. Anything that gets you out of the house or focusing on each other can be a date night. If paying a babysitter is an issue, many teenagers are willing to babysit for small fees. Some couples even swap babysitting with other couples so everyone gets a date night. Our porch date nights don't require a babysitter because we're at home; we just wait until the kids are in bed.

                Whatever is preventing you from having regular date nights can be solved. Date nights are important enough to find solutions to your problems. Intentional quality time and communication with your spouse or significant other is necessary to grow a stronger relationship. If that relationship is important to you, you need date nights.


                You Need Date Nights
                Keeping Your Marriage Strong When One of You Travels

                Keeping Your Marriage Strong When One of You Travels

                Travel is required for most jobs at some point, so inevitably there will be a time when either you or your spouse is out of town for work. Marriage is challenging enough when you're able to spend lots of time together, and that challenge only increases when you have to spend time apart. Ryan and I travel pretty often, so we have discovered several ways to keep our marriage strong. You and your spouse will need to determine what will work for you.

                If either of you must travel, try these suggestions to keep your marriage strong:

                1. Write each other love notes. Ryan often leaves secret notes for me to find while he's gone. He leaves them in my vitamin box, in my purse, on my dashboard, or even in my dresser drawer. These are just quick little notes saying "I love you," or "I hope you have a great day today." You can put similar notes in your spouse's suitcase or briefcase when they travel, too. Finding the notes from Ryan makes me feel closer to him when we're apart, and it's nice to know he took the time to write them. It shows me that he cares.

                2. Spend time together, even when you're apart. With all the technology that exists these days, there is no reason not to be in contact with each other during travel. Send text messages or Facebook messages often. Call each other when you have a few free minutes, and be sure to FaceTime or Skype with each other before bed. Even when travel separates you, there are countless ways to spend time together.

                3. Avoid questionable situations. When you're apart, don't put yourself in situations that disrespect your spouse and marriage. It is unwise to get drunk at a bar when you're out of town without your spouse. It goes without saying that you'd be asking for trouble in a situation like that, but other scenarios should probably be avoided as well. Ryan doesn't drive to a work event alone with a woman. He also won't have dinner alone with a woman, even for work. He believes that would be disrespectful to me, and it might give the wrong idea to an onlooker. He drives and eats separately, or in a group that includes both men and women. I follow the same standards when we're apart as well. It's not that we don't trust each other (we do), but we like to avoid even the appearance that something questionable might be happening. A marriage that isn't as strong as ours might not even survive situations like the ones I described.

                4. Be helpful at home when you return. Since the spouse who didn't travel has been holding down the fort in your absence, it's important that you do more once you get home. Unpack your suitcase, throw in a few loads of laundry, and help out with the housework and kids. Your spouse will need a break, so make sure that happens. Catch up on anything that needs to be done.

                5. Go on a date night with your spouse. When the trip is over, make sure you schedule a date night together. It's a great way to reconnect with each other and chat about anything that happened while you were apart. If you have kids, plan a separate time to do something special with them.

                6. Travel with your spouse whenever you can. Traveling together is so fun, and it's a great way to make memories and focus on each other. If one of you is traveling for work, maybe it's possible for both of you to go. Ryan and I do this quite often. If he needs to travel for work, I go with him whenever I can. I stay in the hotel while he's working during the day (or I shop, sightsee, or relax in a coffee shop), and then we have dinner together and go out at night when he's finished with work. We have found this to be a great way to keep our marriage strong and still accomplish the necessary travel.

                The main thing is to keep your marriage the most important thing in your mind and heart when you are away from your spouse. Physical distance does not have to create problems if you are intentional about making your marriage a priority. Try a few of our suggestions, and figure out what will work best for you and your spouse. Do you have other ideas? Leave us a comment below. We'd love to hear from you!

                Diffusing Disagreements in Marriage: Fill the Tank

                Diffusing Disagreements in Marriage: Fill the Tank

                We loaded our five children into our minivan for a family trip. After everyone was buckled, we backed out of our driveway and noticed that our gas tank indicator showed "140 miles to empty."

                Our destination was 141 miles away.

                I suggested to my husband, Ryan, that we stop to fill up at the closest gas station on our way, which is 12 miles from our house. Ryan disagreed and thought we should wait to fill up until closer to our final destination.

                I prefer to have a full gas tank before starting a trip. I don't like to watch the miles tick down and wonder if we'll be able to find a gas station when our tank is close to empty. Ryan would rather wait until later to fill up because we might find a lower gas price at a gas station closer to our destination.

