Communication in Marriage: Part 5 —
 4 WAYS OF RELATING TO EACH OTHER
 –A Couple’s Bible Study

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” — 1 Corinthians 13:6

In this last lesson on what the Bible teaches about communicating in marriage, we’ll see four ways we relate to each other that can either enhance or hinder our communication. The first three ways are in opposition to what the Bible teaches and will, therefore, end up harming our relationship. The fourth way is the biblical way–God’s way–which will allow our communication to be helpful and to accomplish His purpose.

The Bible speaks in many places about how we relate to one another. One such passage is in Proverbs 27:5-6: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” These words from God tell us truth is always best in the long run, even if that truth is painful at a given moment. They also tell us truth is always the loving way to go. 

Dishonesty will always end up hurting our spouse and our relationship. Truth leads to trust. And even though dishonesty might seemingly lead to momentary peace and alleviation of pain, in the end the pain will be greater and the peace will give way to war.

Remember the command often quoted in this study from Ephesians 4:15? “…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Here God says telling the truth with love as our motive will always be the right way–not the easiest–but the right way. Anything else will be wrong.

And in what we have come to call the “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13:6 says: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”  Love can never be shown through evil, and dishonesty is evil–sinful. The truth, on the other hand, will lead to joy.

So let’s take a look at these four ways of relating to each other…

Unbiblical Ways of Relating

1. Closed and Unloving

This way involves concealing and deceiving. Worst of all, this is done with the intent of hurting our spouse. We usually relate this way when we feel hurt by our spouse and want them to hurt in return. So we close up and shut them out, knowing this will cause them pain. We may hold onto that grudge for awhile and enjoy watching them squirm trying to figure it out. This way of relating is where we give our spouse the “silent treatment.” And If they ask what’s wrong, we self-righteously respond with “Nothing,” but make sure by our tone, attitude, and/or actions that they clearly know something indeed is wrong.

It may sound like I describe this too well. It is not because my sweet wife treats me this way. No–it is because I have been the master of it too often. And, make no mistake–it is sin. When I relate this way, I am not speaking the truth, and I am certainly not doing it in love. God says through Paul in Romans 13:10: “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” I certainly am doing harm to my closest neighbor–my wife–when I act this way. And that is sin.

James 4:17 says: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” When we know the right thing to do, but choose instead to please ourselves and our sinful flesh as I’ve described above, it is sin–just as sure as if we said something cruel. The only proper response when we recognize our sin is to confess it and ask for forgiveness from God and our spouse. Then talk it out with each other in truth and love.

2. Open and Unloving

Here we tell the truth, but we do it in a way we know will hurt our spouse. We speak the truth without respect–with harshness and rudeness. We speak the truth–but without love.

Again, we are hurting and we want our spouse to hurt also. We basically tell ourselves we’ve only told the truth–and sometimes the truth has to hurt. After all, it’s for their own good, right? Well, the truth does hurt at times, but we don’t have to express it with the intent of hurting our spouse. Intent can mean everything. Remember, God looks at and knows our hearts; He knows our intention. He judges based on what He knows.

God spoke these words to King Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:9: “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.” And we’re told how God uses His Word in Hebrews 4:12: “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 

We are to speak the truth, but it must be done in love. Any communication done with the intent of hurting another can never be done in love. Nor is it ever pleasing to God or hidden from Him. And it will never be helpful to our spouse or our marriage.

3. Closed and Loving

This is when we try to keep the truth from our spouse, but the intent is not to harm but to keep them from the hurt we believe will come if they know the truth. Our intent may seem good, but in fact, it will eventually lead to greater pain than if we had been open and honest all along.

The Gadites and Reubenites wanted to build their homes on the other side of the Jordan River from the rest of Israel’s tribes rather than cross over with them when Moses led them to the Promised Land. However, they agreed the men of their tribes would cross the Jordan and help the others defeat the enemies and prepare the land for them to settle. Moses agreed but gave them this warning in Number 32:23: “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Even if you are somehow able to keep something hidden from your spouse, you cannot hide it from God.

Proverbs 13:15 says: “Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction” (NASB). David, after committing the sin of adultery and trying to hide it, prayed to God in Psalm 51:3: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” It is not loving to God or to our spouse to hide something from them. It will only bring harm to them and to us.

David writes in Psalm 32:3-5: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of the summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’–and You forgave me the guilt of my sin.” What a beautiful picture of what will take place when we don’t try to hide things from God or our spouse.

The Biblical Way of Relating

So what is the biblical way of relating to our spouse? It is God’s way. Therefore, it is the best way–the only acceptable way to according to God. It is open and loving.

4. Open and Loving

To be open and loving is to be true and godly. It is speaking the truth–the whole truth and nothing but the truth–and speaking it in love. The true, heartfelt intent is to help, to be gracious to our spouse, and to help them be all God wants them to be.

Men, it is loving our wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25)It means dying to ourselves as Christ did for us, swallowing our pride, and being open and honest with our wives in a loving way for their sake and for God’s sake.

Ladies, it is loving your husband with the love of Christ by respecting him through being open and honest with him in a loving way for his sake and for God’s sake.

This will mean for all of us encouraging each other at times,  and it may mean discussing hard and uncomfortable things at others. But relating God’s way will always be done in love and grace with the intent of helping–never hurting–our spouse.

There cannot be oneness in marriage without an open and loving relationship based on open and loving communication with God and each other.

So make it your goal to relate to each other God’s way. This is the only way to a strong, beautiful marriage and to fulfill God’s design of being one as husband and wife.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. Have I treated or spoken to my spouse with an intent to get back at them or to hurt them? 
  2. Have I used the “silent treatment” or not wanted to share my true feelings?
  3. Have I withheld any part of truth because I didn’t want to cause my spouse discomfort or pain?
  4. Have I held on to a grudge?
  5. Have I blurted out the truth in harsh ways–without considering how to present it in love?
  6. Have I tried to deceive my spouse by not sharing the full truth?
  7. Do I always approach my spouse with a heart full of love and an intention to bless them?
  8. Do I strive to be open and honest with my spouse in everything?

Applying This to Your Life

  1. Wherever you have recognized sin in the way you have related to your spouse, confess it and ask forgiveness from the Lord and from your spouse (if you have not already done so).
  2. Pray every day that God will give you the desire and determination to always be open, honest, and loving with your spouse.
  3. Write down or memorize scriptures that help you remember God’s way of relating to each other. Read and review them often. 
  4. During your couple time together (such as Couple Connect), each of you ask the other if you have failed to be open and loving in any way during that week. This is a great opportunity to practice speaking the truth in love and accepting that truth with a heart of grace and humility. Confess and ask forgiveness, as needed.

May the Lord bless you in all His wonderful ways,
David

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org

Telephone line photo by markito via pixabay, text and filter added.

 

If you missed any of the other posts in this series, Communication in Marriage, here are the links…
Part 1–Words Matter
Part 2–A Key Passage
Part 3–Prepare and Practice
Part 4–6 Essential Steps to Communicate God’s Way

 

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.