MY LAME MARRIAGE
What Do You Mean we Don’t Communicate?
Every healthy marriage has thousands of shut-up-and-talk-to-me moments, maybe some of the wisest words ever written down, those moments where husbands graduate from merely hearing to actively listening, where wives go from just critiquing to actually affirming and encouraging, where husbands and wives together elevate their game and do the intentional, soul-sharing work of communication.
Now, communication requires work. And the fact of the matter is, folks, that in most marriages, one partner desires communication more strongly than the other. Let me tell you what I mean. Most husbands do not go to bed at night thinking to themselves, I just didn’t get enough communication today. I just don’t feel like my wife really shared enough with me. Now, the fact of the matter is that that desire for communication, while typically more strongly felt by women and wives, actually reveals a greater need that transcends gender. Because the fact of the matter is that the end game of communication, the goal of communication actually meets a need felt and realized by both men and women. The end game of communication in marriage is intimacy. It’s intimacy. That is what God desires to see created and fueled and driven by communication. This intimacy is what God had in mind when he first ordained marriage.
When he brought Adam and Eve together in the crowning glory of his creative genius, it was this intimacy that he was after. Look at how the Bible records that moment in Genesis chapter 2 verse 25. The Bible says that “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” You see, I believe with everything that is in me that God included Genesis 2:25 in the Bible to tell us more about their emotional and spiritual intimacy than just the fact that they hadn’t gone out and picked out their Armani fig leaves just yet. The fact of their physical nudity is really secondary to the vulnerability that they had with one another, to their sharing with one another. They had not at this point wounded each other emotionally.
At this point, they were not keeping score. At this point, neither Adam nor Eve was looking out for number one. They were united in intimacy and completely vulnerable with each other. And that was God’s desire, that intimacy between husband and wife. Now, it’s here that we need to draw a very critical distinction, because the fact of the matter is that intimate does not equal identical. Intimate does not mean in God’s economy that men and women are to be identical. As a matter of fact, we know that he has created us. And you’re going to want to write this down. God created men and women different from each other. Go ahead and write that down. That’s that profound. Men and women are different. And in a lot of circles in our world today people are trying to blur those differences. People are trying to say that we’re the same. And the fact is we are not. Thank God.
Look at what the Bible says. When God created Eve, he said it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Remember that phrase helper suitable? We talked about this last week when we were kind of establishing our foundation for this whole series. Remember the term for helper suitable? Remember we talked about it? How many of y’all used it this week? Ezer kenegdo. You talk about getting to the heart of a woman. If you just look at your wife and say you’re my little ezer kenegdo, she’ll melt, putty in your hands. Remember what ezer kenegdo meant? It’s not just a helper. Hey, do you need some help? It is life giver, life saver, life preserver. That’s what God was up to. The only other place in the Bible that ezer kenegdo is used is when he talks about himself.
So women, there are parts of God’s personality and character that he specifically stamped into your soul that we men don’t carry. Now, the converse of that is true also. But it is only when God looked in and saw man alone that he said any part of his creation was not good. At every step along the way, God stepped back and said it is good. I’ve had a good day. Yesterday, we didn’t have day and night. Today we do. The lights are on. It is good. Yesterday there were no plants and no trees. Today there are. It is good. But only when he looked in and saw man all alone did God say it is not good. It’s not good for man to be alone. And so he created woman separate from, distinct from, to complement and to complete man. That is God’s plan for marriage. That’s how he set it up.
The reality is, though, that we communicate differently based in these spiritual soul differences. And we need to understand that before we ever get to communicating with each other, we communicate internally. You see, inner communication precedes intercommunication. What I mean by that is that we process things in our minds before we start communicating and interacting with one another. It was explained to me this way a long time ago. I love this. As a general rule, men are calculators. Men process things internally and quietly, much like a calculator that you can get at Office Depot. Women, on the other hand, as a general rule, are word processors. Women process things verbally. They talk it through. You know what that means, guys? When they are processing things, they don’t want a solution. They don’t want you to step up and fix it. They want you to step back and go, that’s interesting, honey. I’ve never thought about it that way. How else do you feel? Because they’re processing it. They’re thinking it through. And so women, I want to encourage you to understand that most men, this is how they operate. Don’t get frustrated with your husband and think he’s shutting me out, he won’t talk to me. He’s a calculator. He’s processing it internally. You probably are at the frontal lobe of his brain, he’s just not talking about it. Men, on the other extreme, don’t get frustrated with your wives, and don’t think to yourself, why are we still talking about it? Because I told her yesterday how to fix it. She’s still processing it. You have to give her the freedom to do that. And when we learn how to understand each other, then we’re ready for intercommunication. We need to understand, too.
