When Marriage Gets Messy Communication Breakdown

When Marriage Gets Messy – Communication Breakdown

The #2 most referenced reason Marriage Gets Messy: Communication Breakdown.

I told you…

Why didn’t you say anything?

I can’t believe you would say that!


I didn’t know….

If you or your spouse have ever uttered any of these words, you have probably experienced a communication breakdown. I know we have.

Defeating the Enemy of Marriage

Like I’ve said before. We have a very real enemy. One who wants to do our marriage harm. To destroy its foundation and steal the glory from God. And our enemy isn’t our spouse.

When I was in the Army, they drilled three things into my head. Shoot. Move. Communicate. We had to do these three things well to defeat the enemy. When communication breaks down, chaos ensues. If the enemy can confuse our communication he can create chaos in our marriage. And he’s the only one that benefits from that. 

I think we can all agree that when communication breaks down marriage starts to feel pretty messy.

Effective Communication

When Marriage Gets Messy Communication BreakdownA simple text message asking my spouse to pick up some milk may not seem like it can wield the power to improve intimacy in our marriage. But it can certainly impede it. If I push send on this request when he is already on his way home from work and he doesn’t see it until he parks in our driveway, chances are I’m not going to be too happy about it. And things are only likely to escalate from there.

Just because I’ve told my husband something doesn’t mean I’ve communicated. You see, I can write long range events on a the monthly calendar in my command center and then transfer them to our dry-erase weekly calendar displayed on the kitchen counter. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have communicated in a way that he understands. What works for me, might not work for him. If my husband doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say, I have not communicated effectively. It may seem like a lot of work to figure out his preferred communication style, but I have to consider the cost of not effectively transferring ideas and plans to him. The cost of miscommunication is often greater than making an investment in learning what works for him.

Just like in war, it’s a wonder we manage to communicate anything effectively in this busy world. The constant barrage of input often overwhelms us or numbs us to what really matters. So many things demand our attention all at once. But dividing our focus creates a barrier to effective communication. We must find a way to silence all the noise, so we can hear and understand our spouse. When we have important things to discuss, let’s do it intentionally.

Effective communication is the key to making a masterpiece marriage.

Effective communication is the key to making a masterpiece marriage. #whenmarriagegetsmessy #communicationbreakdown Click To Tweet

Preventing Communication Breakdown

The mess of miscommunication is so complicated and potentially catastrophic it deserves a two pronged approach: prevention and pacification.


To be intentional about communication and prevent many miscommunications, we can employ this tried and true method used by researchers, journalists, and police investigators: The 5 W’s +1H.

WHO: Husband and Wife

WHAT: What thought, idea, feeling, or information am I trying to effectively transmit to my spouse? What is my husband’s preferred style of communication for this type of information?

WHEN: When will my partner be most receptive to hearing what I have to say? How time sensitive is this information? What time of day? Before or after a meal? Before, during, or after work?

WHERE: Where will my spouse be most able to focus on my message? What room of the house? When other people are around or when it is just the two of us? On a road trip?

WHY: The goal of any communication with husband and wife is increased intimacy through greater understanding of our partner. How does what I have to say and how I say it meet this goal? What can I change to improve the effectiveness of this communication?

HOW: How will I relay this to him? Verbally or orally? A text message or a sticky note? What tone of voice will I use? A note on the calendar? During a family meeting? How can I limit distractions to increase understanding? How will my body language affect his interpretation of this information? How will I be sure he understands what I’ve relayed? How will I respond in the event of a misunderstanding or a disagreement?

When Marriage Gets Messy Communication Breakdown

Because, as Grey said last week, we are never equally yoked in marriage, misunderstandings and disagreements are inevitable. I know when my temper flares, I rarely ever say what I mean. That’s why we need a plan for reconciliation and where our second prong comes in: pacification of communication complications.


Press Pause and Pray

I recommend couples have a safe word for when communication turns toxic. Something either spouse can say to push pause, table a discussion, and tame tempers. During the pause, the best thing you can do is pray. Ask God to help clear up the misunderstanding and soften any sharp edges of disagreement. Besides, the best place to fight for your marriage is on your knees. Then, when the time is right, approach the subject again, making mutual understanding and increased intimacy your shared goal.

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.”

