Better Communication in Your Marriage?

by John Beeson

“The biggest problem in our marriage is our communication.” It’s perhaps the most frequent issue that is brought to the table when Angel (my wife and counselor) and I meet with couples. At the core of many marriage seminars and conferences is the issue of how to improve the communication in your marriage.

I don’t buy it. Your marriage doesn’t need better communication.

Alright, alright. I’m overstating that for dramatic effect. There are some helpful things you can do to improve communication in your marriage. But the fact remains: I’ve yet to encounter a marriage that the fundamental issue is communication. More serious issues always lurk beneath the surface.

The reason that communication is often fore-fronted is that it is a neutral issue. Being a poor communicator isn’t a sin. We think if we can just learn new techniques, we will experience renewal in our marriage.

Communication isn’t your issue. Sin is your issue. Or, to put it in James’s language, your desires are your issue.

When James writes to the church, he is crystal clear about what is at the heart of their communication issues. He asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” (James 4:1a). Note what James doesn’t say, “Your poor communication skills.” Nope. Here is James’s answer, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1b-2).

James tells us that at the core of our communication issues is our sin. Our proud and judgmental hearts produce murderous words. Jealous and envious hearts use words to claw and grasp for what they want. Narcissistic hearts spill out words that project themselves on the world.

You might struggle with articulating yourself well. You might be an introvert. You might have had parents who were horrible role models at navigating conflict. Those are all real things that need to be overcome. You can become a better communicator. But don’t confuse this skill with the heart of the matter.

We have a sin problem, not a communication problem.

What is the answer to that sin problem? Turning away from how our hearts have been formed by the world and being formed by God. The answer is found in humble repentance. James concludes, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purity your hearts, you double minded” (James 4:7-8).

Do you want to experience a renewed marriage? This is where the answer begins. Humble repentance. Transformed desires.

When our desires move from a longing to satisfy ourselves to yearning to honor God, then our conversations begin to change. When our hearts are oriented in submission to God, more than just our conversations: our relationships change. James 4 holds the key to rescuing your marriage.

I’m still waiting to see a marriage rescued through improved communication skills. God can save your marriage through the cleansing of your heart. I’ve seen that dozens of times.

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