I want to introduce you to what I call the closet and the drawer theory. This is a theory that took shape very early in my marriage. As Julie and I started learning how to communicate with each other, as we continue to learn how to communicate with each other, I believe that this is absolutely generally true. Again, there are exceptions that prove every rule, but by and large, the closet and the drawer theory states this, that women’s world view is much like a closet, that women open up the world, and they see everything all at once. They see the jackets, they see the blouses, the tops, the pants, the casual tops, the bright colors, the shoes, undies, socks, dust, everything all at once. And it is all connected. That’s really an interesting thought.
Men, on the other hand, view life as a chest of drawers. Men see life as a chest of drawers. And as a general rule, we handle one drawer at a time. There is the work drawer. And so from time to time, I will get in the work drawer, and I’m going to roll around in there. That’s where I’m going to be focused. And when I get through in the work drawer, I’m going to close that drawer. Then I’m going to move over here to the family drawer. And when I’m in the family drawer, man, I’m there. Work drawer, that’s closed. Sometimes I’m going to close this and I’m going to go to the recreation drawer and I’m going to be there.
Now, what men typically cannot do very well is open a lot of drawers all at once, because the whole thing comes crashing down. We typically can’t handle that much information to process. So women, when you call your husband in the middle of the day and he seems distracted, he seems distant, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It just means he has the capacity for one drawer at a time. And he’s coming back to that family drawer. He’s coming back to that marriage drawer. But right now, he’s in a different compartment. He’s in a different area. And I think if we will start to kind of see how each other views the world, then we can get a little more patient with each other as we truly communicate. Because the fact of the matter is these differences in how we look at the world and how we process things does from time to time create some communication gaps. There are some very real gaps. And as husbands and wives, we have the privilege, we have the responsibility given to us from God to close those relationship gaps, to close those communication gaps.
Look at what the Bible says in Ephesians chapter number 4. In Ephesians 4, God is speaking specifically to the church at Ephesus through the apostle Paul. And this is how God says we are to behave within the church, in our church relationships. He says, “Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” Now, if that’s to be true in church relationships, in how we deal with one another, how much more so is that to be true in marriage? Marriage is the primary human relationship ordained by God.
Before there was ever a church, before there was ever a school, before there was ever a government, there was marriage created and ordained by the hand of God himself. And so husbands and wives, look at this and say husbands be completely humble and gentle. Wives, be patient, bearing with one another in love. And then both, make every effort to keep the unity — that’s that intimacy — keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. I want you to underline that phrase “make every effort.” Make every effort. I started noticing an interesting dynamic about six or seven years ago. And the dynamic is this.
As I was visiting with couples in counseling settings who had hit rough patches in their marriage, it really didn’t matter who was the primary breadwinner. Sometimes there were highly successful women professionally, sometimes it was highly successful men. Sometimes it was folks that had just kind of drifted apart over the years. But I found this to be true. That many times these folks who had been successful professionally, if they had paid the same attention to their marriage that they paid to their work, they wouldn’t be sitting with me. Because if sales drop off for two quarters in a row, typically they’re going to do something about that. If they’re having problems in the marketplace, they’re going to address them. They’re going to roll up their sleeves and say all right. We’re going to have an off sight, we’re going to get this figured out, and we’re going to do something and set some goals and take care of business.
Well, you know what? In marriage we have to make every effort. We have to work. It’s not drudgery. It’s not ball and chain. Because when we do this kind of work, man, you talk about a payoff. It gets fun, jack. But we have to do the work. We have to be willing to communicate. And that communication begins when husbands and wives first of all assume nothing. Assume nothing. I don’t care how long you’ve been married. You may have been married five years, you may have been married 45, 55 years. Do not assume that you know what your spouse is thinking or what motivated your husband’s actions. Do not assume that your husband knows what you’re thinking, wives. Do not assume that he should know, and if he doesn’t, that’s a bigger problem than what I’m upset about. Tell him. Ask her. Do the work. Make every effort. I love this.
In Proverbs chapter 1, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning. Let the discerning get guidance.” Last night, somebody told me, I thought you said let the wives listen. No. It’s wise. If you’re a person of wisdom, God says you listen. You ask somebody. Tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me what you’re feeling. So that you add to that wisdom. You get guidance. We need guidance from each other about how to love each other. We’re human beings. By definition we’re dynamic, we are changing. Hopefully, we’re growing and expanding. And as that’s going on, we get to investigate each other. We get to discover one another. So assume nothing.
