Mark: Words matter. But even more than the choice of our words, it’s the way we deliver our words that can make the biggest difference in relationships.

Jill: In marriage, the way we deliver our words can add more meaning to them than we often intend. Or in some cases, if we’re honest, it’s exactly as we intend.

Mark: Jill and I have both worked hard on this the past few years. Our unhealthy delivery methods have, most often, been replaced by healthier communication habits. We don’t always get it right but these days we get it right more often than we get it wrong.

Jill: Ephesians 4:22-24 gives us direction on this, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  We’re to “take off” the unhealthy ways of communicating and “put on” Christ-like healthy ways of talking to each other. 

Mark: Here are some practical steps:

Take off sarcasm. Put on honest, genuine communication. Sarcasm is intended to cut or wound. It’s most often used when we feel angry or frustrated but we lack the courage to speak directly about our feelings. Sarcasm is also used to cover up embarrassment or defensiveness.  Replace sarcasm with genuine communication about how you’re feeling. Push yourself to be honest with others.

Take off passive aggressive. Put on direct communication.  Passive aggressive communication is an indirect way of dealing with conflict. Withdrawing, sulking, pouting, and procrastinating can all be forms of passive aggressive communication.  Replace passive aggressive tendencies with direct communication to the other person about your hurt, struggles, or feelings.

Take off speaking under your breath. Put on grace.  When we speak under our breath it’s a form of criticism, judgment, and pride.  Replace the irritated feelings you’re expressing under your breath with grace, compassion, and understanding. Make connecting with your spouse’s heart much more important that getting your point across.

Take off exasperation. Put on kindness.  An exasperated tone says, “you’re stupid,” or “not again!” or “can’t you get it right?” It’s disrespectful. A kind response recognizes your partner’s humanness and treats him or her with respect.

Jill: Exasperation is probably my biggest downfall. I can become easily exasperated and then my tone becomes disrespectful. I’ve been working on that pretty intently the past few years.

Mark: My default is passive-aggressive communication.  I can easily move to this behavior when I’ve allowed things to build up inside of me and chosen not to be honest. Honesty is always the best way. I’m learning that putting on direct communication is always the right course of action.

What about you? When it comes to communication in your marriage, what do you need to take off and what do you need to put on?