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How to Improve Communication in Your Marriage :: [Ep. 162]
Do you ever sit back and take note of your attitude? How’s it been lately- your overall attitude in life?
Better yet, ask your spouse, children, close friends, even coworkers: “Hey- how has my attitude been lately? Please give me an honest answer.”
*Warning: Don’t ask the question unless you’re ready to humbly hear the answer. We’re blind to our own shortcomings, and if you’re anything like me, it is really easy to justify your actions... for better or worse. Resist the urge to explain yourself, just listen with a gentle heart.
We all need to check our attitudes often. Why? Because they will inevitably affect our communication (more on that toward the end of this post)- and our marriage. The question I need to ask: Is my attitude affecting my marriage for good or for bad?
Attitude is defined as: A manner of thinking, feeling, or behaving that reflects a state of mind or disposition. This mindset affects our tone, nonverbal communication, and what we say and do.
In Scripture, the words “mind” and “mindset” are translated to attitude several times (like we see in Philippians 2:5).
This just shows that attitude is something God cares about; perhaps more than we realize.
In Philippians 2:5, God asks us (through Paul’s writing) to have the same attitude (“mind”) Jesus had.
Woah. That’s a high standard. Look back at verses 3-4:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Notice, it does NOT say:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit… unless you’re really tired because you haven’t been sleeping well lately. Then you can have a short fuse when your kids start fighting or your spouse starts nagging.
In humility count others more significant than yourselves… except when you’ve been working really hard- then you deserve a break. So, go ahead out with your friends while your spouse is overwhelmed with everything at home.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others… unless you find a really amazing deal on the car you’ve been wanting. Then you can blow the budget and put your family in debt while you cruise around in your favorite toy.
We don’t find the words “unless” or “except” in Jesus’ attitude (mindset). Jesus didn’t make excuses. He had a servant’s humble heart overflowing with love for God and love for others.
And His love covers us, too. How does knowing that affect your attitude?
Who sets the tone in your home?
I am frequently reminded of how my attitude has an overwhelming impact on our home. There’s a lot of weight to that. “If Mama ain’t happy”…. Well, you know the saying. But is that how it should be?
Should my family be working to please ME?
When something doesn’t go the way I want, how quickly my bad attitudes show their ugly faces:
Anger (If this is a struggle for you, click HERE for Biblical help in handling anger.)
Resentment (Is bitterness burdening your marriage? Click HERE for help.)
They all come out and say to my family: “Hey! We’re here because Mama ain’t happy. So ya’ll need to figure out a way to make her happy again.”
(If this resonates with you, check out Happy Wife, Happy Life.)
Of course, not all attitudes are bad. I can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to have good ones too:
I try to exhibit those as much as possible, but they’re much easier to muster when life is more smooth-sailing than rocky and stormy.
Attitudes are fickle.
They can last for seconds, or so deeply permeate our lives that we begin to cast it off as “just our personality.”
Whatever the attitude (and however long it lasts), the effects our mindset has on those around us- our marriage in particular- are far-reaching.
Two questions to consider before moving on (take a moment to write down your answers):
When it’s just you and your spouse behind closed doors, what is the culture of your marriage? What attitudes prevail?
Within the last week, when did your attitude set the tone for the day, specific circumstance, or conversation?
Now, on to a question about attitude that will help improve communication in your marriage…
What sets my attitude?
“I am what I am, so take me as I am.” -Goethe
We live in a country that tells us we don’t have to listen to anyone but ourselves. We’re told it’s appropriate to embrace whatever attitude makes us feel like our “true” and “authentic” selves. We set our own attitude.
Not just that, but we’re encouraged to be BIG in whoever we are. Don’t slink back, be bold; because you are most beautiful when you’re your “true self”.
That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Love yourself. Be bold. Be beautiful. Be you.
I believed this way for a long time; the majority of my life, really.
I still fall into that mindset trap from time-to-time. It’s hard to “unlearn” lies we’ve believed for so long. But, over the course of this decade, I’ve been learning:
A true disciple of Christ has an attitude that seeks to be conformed to the image of Christ. Don’t slink back when it comes to loving like Christ. Be bold in Christ. Be BIG in your identity in Christ.
To gain a better understanding of your identity in Christ, check out the following resources:
The Green Letters: Principles of Spiritual Growth by Miles J. Stanford
Conformed to the image of Christ. Easier said than done, right? YES.
Think about this question for a moment:
When was the last time you chose to have a Christ-like attitude when you didn’t feel like it? What were the results?
For example: maybe your spouse comes home late from work AGAIN. Rather than letting frustration and bitterness drive your attitude, you tell them how thankful you are that they have a good work ethic and provide for the family.
Having a Christ-like attitude makes an eternal impact. So, why is choosing a Christ-like attitude so difficult?
What stands in the way of us conforming to HIS image?
What drives my WRONG attitudes?
Most of the driving forces behind our bad attitudes can be categorized in one of 3 ways:
Belief that there’s no other option: “This is just the way I am” or “I have a right to be/feel this way.”
Expectations: “My way or the highway.”
Disobedience: In what areas am I not being obedient to God’s Word?
Every wrong action begins with believing a lie.
Identify the lie you’re believing and replace it with the truth.