Second of all, pursue insights. Pursue insights. Go after some real critical insight about your wife, about your husband. Look at what the Bible says. The Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. When you get to a maritally challenging place, our first step needs to be to God for wisdom. To say God, right now, I’m clearly not getting it. I’m clearly not understanding what it is that she’s thinking. Wives, we think, God, I’m clearly not understanding if he’s thinking. So God, I need your wisdom to show me who he is. Show me how to love him through this. Show me how you want to love him through me. Give me an insight. The Bible says in James that anyone who asks for wisdom, God willingly gives to that person. He wants you to have his wisdom. He wants you to have his insights. So pursue them.
Third, apply them. Apply the insights that God gives you. It’s one thing to have it. Sometimes this happens in marriage. I understand. I know where this is coming from. I know. It’s your mom. Or something to that effect. That’s having an insight and then using it like a billy club. We should apply these insights to love our spouses. Once God gives them to us, use them. Proverbs 2:9, “Once you have pursued wisdom, then you will understand what is right and just and fair, every good path.” Whenever the Bible talks about a path, that means action. That means what we actually do, how we actually talk to our spouse, how we actually reveal ourselves to them, that we apply those insights.
Doctor Gary Chapman wrote an incredible book years ago called The Five Love Languages. It’s an incredible, incredible help to help people discover how to apply these insights. How do you communicate with your spouse? And I want to just mention to you what these five love languages are so that you can kind of start to sift through them and filter through them in marriage. First of all, words. For some people, the gift of words communicates more love than anything else. To affirm that person. It may be a written word. It may be a spoken word. Let me see just a moment of vulnerability here. Guys, how many of you, when you were dating wrote love notes to your wife? To the person who — go ahead and get those hands up. Be proud. I wrote songs, jack. They were bad, but I wrote them. Those words, for a lot of people communicate love as much as anything else. There’s also the love language of gifts. Gifts.
For some people, for you to take the time to think about what’s something that he would really like? What’s something that she would really like? And then to present them with a gift. It doesn’t have to be a big, expensive gift. I mean, if it is, and you can pull off a car, knock yourself out. But it needs to be something that communicates concern. For some folks, that resonates with people. Gifts. Also, service. Service. Doing things for the other person. Helping them out. Really and truly engaging in life and doing stuff. There’s also the love language of time. Time. Where you just are spending time with that person.
You know, Julie shared something with me that it never even crossed my mind. She told me years ago, she said, you know, when you spend time with the kids, I feel that you love me. I was like, really? Now, I don’t get that. I just have to accept that she’s telling me the truth and respond. So you know, when I’m hanging out with the kids, I’m thinking hey, she knows I love her. I’ll take the points wherever I can get them. But that’s one thing for her. I’m a words person, myself. When Julie says just affirming words to me, one of the things that Julie does to communicate love to me, she says from time to time, it’s not every day, but from time to time she says, you know what? I just want to thank you for working hard and providing for our family. That really matters to me, and I’m grateful. Man, when she says that, I could dunk. I mean, I’m just like, man. Julie’s one of these people, the gifts thing really doesn’t resonate for her. I could come home every night with flowers and jewels, and she’d be like oh, thanks, honey. She’d be appreciative, but it wouldn’t really connect with her. But if I’ll spend time with the kids, helping them do their homework, helping get them clean and clean the kitchen, I am golden. I mean, I am set when that kind of stuff happens. Service matters to her. Time matters to her.
There’s a fifth love language, and that is the love language of touch. Physical touch. Now, this can include but is not limited to sexual touch. It can be something as simple as just holding hands when you’re driving down the road. Just reaching over and grabbing your spouse’s hand, putting an arm around him or her unexpectedly, with no ulterior motive. Know what I’m saying? Now, nor do I want to discount or down play the role of sexual touch. That’s an important part of marriage. Women, I’m just going to tell you straight up, more than likely, your husband’s desire for you physically is going to be the primary way that you communicate love to him. Now, I hope that doesn’t shock you. I hope that you don’t think he’s a base, amoral kind of guy. It just means that that’s probably going to be the primary way to communicate love to him. Men, you can correct me if I’m wrong at lunch. But I admire none of you for standing up, shouting give me a witness. We’re going to talk about the sexual part of marriage next weekend in detail, because it matters. It is critically important. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but it is a massive part of what God wants to see happen in a marriage. So we need to understand. And then apply these insights. If you know how to communicate love to your spouse, do it. Communicate it.
Next, cultivate constructive confrontation. Cultivate an environment in which you can have constructive, helpful, God-honoring, spouse-loving confrontation. Those kind of moments, conflict, absolutely will happen. You’ve got two people coming together the Bible says to become one flesh. First of all, they’re male and female. Different. Then they came from different families of origin. Different backgrounds, different baggages, different issues, different ways of dealing with conflict. On top of that, we were all born into this world with a predisposition toward sin. We were all born into this world looking out for number one, first and foremost. And then out of all of that, we’re supposed to become one flesh? Holy cow. No wonder the Bible says this is a great mystery. We need to learn how to have confrontation. We need to learn how to do it lovingly.
