“The expert in anything was once a beginner.” —Helen Hayes

The Newlywed Game. We may be dating ourselves here, but who else remembers this entertaining game show? Newly married couples played against other couples in a game of ‘who knows their spouse better.’ And it never failed; silliness and sometimes even irritation ensued as someone revealed an incorrect answer. Some couples were stellar examples of knowing their spouse intimately – and others – not so much!

Would you and your spouse pass with flying colors, or nosedive with many different answers and lots of eye-rolling involved?

Building a Stronger Marriage

Here’s what we know: learning to be a student of your spouse will build up your marriage and show your spouse how much you value them. 

The way she snuggles up next to you in bed or sleeps with socks on. The way he doesn’t like his food to touch on his dinner plate. The cute little habit of double-checking her appearance in the mirror each morning. The fun way he interacts with the kids.

While these are all great things to know about your spouse, they can go much deeper. 

How does she prefer to communicate? What really stresses him out? What things can I do or even say to lift her up when she’s having a particularly rough day? How can I make him feel respected and valued in our relationship? 

When we genuinely take the time to know our spouse, we strengthen and build up our spouse and marriage. Whether you’re in the newlywed marriage stage or about to celebrate 25 years (or more!), there’s always something new to be learned. Loving our spouses well requires intentionality and thoughtful inquiries into who they are and what makes them well – uniquely them!

Some ideas for being a straight-A student of your spouse? Try regular date nights and asking questions. They can be fun questions or questions that make it necessary to dig a bit deeper. Keep the conversation going! 

If you haven’t already, read The 5 Love Languages book together, and be sure to take the quiz so you can readily share how you both show and receive love. Of course, both are equally important to know about yourself and your spouse. 
Don’t ever stop observing, asking, and listening to your spouse. Think about A.S.K. – Always Seeking Knowledge about and from your spouse. This will make you a top-tier student, and keep you at the head of your spouse’s class!! There’s certainly no better time to start than now. And besides, nobody wants to be stuck at the novice level for long, right? So work toward becoming an expert-level student of your spouse – and watch the dividends pay off in more extraordinary love, satisfaction, and intimacy in your marriage.

Communication: a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior. That’s Merriam-Webster’s definition. So how do you define communication? Better yet:

Communication in Marriage

How is communication in your marriage?

Most counselors and coaches (including us) agree that communication is foundational to a solid marriage relationship. It’s crucial for each spouse to be able to safely express feelings about a situation or experience – whether positive or negative. Take a moment and think about the last ‘opportunity for growth’ (aka disagreement or argument!) you experienced as a couple. Did your wife believe you would acknowledge her feelings and listen to her?  Did your husband have the space to honestly air his thoughts and concerns – without judgment? 

How do we go about communicating well?

When we express ‘how that makes or made me feel’, we are learning to express our own feelings in a safe way – and in a way that will also protect our spouse from feeling attacked and rushing to the defense mode. By using this communication tool early in the conversation, doors will remain open, rather than walls being built up with ‘you’ statements. 

Scenario One looks a little like this: Husband approaches Wife with the statement, “You always …. (add your own storyline here).” Immediately, Wife feels she’s left with no choice but to defend herself. As a result, communication is shut down from the beginning, leaving no chance for healthy discussion and resolution.

Scenario Two plays out this way: Husband approaches wife Wife with the statement, “That situation made me feel this way.” Wife can now honestly communicate her feelings as well since Husband has opened the door for genuine discussion.

Building Trust

How we relate and communicate is essential to building trust. Most women want to know they are being heard and their feelings to be validated. Typically, men want to know they are valued and heard (as well). 

This rings true on a general relational level as well. Women need love (and to feel loved), and men need respect (and to feel respected). In fact, this comes straight from the Bible. Ephesians 5:33 tells us, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” 

It doesn’t get much more clear than that!

So, the next time an ‘opportunity’ arises, let’s take a moment and remember to safely express ourselves and allow our spouse that same chance. Keep those lines of communication freely moving, and build that strong foundation.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

If you find that you’re struggling with effective communication in your relationship, we would love to help.