By Bob Bunn
Of all the challenges couples face, communication in marriage might be among the most difficult
to master. In part, that’s because opposites really do attract. You’re wired one way. Your spouse
is wired differently.
Even in the best situations, you’re going to have differences of opinion, and that’s going to make
effective communication in marriage harder.
So, understanding that marital communication can be hard is a great first step toward making it
work in your relationship. Thankfully, godly husbands can improve communication in marriage.
You and your wife can work together to get better at talking to one another and resolving issues
that inevitably pop up as you do life together.
Another significant step is to lay down some personal communication rules for your life. These
are the communication guidelines that you will honor and the boundaries that you will refuse to
cross as a husband. You can share them with your wife and maybe even use them to set some
broader rules you both will follow.
But ultimately, you can only control your own approach to communication in your marriage. So,
start with you.
As you consider the nuts and bolts of your communication playbook, keep a couple of things in
mind. First, give it your full attention. That might mean getting away from distractions and
writing things on paper to add a sense of accountability. Do whatever it takes.
Second, take care of this sooner rather than later. Even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone,
you will be glad that you have these tools in your toolbox the next time you face a
communication challenge in your marriage.
There is no magic number when it comes to your rules for marriage communication, but, as with
most things, simple usually works better. In the list below, I’ve offered seven ideas for healthy
communication with your wife. These have come through personal experience, and most are still
a work in progress. After all, communication in marriage is a lifelong project.
You’ve probably been to parties or meetings that included icebreakers to help people get to know
each other better. Well, you can use the same idea to spark better marital communication.
Your conversations with your wife don’t always have to focus on the big stuff. In fact, talking
about the small things in life actually sets the tone for bigger discussions down the road. They
are the mortar that keeps the bricks in place and ensures the wall is secure.
Several years ago, I was on vacation with my family at the beach. As we were sitting under our
umbrellas, three young women walked up to my parents and asked for their best advice to ensure
a lasting marriage. Without hesitation, my dad told them to make sure they and their spouses
were on the same page with faith, family, and finances.
He was absolutely right because those three areas often become the hottest topics for
communication in marriage. They are the big rocks that can shatter a marriage or provide an
immovable foundation. You may want to add other things to your list, but however you define
the “big stuff,” it deserves your full attention as you learn to communicate in marriage.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a really good chance that you and your wife approach
communication differently. God has wired each of you in a unique way because you need her to
see things you miss, and she needs you to do the same for her. You complete one another.
So, if you’re struggling to resolve an issue, it’s all right to call a timeout and take a break, as long
as you promise to come back together after you’ve both had a chance to process. This
demonstrates respect and helps keep emotions in check. It also makes your conversations a “safe
space” where thoughtful and honest communication can happen.
If two people enter a conversation, you can be sure that each of them comes in with preconceived
ideas about how that talk should go and what it should accomplish. Unfortunately, those
expectations can also hinder communication because they keep us from really listening to the
So, instead of trying to read your spouse’s mind or assuming you know what she’s thinking, truly
listen to her words. If necessary, ask some clarifying questions. Your first tendency is probably
to speak, but good communication means listening well.
For me, this is one of the hardest things in my marriage communication playbook to put into
practice. I lean toward the dramatic, especially in moments of conflict. And I have to bite my
tongue to avoid using blanket statements like “You always do this” or “You never do that.”
These are dangerous little words because they are rarely (if ever) true. No one “always” or
“never” does anything. Yet, they represent easy weapons for accusing, criticizing, or assigning
blame. They rehash the problem, which makes it harder to focus on finding a solution.
Actions really do speak louder than words, so you’ve got to recognize the power of body
language and other non-verbal cues. Every sincere point you make can be wiped away with a
negative physical cue.
Of course, you can learn a lot from your wife’s non-verbal communication. When you were
dating, you probably studied your wife to learn as much about her as possible. Don’t stop now!
Keep learning about her, including the signals she provides when the two of you talk.
Understanding what she’s saying beyond her words can pay big dividends in marital
Let me be very clear about this. You should never let fear, shame, or guilt keep you from seeing
a professional counselor. Somewhere along the way, we’ve got the idea that seeing a therapist
means we’ve failed or that we’re admitting defeat. Actually, nothing could be further from the
If you and your wife are struggling with communication in marriage, talking to a professional
can be the wisest move you could possibly make. Even strong marriages hit rough patches.
Getting the help you need with marital communication or any other issues shows strength and
In the Song of Songs, Solomon mentioned the “little foxes that ruin the vineyard” (Song of
Songs 2:15). He was talking about the supposed “little” things that creep into a marriage and
cause big problems. In addition to listing action points, your playbook can also help you identify
the “foxes” that pose the greatest threats to communication in your marriage.
For example, you might have issues that have damaged the trust between you and your wife.
Those problems need to be addressed before communication can thrive. You also might need to
watch for bad habits, like interrupting or picking the wrong time and/or place to raise the topic
for discussion. Recognizing and avoiding these obstacles can strengthen your skills and lead to
more effective communication in your marriage.