So before you get into a confrontation, before the conflict erupts, have a conversation about how to handle it when it happens. Not if, when. Say to one another, if something were to come up, hypothetically, hypothetically, something that you did that irritated me or just got under my skin a little bit, what’s the best way for me to bring that up? What’s the best way for me to tell you that? And then we need to respond honestly and lovingly say, you know what? I haven’t really thought about it. I’d just appreciate it if you wouldn’t. We’ve got to move beyond that. We’ve got to give them the freedom to do that. Because conflict’s going to happen. Proverbs chapter 12 verse 1, you talk about words to live by. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge. But he who hates correction is stupid.” I think in the original Hebrew that word he is very general, meaning it could be a he or a she. At least that’s what I’m going to cling to.
I have to admit, there have been times in my marriage I’ve been stupid. When Julie has raised an issue with me, when she has pointed out some part of my character, some part of our relationship that I needed to get better in, and I did not step back and say thank you. Thank you for loving me enough to bring that up. And I will work on it. I love you. I don’t always respond that way. And yet God has given me Julie to help correct those parts of my life that need correcting, where I need to listen to her. Now, she needs to bring it up lovingly. But that’s part of the deal, is healthy, constructive confrontation. The Bible says in your anger, do not sin. It never says that anger is a sin. Anger by itself — God gets angry. Jesus Christ got angry. And they never sinned. We’ve got to learn how to handle that anger without sinning.
And then last, communicate gravitation. I love this. Communicate gravitation. What is gravitation? Well, what’s gravitation. It is the magnetic attraction of two bodies. Isn’t it? We’ve got to communicate that with each other. Communicate to each other that we desire one another. Communicate that we’re attracted to each other. Look at the Song of Solomon. This is the husband speaking and then the wife speaking. He says to her, Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing. Each has its twin, not one of them is alone. He says you are so beautiful. I am so drawn to you magnetically because your teeth are all there. Then look at what she says. She says, My lover, my husband is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. His head is purest gold. His hair is wavy and black as a raven. Some of you may need to say your hair was wavy and black as a raven, and now your dome is sculpted like fine ivory. But we have to communicate it.
A woman’s primary need in marriage is safety and security. She needs to know that she is in a safe place with her husband. That it’s safe relationally, that it is safe physically, that it is safe spiritually. And when a husband communicates attraction and gravitation for his wife, she is safe. When he critiques, when he says you may want to drop ten, or are you sure you want another case of fries, he needs to understand something. I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding. Any guy who talks to his wife like that deserves to have his water cut off. You have to communicate safety to your wife.
A man’s primary need in marriage is respect. And one of the primary ways that a woman communicates respect to her husband is to communicate attraction, to say to him I am drawn to you. I am physically attracted. That is a big piece of how we receive respect. We’ve got to understand that. So if it means saying I love your teeth, or if it means saying to your husband, man, I like the way your hair’s kind of thinning. It gives you a dignity. Whatever it is, find it and communicate it.
Now, we need to step back and remember why it is that God is so concerned with intimacy. Why is it that God desires husbands and wives to be intimate? Not limited to the physical, but definitely including it, why is intimacy so important to God? It’s because of what he’s trying to accomplish with marriage. Because as a husband and wife communicate with each other, as a husband and wife develop this intimacy, they are painting a picture, and they are displaying for the outside world the depth and the breadth of God’s love so that people who do not understand, who have never been exposed or shared with how much God loves them have an opportunity to see it between husbands and wives. So that the outside world can say, man, you know what? Real love is possible. You know what? Authentic, unconditional love can happen.
You see, God perfectly communicates his unconditional, his perfect love in his son Jesus Christ. It’s not a warm fuzzy. It is an active love. Jesus intentionally and actively became one of us. Jesus actively and intentionally died on the cross, taking your sin and my sin. Jesus actively and intentionally rose from the grave. He was dead in the ground, and on the third day, he got up so that you could be forgiven, so that I could be forgiven, so that we could discover the safety of a relationship with God. So that you, so that I could bring our sin, we could bring our brokenness, we could bring our junk, we could bring our baggage to him and discover the safety of unconditional love and discover the authenticity of it perfectly communicated in the life of Jesus.
That is what’s going on when husbands and wives discover intimacy, when they discover each other. I want to ask you to bow your heads for just a moment, and I want to ask you if you would, please, to not move around, to not try and beat somebody else to Luby’s, but to just be here.