                Who is right?

                I'd like to say that we calmly came to a quick solution to our disagreement. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

                Instead, we spent the entire 12 miles to the closest station arguing about it, all with the kids witnessing our every word.

                That 12 miles felt like it took days. 

                Eventually, Ryan relented. He pulled into the gas station and got out to pump the gas. I think he even slammed his door as he got out (but that might just be my interpretation). He was only outside for a couple seconds, and then he got back in the car and started it. He muttered under his breath, "I forgot my wallet, and we have to go back home to get it."

                Silence ensued until our oldest son, Maguire, piped up and stated, "Wow, Dad, it's a good thing we didn't drive all the way and then get gas like you wanted to."

                I'd like to say that I did not revel in the feeling of "being right" for a little while, but that would be a lie. 

                Thankfully Ryan laughed, apologized for being stubborn, and agreed with Maguire that he was happier to find out this close to home that he didn't have his wallet with him. I apologized, too. We talked, and everyone laughed the whole way back to our house to retrieve the wallet. 

                It turned out comical, but we could have done better.

                Husbands and wives are generally very different people. Physical differences aside, husbands and wives often have very different personalities. They look at the world from different perspectives. They solve problems in different ways. These differences can make for amazing teamwork, but they can also lead to serious disagreements.

                Ryan is very detail-oriented and likes to map out a plan before doing anything. In hindsight, he says that getting gas at our nearby station was not in his original plan, so he became inflexible. He struggles when his plans are disrupted. On that day, my idea to get gas closer to home was the disruption of his plan.

                I like to have gas in the tank before a trip so I don't have to think about any of the details during the trip. I hate details and plans, so I get them out of the way before I can have fun. In hindsight, I realize his plan was equally valid (minus the wallet situation), and might have even saved us money.

                Neither of us was right, and neither of us was wrong. We just had a difference of opinion. We disagreed. We argued about it because we are both stubborn and wanted to get our own way. Instead of arguing, we both should have shown some humility and grace. Then we could have discussed our options and made a decision we could both live with. We both need to be more flexible. We both need to compromise more. We are real people who often get this right, but at times we obviously don't.

                Disagreements will always occur. Diffusing them takes love, understanding of different personalities, and a willingness to compromise. Love demands that we fight our individual need to be right, and work together as a team instead. We need to build each other up in order to truly fill the tank. 


                Diffusing Disagreements in Marriage: Fill the Tank
                Roadblocks to Good Communication

                Roadblocks to Good Communication

                Communication roadblocks can appear in many, many forms, and they seem to reappear in different forms throughout our lives. They can involve fear, lies, gossip, discouragement, exaggeration, nastiness, fighting, and even the total opposite-- the silent treatment. All of these communication issues become roadblocks to us moving forward in our most important relationships. Some are more obvious than others, but all of them need to be dealt with. We can build others up with our words or tear them down. Communication roadblocks need to be resolved quickly.

                Once I saw on Pinterest a sign that said, “Before You Speak, THINK.”
                Each letter of “think” stands for something. THINK stands for:

                Is it True?

                Is it Helpful?

                Is it Inspiring?

                Is it Necessary?

                Is it Kind?

                Basically, if what we want to say doesn’t meet that criteria, it probably doesn’t need to be said. If we hold our speech to those standards, we would get into far less trouble and experience fewer roadblocks. We would build each other up rather than tear each other down.

                Think about it... If something you’re about to say is not true, or you aren’t sure whether it’s true or not, don’t say it. This one is first because this one can sure cause the most harm. There is nothing worse than spreading false information.

                If what you’re about to say isn’t helpful, don’t say it. Words that aren’t helpful can be harmful. It could be gossip. It could be a complaint. Complaining is never helpful; offering a solution to a problem while offering to help, however, is helpful.

                If what you’re about to say isn’t inspiring, don’t say it. This one goes to whether what you’re about to say will build someone up or tear them down. It’s a big deal because once words are spoken, they cannot be taken back. Most negative things we say don’t need to be said. And even when we have an issue we need to confront someone with, we can say it with love and build them up rather than be nasty.

                If what you’re about to say isn’t necessary, don’t say it. Do you really NEED to say it? Are you really the one who needs to say it? Does the other person really need to hear it? If it isn’t necessary, don’t say it. Just because I don’t like your jeans, doesn’t mean it’s necessary for me to tell you. It’s not my job to point out everyone’s misdeed. So if it isn’t necessary, don’t say it.

