Better Couple Communication: Be Careful What You Say

Honest couple communication – especially between husband & wife – is essential for creating connection and lasting joy. But should you be able to say whatever you want to your mate?

I’ve always tried to be careful what I say to My Beloved. But many folks – mostly women, it seems; but some men, too – believe you should be able to say whatever you want to your mate. They call it “just being honest.”

On the other hand, some are too careful about what they say because they’re trying to get a particular response from their partner. Actually, that’s manipulation, and I’ve never seen it work to create true connection in any relationship.

The Psychology of Better Couple Communication

As a Couples Psychologist, I’ve seen both extremes.

“letting it all out” or
“tiptoeing around”

The saddest thing about those who’d like better couple communication is that most don’t even realize what they’re actually doing!

So here are my 5 Reasons for being careful what you say.

1. Words can hurt.

Think before you speak: Could what you are about to say be experienced as attacking, blaming, or criticizing? Just because your feelings are hurt does not give you the right to hurt someone in return.

Two “wrongs” never make a “right.”

A counterattack will not get you the response you’re hoping for when you are hurt, but will instead elicit a defensive response from the one who hurt you. Consider these two options and you would respond to each:

What you just said really hurt.

versus …

You’re such a jerk!

2. Words can heal.

Be kind and gracious toward one another. You may have heard that “hurt people hurt people.” Consider what might be behind the other person’s behavior. Chances are he is acting defensively by being offensive … like I just warned you against doing (see above).

If you’re partnered with someone you love, it’s probably because you really like the person he normally is. So if he is behaving in a way that is “out of character,” it makes more sense to assume he has a good reason for that.  Not an excuse, but a reason. Why not find out what it could be?

You seem really tense today. What’s happening?

If you don’t get an answer that makes sense, you can follow up with …

Ok. I’m sorry I burned the toast, but it seems like it’s more than that. I care about you, and I’m here if you want to talk about whatever else seems to be going on.

Then stop talking. Go on about whatever you would be doing under less stressful circumstances, remaining open to hear what’s troubling him when he’s ready to talk about it. (See also When You Love a Broken Man.)

NOTE: Please know that I am not talking here about anyone who is in an abusive relationship, which requires a different strategy. Here is a quick way to evaluate your situation, and if you are in an abusive relationship, please seek the help of a local mental health professional or Christian Care Connect for additional types of care providers.

3. Words can curse.

Assuming the worst about your mate and saying it aloud is essentially the same as pronouncing a curse upon him. Trust me. You don’t want to speak out that kind of potentially self-fulfilling prophecy! (James 3:10)

You know you’re cursing if you begin with “you always …” or “you never …”

It’s also wise to be aware that saying those things to your friends or relatives – with earshot of your spouse or when he’s not around – still register as curses.

The wise woman builds her house,
But with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. (Proverbs 14:1)

4. Words can bless.

better couple communication be careful what you sayPaul’s admonition to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:5) does not give you permission to tell your mate everything you think is wrong with him.

I believe what Paul means is that you should speak the Truth about how God him: as His Dearly Beloved Child.

The most important thing you can do for your mate is to learn to see him as God sees him. Jesus loves him as the man he is, as well as the man he is becoming. Let’s partner with that!

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

5. Words can create.

What we think – and especially what we say – impacts the world around us. And that includes the people you love – as well as the people you don’t.

We all believe the world is in more trouble than it’s ever been. So use the creative power of your words to make the world a better place.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17

Here are a few more words from the Word about words … and reasons to be careful what you say.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God! (Deuteronomy 32:3)

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:9)

Take Every Thought Captive

take every thought captive

As I set out for my walk early this morning, this verse kept reverberating in my mind. I queued up my iPhone to one of my favorite Bible teachers. I hadn’t listened to him for awhile, but today this recording was also on my mind. And in the first 5 minutes …

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

Every action is preceded by a thought.
So what we think about is pretty important.

And if we have a promise from God, the enemy wants to keep us from thinking about that promise. Doesn’t matter if it’s a general promise or a specific promise for you personally. You and I are in engaged in a battle.

  • Worry. You start to think about all that you haven’t done. And you have so many obstacles ahead of you that you believe it’s totally “impossible.”
  • Doubt. Did God really promise you something that wonderful? Surely it was just your imagination running amok. You only wished it was God’s idea.
  • Fear. You begin to notice that the opposite of your promise is happening … fast. Too fast for you to be able to do anything about it.

If you don’t want to end up
where your current thought is taking you,
have another thought!

As I continued my walk, I noticed where my thoughts went. And when they went contrary to where I want to go in Christ, I reached out and took that thought captive! [PLEASE NOTE: I had to do it way more often than once.]

Taking a thought captive means you replace it with another thought!
You choose to believe what The Lord has said instead!

  1. OVERCOME worry by agreeing with God’s Word. Be anxious for nothing. Pray about everything. He promises to give you His Peace. Your Father knows what you need. But He wants to go beyond your needs and bless you so that you can be a blessing to others. How cool is that?
    New Thought: The Lord is blessing me so that I can bless others. (Philippians 4:6-7)
  2. OVERCOME doubt by agreeing with God’s Word. What has He said? Memorize it and replay it often, out loud and in silence. New Thought: I will believe and trust in His Word. (Hebrews 11:6)
  3. OVERCOME fear by agreeing with God’s Word. Perfect Love casts out fear. So seek His Perfect Love and let it flood your heart. Then let your heart rule your mind, and you will develop the Mind of Christ. Fear cannot stand in such an atmosphere.
    New Thought: The Lord is flooding my heart with His Perfect Love! (1 John 4:18)


  • What persistent thoughts would you like to change?
  • How would your life be different if you did?

Couple Communication 102

Stephen Covey wrote, “If I were to summarize in one sentence the single most important principle I have learned in the field of interpersonal relations, it would be this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication.”

why do men stonewall?In my earlier post about Sean and Nicole and couple communication, “What, if anything, do you think Nicole was doing wrong?”

Nicole — like most people — wasn’t listening with the “intent to understand,” but had been listening with the “intent to reply.”

She hadn’t been trying to gain a deeper understanding of Sean. She filtered everything he said through her own experience, reading her autobiography into his life. As soon as Sean had started talking, she had already begun formulating a response. She hadn’t given him any space to really be in the relationship with her.

  • She didn’t understand him because she wasn’t listening.
  • She had been way too busy formulating her reply.


Use your powers of self-observation and take notice of your self-talk (what you’re thinking or saying to yourself) when others are talking.

  • Are you silently evaluating the words of your friends and coworkers … while they’re still talking?
  • If so, you’re probably evaluating his, too.


Get better at couple communication by practicing on your friends. Listen until you’re sure you understand the other person’s point of view. That is, wait until you’re sure you’ve heard the whole story before you offer your own thoughts and feelings.

To answer before listening—
    that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)