6 Tips for Spouses on Opposite Ends of the Communication Spectrum

couple holding hand front of body of calm water with mountain distance

I’m a talker—  I process verbally, I enjoy public speaking, I was on the speech & debate team in high school.

My husband— Andrew— is a man of fewer words. He takes more time to process information. I’m actually struggling to complete this description right now, so I asked him for input. His response? “I think that’s it.”

Yup, that about sums up our different communication styles!

In the past, I’ve been known to “steamroll” him— that’s a fun term we coined for when he (actually) voices his opinion (it’s a miracle!!) and I say “Yeah, uh-huh, great!” and then completely ignore him. 

I’d often feel frustrated that he never seemed to “lead” me or our family. 

Can we all just take a moment to collectively facepalm?

When two people with two different personalities— two different families of origin— two different communication styles and needs— get married, there can be a lot of friction in communication. 

I want my husband to feel loved, valued and heard in our marriage. So how can a verbal-processing extrovert (like me) love my more introverted spouse in our communication rhythms? 

Philippians 2:3-4 says,

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

How can I count my spouse as more significant than myself, and look to his interests, not just my own?

I’m no expert here— but based on our experience, here are 6 ways spouses on the opposite ends of the communication spectrum can love and serve one another.

Your spouse doesn’t have to care about everything you care about

Every couple should strive to be on the same page about certain things— like the inerrancy of Scripture and the importance of family discipleship— but not everything is like that. 

Take tile, for example. 

Because I’m a verbal-processor, I often want Andrew’s input on a certain detail of a house project. Tile is one such project. Should I install the tile in a herringbone pattern? Basketweave? ⅓ offset or ½?! 

Meanwhile Andrew thinks they all look great. He simply does not care one way or another— and that is okay.

Instead of feeling frustrated or under-appreciated, I can acknowledge that God didn’t make two of me. He made Andrew and I different on purpose. And that purposeful difference is good.

When I’m confronted with Andrew’s total lack of opinion on something, it can remind me (if I let it) that whatever it is probably isn’t as important as I think— and he doesn’t have to care about everything I care about. I often need that reminder to help me keep things in proper perspective.

Plan for specific times of communication

When my husband walks through the door after work, our kids lose their minds. Our main entry is in our kitchen, and I’m usually cooking dinner. It’s a happy, chaotic mess. And it’s generally not a good time to communicate anything of importance (except, of course, general love and excitement).

If I word-vomit something to Andrew right when he walks in the door, there is .0001% chance he’ll hear me. He has no warning and is ill-equipped to listen and/or remember whatever it is I say.

Not a winning strategy. Thankfully, 7 years into marriage, I’ve managed to catch on.

One simple solution is this: Build specific times into your schedules  that are completely set apart to communicate with each other. Save the important stuff for after the kids are in bed or before they wake up— and maybe once a week or once a month, set aside an entire evening to check in and “clean house” on communication items specifically.

Remember that when we set something aside, we honor it. Honor each other by planning for specific times of communication.

Let them know ahead of time what you’d like to talk about

If you’re needing to have a serious conversation, give your spouse a heads-up about it. This gives both of you time and space to process and pray beforehand.

For example, in our marriage, I might want to check in with Andrew about his fight against pornography. If I bring this up without warning, his response might be, “Uh, it’s good.” 

If I let him know ahead of time, he has time and space to process, and our conversation is always much more fruitful.

Listen and ask good questions

When you and your spouse are able to talk, be careful to listen— I mean really listen. Stop running through your to-do list— stop formulating your rebuttal— stop everything and just listen. 

Hear what your precious spouse is saying— both out loud and maybe what they’re leaving left unsaid. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see your spouse the way Christ sees them.

Part of being a good listener is asking good questions— ones that encourage your spouse to dig deeper, make connections, and elaborate. Ask them to clarify, repeat back to them— ask “Why do you think that is?”

Some verses that have encouraged me to zip it and actively listen to my spouse:

  • “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak…” (James 1:19)
  • “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2)
  • “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13)

Make a habit of counting to 20

This might technically be a sub-category of listening, but it’s been very helpful for me. Make a habit of counting to 20 before jumping to fill gaps in the conversation. 

I’ve been surprised again and again how much deeper our conversations go— how much more my husband is willing to share— if I simply let the silence stretch a bit. It hasn’t been easy— I’m a recovering first-hand-in-the-air-every-time kind of person. But it’s been so worth it.

Look to Jesus

Loving and serving your spouse this way doesn’t come naturally to sinners like me and you. I’m not exaggerating when I say you need supernatural help to put your spouse ahead of yourself. But I’m happy to remind you that that supernatural help is already available to you.

I love the way Paul continues that passage in Philippians 2:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

We have the very mind of Christ Jesus, if we are in Him! 

Look to Jesus, friends, as you love and serve and communicate with your spouse. His precious blood covers every sharp word, every selfish thought— and He has given us new life to grow in holiness. May we all look and sound more and more like Him.

Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?

Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?

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