Believing the TRUTH helps us think truthfully, which puts us in the right mindset: a Christ-like mindset.
Let’s look at an example.
It’s currently a season of extreme busyness for me, personally. Day in and day out, I’m racing the clock, trying to get all the things done, feeling like there’s never enough time and instead of accomplishing anything, I’m failing at everything.
Wow. Those are NOT thoughts that will align me with God’s truth. There are a few lies I am believing which, in turn, set unrealistic expectations:
I MUST do “all the things” or they won’t get done. (Expectation: everything must get done or else…)
I deserve more time in order to accomplish all the things that “must” get done. (Expectation: everyone must adjust their lives and expectations in order to meet my expectation of more time.)
I’m failing at everything. (Expectation: I must accomplish everything to the standard I am setting.)
Believing these lies drives me to work harder, toiling in my own strength, burning myself out until I have nothing left to give to the ones whom God has placed in my life to love with Christ-like love.
In short: believing lies keeps the focus on ME.
(If toiling under a burden of busyness resonates with you, read THIS for encouragement to get off the hamster wheel and run the race God has for you.)
So, what’s the TRUTH I need to believe when I’m overwhelmed and stressed to the max (in order to avoid having a wrong attitude)?
Well, Scripture is God’s truth, so here are a few passages I am clinging to in this busy season:
Philippians 4:19- And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. He equips me with exactly what I need to live each day glorifying Him by loving my spouse (and others) the way He’s asked me to..
Matthew 6:25-33- Read the whole passage, but focusing on verse 33 shifts things in perspective quickly: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Seek FIRST the kingdom of God. Some good questions through which to filter your actions: Is this glorifying to God? Is this helping my spouse see God’s love for them? Loving GOD and loving OTHERS is evidence that you are seeking first His kingdom.
Whatever the situation, identify the LIE you’re believing, replace it with TRUTH found in God’s Word, and you’ll find your expectations change dramatically… IF you’re obedient to God’s Word.
We can arm ourselves with great verses and passages, pacifying our thoughts and making us feel better momentarily, but if we fail to put them into action, can become mere words, not the life-giving breath of God they actually are (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves (James 1:22).
You may have read the title of this post, and are currently thinking: What does all the talk about attitude have to do with communication??
I’m glad you asked…
Communication starts with the heart (just like attitude).
Whatever is driving your attitude, will also affect communication with your spouse. That’s why we must always come back to the heart of the matter. A great question to help us do that is:
What untrue thing am I believing that is affecting my attitude, and therefore my communication?
We could offer tips and tricks for improved communication, such as:
Always use “I” statements rather than “You” statements when in a fight
Never resort to name-calling
Validate your spouse’s feelings, but make sure your voice gets heard
Listen to what your spouse is saying, don’t just wait for your chance to respond
Want Biblical advice for fighting fair? Read 8 Guidelines for Fighting Fair
While these suggestions are not wrong, they keep us at the surface level. They don’t help us address our attitudes- which originate at the heart level. And so, implementing tips and tricks won’t lead to a right heart, believing the truth of God’s Word and applying it, or radical, lasting change in your communication and marriage.
So, what do we do if we just don’t know what belief is driving our bad attitude?
Vow to Change: An Encouraging Call to Action
If you don’t know what belief is setting your attitude:
Ask the Lord to show you what needs to change. Lord, I know my attitude is not God-honoring. I know it just plain stinks, but I can’t seem to shake it. Will You please show me what needs to change? He’s faithful and will do so.
Ask your spouse and/or your kids: “How has my attitude been lately?” It’s not easy (I just did it the other day… yikes.) But it will open your eyes to what you may not be able to see. We ALL have blind spots; attitudes that push others away and hurt communication. Be receptive and encourage them to be honest.
Go to the Lord and ask Him too if there is an attitude you’ve been having that isn’t helpful to your marriage or family. If He reveals one to you, He’s convicting you to change. Go to His Word in search of applicable passages. (Most Bibles have a concordance in which you can look up a word and find all the places it is used in Scripture. Another resource I love to use is THIS website. You can search for specific phrases/terms, and it will bring up applicable passages.)
Be obedient to what God is asking you to do (or not do).
Seek forgiveness for your attitude if it hasn’t been God-honoring. Start with your spouse, but also apologize to your children. Asking for and extending forgiveness will open lines of communication and helps soften any bitterness or hard feelings.
Having trouble seeking/extending forgiveness? Check out the following posts to help you get started:
Arm yourself with truth so you can recognize the lies and avoid falling prey to them.
Every wrong attitude and action begins with believing a lie.
Every good, helpful, God-honoring attitude and action begins with believing the truth.
Attitude affects communication. So, if your attitude is terrible, your communication will suffer. But there’s good news! (There’s always good news when Christ is involved.)
Ready for it?
God is the potter; we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8). He can take EVERYTHING we place before Him and mold it into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.
Don’t hold anything back.
Beware: the death of sin can hurt. But temporary pain pales in comparison to the eternal value of being shaped into the image of Christ. One day when we meet in Heaven, we can swap stories of how God’s heart-penetrating Word- put in action- was able to revive and change our attitudes, communication, and marriages.
To Go Deeper:
Listen to this post’s corresponding podcast, How to Improve Communication in Your Marriage
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