Family Matters: Communication

What is your vision for your family? Is your vision a reality, or does it seem difficult to live out the ideals of your Christian faith in your home? Do you experience your home as a sanctuary (a loving refuge) from the challenges of work, school, and the commute, or is it a place of strife, anger, and pain?

The scriptures are clear about how to make your home a safe and loving environment. We are taught to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21), to “love one another deeply from the heart” (I Peter 1:22), for husbands to “love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), for wives to submit to the leadership of the husband (Ephesians 5:22-24), and for a husband to love his wife as he loves himself, and for wives to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). First Corinthians 13 gives clear guidance for the disciplining of your heart and mind to act in love. However, living out these standards in day-to-day life can be challenging. Imagine a home with mutual submission, loving leadership, and respect!

One of the key challenges for Christian couples is in the area of communication. Each person may have moments of feeling unheard and misunderstood. While the reasons for this may be complicated and need wise counsel to resolve, a few simple changes may be helpful for your family.

For everyone: Every person and every family faces difficulties. When something needs to be dealt with, focus on the problem, not the person.  Blaming, accusing, and criticizing are damaging. Avoid saying “you” in favor of “When such and such happens, I feel _____.” Then address the problem and focus on a win-win solution. Think about the way problems were solved in your family when you were growing up. Consider what you learned and decide if that is the way you want to deal with problems now. Notice how your emotions are affected when faced with conflicts. If you are holding pain from your childhood, seeking help can be the first step to bringing peace to your home.

For husbands: When your wife talks about a problem or circumstance that has happened, she may or may not want your help and advice in “fixing” it. Most men respond to a discussion by wanting to help fix the problem.  Sometimes, all your wife needs is for you to listen to the details of the day. If you listen to every detail, looking for a point to the conversation that you can hone in on and do something tangible about, you will likely get frustrated.  Her point is to share, for no other reasons, than to “connect” with you and to feel supported. Ask her if she needs any assistance from you, if it seems appropriate. Don’t assume that she wants advice or for you to jump in and solve her problems. Use the listening skills described later in this article.

For wives: When you present a problem to your husband, his natural response is to want to solve it. Let him know when you just want him to listen, and when you are about to describe a problem that requires his assistance. Men tend to focus on one thing at a time. The corpus callosum, a network of connections between both sides of the brain, is different in men and women.  This difference supports our roles in our survival.  The corpus callosum is thicker in female brains, allowing rapid switching between the sides of the brain. This is why women can switch subjects rapidly and appear to multi-task.  Men typically stay focused on one thing at a time. To enhance communication with your husband, talk about one subject at a time. Also, when he is focused on something else, such as a football game, you will need to allow time for him to switch his attention to you (and don’t interrupt a major play).

Listening: Each person in your home has a basic need to be heard. A simple way to let another person know that you heard what was said is to say what you heard them say to you. When listening, if you are busy thinking of your response to what is being said, you are not fully listening. Instead, listen carefully to what is being said and notice your loved one’s tone and facial expression. You may have to overcome a desire to defend and justify yourself in your response. As you listen, deliberately keep your body language open (arms uncrossed, turned toward your loved one, facial expression interested).  When your loved one is finished talking, then say something like, “Let me see if I understood you. I heard you say that _____.”  Restate what you heard.

One definition of a sanctuary is a place of refuge. Peace, compassion, love, tenderness, consideration for one another’s needs, interest in each other, joy, order, and beauty all contribute to creating a safe, loving home. May your home be blessed as the fruits of the Spirit are expressed in your closest relationships!

Mary Lyles, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of Katy Family Counseling, where she provides confidential, professional, faith-based psychotherapy services for a variety of concerns for adults, children, families, and teens.  For more information, visit or call (832) 576-2526.  In addition, she trains other professionals seeking to provide trauma and grief support for children and teens.  For more information about children’s grief, visit

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