James 5:13

Request Clarification

If you don’t know, ask. Perhaps what you heard wasn’t what he meant. Maybe he didn’t interpret your information the way you intended. Before jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst, calmly ask for clarification. If something doesn’t make sense, ask for clarification.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

James 1:19

Avoid Accusations

Instead of starting your sentences with “You…,” now is the time for those, “I feel…” statements. The only thing accusations do is put our partners on the defensive and increase the enmity between us. That’s not a productive way to pacify anyone. It takes two to miscommunicate, so placing blame on your partner isn’t productive.

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye,

and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:5

Guard Against Generalizations

Keep your conversations to the issue at hand. Bringing up the past only keeps us from solving the problems of the present. Chances are your spouses doesn’t always act a certain way, so don’t over exaggerate the problem by looking beyond the scope this issue. Besides our partners past offensives should be forgiven.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32

Seek Understanding

The goal of communication is understanding. Not winning. But when only one spouse “wins” an argument, both lose out on the opportunity to grow closer through mutual understanding. Active listening skills are crucial to effective communication. The listener should always rephrase what the speaker has said, ensuring they understand the intent. This gives the speaker a chance to refine what the listener heard.

“Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick tempered displays folly.”

Proverbs 14:29

Kindle Kindness

A kind word turns away wrath and puts our partners at ease. We don’t have to repay angry advances with our own wrath. We can choose to diffuse the situation and repay anger with kindness. One spark of kindness can kindle a beautiful blaze.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:1

Commit to Each Other Despite Differences

Just as with the ways we are unequally yoked, when disagreements and miscommunications cause complications in marriage, we must prioritize peace with our partners. When we took our vows we entered into a covenantal relationship without contingencies. We must commit to our spouses despite our differences. 

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18

To overcome the messes a communication breakdown makes in marriage, communicate intentionally for prevention and be prepared for pacification.

To overcome the messes a communication breakdown makes in marriage, communicate intentionally for prevention and be prepared for pacification. #whenmarriagegetsmessy #communicationbreakdown Click To Tweet

For more encouragment, my friend Alisa Nicaud has some excellent advice for fostering effective communication in your marriage in her post here,  Crystal Storms post on 5 ways to Resolve Conflict Peacefully, and this Focus on the Family article about the goals of effective communication.


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Don’t miss the other posts in this series:

     10. Finances

     9. Unmet Expectations

     8. Adultery

     7. Outside Influences

     6. Complacency

     5.  Selfishness

     4.  Misaligned Priorities

     3. Unequally Yoked

   And coming next Friday, the #1 reason marriage gets messy is because God Isn’t Invited


When Marriage Gets Messy Communication Breakdown


Linking Up With

For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne EllerThought Provoking ThursdaySusan B. MeadFaith Filled FridayGrace and TruthFaith and Fellowship FridayGrace and Truth FridayGood Morning MondaySoul SurvivalMonday MusingsRah Rah Link UpTell His StoryWoman to Woman WednesdayWomen With Intention WednesdaySitting Among FriendsTestimony TuesdayPlanting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.

15 thoughts on “When Marriage Gets Messy – Communication Breakdown

    1. That’s why we have to check for understanding and be intentional. I get so busy I forget to do this step, and too often find out too late, that I didn’t communicate effectively. Blessings!

  1. Great info here, Liz. My mom used to say that communication is what is heard (or interpreted) NOT what the speaker thinks he or she has said. I see this message in what you are saying here. We really have to be sure to communicate in such a way that our spouses can get what we are saying.

    1. Yes! Your mom sounds like a wise lady! You are spot on! We can’t expect our husbands to get what we’re saying in the same way we would explain things to other people. We have to know how they hear! Blessings!

    1. Thanks, Melissa! I’ve been trying to be more intentional about communication and asking my hubby questions lately… Guess what? It’s working! Blessings!

  2. Such great advice, Liz. Don’t you wish we went into marriage with the maturity and wisdom to choose these things in the early years. One thing I love about being married 25 years is that we’ve matured in our communication. Just this past week, there was something heavy on my heart that I wanted to discuss, but I was able to wait several days until the time was right. That is not something I could have done in the earlier years of our marriage. — Love your safe word idea. 🙂 Thanks for sharing these, friend. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. xoxo

    1. Wouldn’t that make things so much easier, Brenda!? Very wise of you to wait until the time was right! Praying your Christmas preparation is joy-filled! XO

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