My fiancé and I realized that we are terrible at fighting well. We often miss each other’s points, and we only end up hurting each other. We realized that we should seek true premarital counseling. So when we sit down with a counselor, what questions do I even ask so that we have the proper tools to fight well?
Thanks for writing and for teeing up an issue that every married couple (and those preparing for marriage) deal with at some level. Because every marriage involves two sinners, every marriage will sometimes (some marriages more often than others) involve conflict and disagreement. That’s neither unusual nor the sign (necessarily) of a bad relationship.
The better a couple either prevents or deals with those things, however, the happier — and godlier — the marriage will be. That’s a long way to say that you and your fiancé are wise to seek good, robust premarital counseling. I recommend it for every engaged couple, not just to improve at the crucial skill of communication, but to prepare for marriage in general.
Let me offer you some thoughts on two things: first, some brief passages and principles on communication in marriage and in general, and second, some questions and issues to explore that will make your premarital counseling more valuable.
1. Most broadly, keep in mind that ultimately, the goal of communication is union — shared understanding with each another — that builds one another up spiritually and otherwise. Most communication in marriage (at least around any important issue) is not “neutral.” We either use our words to build union and create understanding, or we use words to undermine union and create frustration. Good communication doesn’t just happen by inertia; we have to work at it.
2. Biblically, our model for communication is the incarnation of Jesus, who took on flesh and entered into our experience for our good. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
3. We do not choose our words in a vacuum. The way we choose to speak and communicate — in any particular situation and in general — reflects the spiritual condition of our hearts and minds. Jesus said that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45).
If our hearts harbor a sinful perspective or approach to a given situation or relationship, our words will reflect that. That also means that an evaluation of how I speak or communicate in a given situation or relationship should always start with a spiritual evaluation of my heart and perspective on that thing. An effort to change what I say or my tone of voice will ultimately be incomplete and unsuccessful without an examination of why I choose to communicate as I do.
Read the rest of Scott Croft’s answer in this week’s Q&A.