I Want to Tell My Spouse They’re Wrong, But How? Part 2

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As we discussed in Part 1, the Bible says, “Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25). So how should you approach your spouse with the truth about something you believe they need to hear?

Always see your mate as an ally.

Feedback is of little use if you see your spouse as an enemy.

Giving and receiving constructive feedback is based on feelings of goodwill in both partners.

Both of you need to remember that, even if you don’t always agree and even if you become irritated or angry, you are friends and neither of you means to hurt the other.

Whose problem is it, really?

When a husband or wife says, “We have communication problems!” what does that remark mean?

Generally, the person who says this means that the other spouse is speaking carelessly or isn’t listening carefully enough. People seldom think that a problem is with them because they tend to assume the best about themselves.

We continue to get letters from husbands and wives who formerly blamed their spouses for their marital difficulties but now realize they are the real culprits, or at least equally to blame for the problem.

For example, one wife didn’t understand why her marriage wasn’t working until she attended a Love and Respect Marriage Conference. She writes,

“I have always disrespected [my husband] in so many ways. The way I speak to him, the way I undermine his authority in front of our son, how I name call, etc. I never saw how I was coming across. I always thought I was great, and he was the flawed one. I finally realized I’m just as much to blame for all our problems. Coming from a home where my mother made it a recreational activity to ridicule, disrespect, and belittle my dad, I didn’t know how much that had affected me. But God can break those chains, and with His help, I know it will happen. I’m constantly checking myself to make sure I’m not disrespecting [my husband].”

Never assume you understand.

Giving and receiving feedback often involves emotions.

When my conversations with Sarah start to get emotional, I have two rules:

  1. I never assume I understand what Sarah said until she tells me that I did understand correctly.

  2. I never assume Sarah understood what I said until she tells me what she thought she heard me say and I can verify it.

When our conversations get emotional, Sarah doesn’t say things as well as she normally would, and I don’t listen as well as I normally would. If we allow a misunderstanding to go unclarified, we will experience an undercurrent of negativity that will drain our energy.

Giving and receiving feedback can be tedious at times, but it prevents both of us from making wrong assumptions about what we said or heard; it also enables us to get on the same page.

You can skillfully make the first move.

If Sarah and I have even a small glitch in communication, we both like to make the first move and take responsibility. We know we have goodwill toward each other, so if we have a misunderstanding, we assume that one of us probably didn’t speak clearly enough or listen carefully enough. We stop the conversation, revisit what was said and straighten out the misunderstanding.

Taking this kind of initiative makes both of us feel we have the power to do something about our problems, not feel like helpless victims. Sometimes I take the initiative, and sometimes she does.

We don’t like it when we cross our wires, but when it happens, we don’t let it shock us. We have developed the skills and confidence to clarify things—mainly because we’ve had a ton of practice!

Do you have additional ways that help when speaking truth to your spouse?

When speaking truth, do you tend to see your spouse as an ally or an enemy?

Have there been times when you felt you needed to speak truth to your spouse that it was actually your problem and not theirs?

Do you and your spouse make sure you understand each other correctly?

Do you try to make the first move and take responsibility when there is a misunderstanding?

-Dr. E