                Lastly, if what you’re about to say isn’t kind, don’t say it. Nasty critiques are not kind. Our speech, even when we’re presenting an issue to someone, can be kind, especially if we pray through it or think it through BEFORE we say it. There are so many things in the heat of the moment that I want to say, but when I pause to consider them I realize they aren’t kind. Making myself feel better by saying them anyway will only make me feel good in the moment. I’ll regret it later, and I might ruin a relationship at the same time.

                If you have a communication roadblock, the easiest way to fix it is to utilize emotional control. When our emotions go crazy, we say things we should not. The best thing is to pause before we speak, especially when we’re angry, embarrassed, or caught off-guard. A good statement is, “I’m going to have to consider that and talk to you about it later.” Admit you are upset and need a little time to cool off first. What we say in the heat of the moment usually doesn’t turn out well. We end up looking nasty and immature. Other people become afraid of our reactions. That is especially true in marriage, and with our kids. We could all learn to tame our tongues a little more and use our words for good rather than evil. Print this out and stick it somewhere that it will be helpful for you, like on your bathroom mirror, fridge, or on your desk at the office:


                Active Listening: 4 Ways to Really Hear Your Spouse

                Active Listening: 4 Ways to Really Hear Your Spouse

                When we think about communication, talking is what generally comes to mind. Talking, however, is only one component of effective communication. Active listening is another, and it's just as important as talking. In a marriage, it's absolutely vital. This type of listening is not passive; rather, it takes purposeful effort.

                Unfortunately, most of us have quite poor listening skills. We tend to monopolize conversations rather than putting the other person first. We usually listen to hear what we want to hear, or we listen in order to formulate a response. These behaviors are deadly sins in the context of good marriage communication. Listening makes the other person feel important and respected, while lack of listening makes the other person feel unimportant, trampled, and ignored.

                If your goal is to improve your listening skills and really hear what your spouse has to say, here are four ways to do that:

                1. Zone in on your spouse. First, remove distractions. Shut off the TV and phone, have the kids go in another room, and put away work. Next, make good eye contact by looking directly at your spouse. Don't look at the floor, squirm in your seat, or look elsewhere. Finally, don't interrupt. Allow your spouse all the time necessary to tell an entire story. Don't finish your spouse's sentences or correct him/her. Be patient until it is your turn to speak, and don't daydream about what you plan to say next. Simply listen.

                2. Use appropriate body language. To begin, uncross your arms. Crossed arms automatically make it seem like you are annoyed or defensive. Rather, sit forward to show interest and keep your hands in your lap. Your goal is to make your spouse feel comfortable. To that end, it's also a good idea to mentally check your face. If you are scowling or frowning, relax your face so your spouse will feel at ease. Next, stop talking. It is impossible to listen while simultaneously speaking. We have two ears and one mouth, and they should be utilized in that proportion. Finally, occasionally nod in understanding. This nonverbal cue lets your spouse know that you understand what he/she is saying and that you are interested in hearing more.

                3. Interact and respond. First, make sure your spouse is truly finished speaking before responding. The worst thing you can do is jump in the moment your spouse pauses to take a breath. A good rule of thumb is to wait several seconds to be sure he/she is done. Next, ask a few questions that come to mind about what your spouse was saying. Ask for clarification on anything you weren't sure about. Don't assume anything-- ask instead. Finally, show your spouse you were listening by rephrasing and summarizing some of what was said. One way to do that is to say, "It sounds like you are saying... xyz." Your spouse will either nod in agreement at that point or will clarify the parts you did not understand.

                4. Handle it well. Sometimes the hardest part of communication is handling what we hear. We may not agree with something, we may feel offended, or we may get angry. It is important in marriage communication not to attack your spouse. Instead, try to see things from your spouse's point of view. Just because you disagree does not mean that you cannot try to understand things from your spouse's perspective. Rather than attacking or reacting emotionally, say something like, "I'll have to take some time to consider that." That shows your spouse that you have been listening and that you care enough to think more about what they have said. Even if you never agree on a particular issue, that does not mean that you have to fight or argue about it. Rarely do two people agree on everything, even when they love each other. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you choose to handle it. Handling it well will ensure that your spouse feels safe enough to share with you in the future. If you attack every time you disagree, your spouse may eventually stop sharing.

                These four steps to better listening skills are a good start toward making your spouse feel loved and heard. Listening shows you care. Practice what you've learned here, and you'll be well on your way toward better communication.