Tips for Hard Conversations With Your Spouse

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There comes a moment in every marriage, if not many moments in marriage, that a couple needs to have a hard conversation with each other. In this week’s episode on The Marriage After God podcast, we share tips for handling hard conversations with your spouse. We discuss conversations that require a bit more than just chatting over dinner. In these conversations you might be confronting sin or parenting differences. Maybe it’s time to settle in-law relationship conflict. Are there big decisions on the horizon? You might be realizing now more than ever, things need to change. 

We have had our share of these. We thought we would use this time today to share with you how we have experienced these types of conversations in our marriage and what we have learned, in hopes of encouraging you when these moments come up in your marriage.
Don’t avoid the conversation.  If you feel like you should say something, you probably should. We pray this episode blesses you and your marriage. 

READ TRANSCRIPT

Aaron Smith:
Hey, we’re Aaron and Jennifer Smith with Marriage After God.

Jennifer Smith:
Helping you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.

Aaron Smith:
Today, we’re going to share some tips for going into a hard conversation with your spouse.

Aaron Smith:
Welcome to the Marriage After God Podcast, where we believe that marriage was meant for more than just happily ever after.

Jennifer Smith:
I’m Jennifer, also known as Unveiled Wife.

Aaron Smith:
I’m Aaron, also known as Husband Revolution.

Jennifer Smith:
We have been married for over a decade.

Aaron Smith:
So far, we have four young children.

Jennifer Smith:
We have been doing marriage ministry online for over seven years through blogging and social media.

Aaron Smith:
With the desire to inspire couples to keep God at the center of their marriage, encouraging them to walk in faith every day.

Jennifer Smith:
We believe that Christian marriage should be an extraordinary one, full of life …

Aaron Smith:
Love …

Jennifer Smith:
And power.

Aaron Smith:
That can only be found by chasing after God …

Jennifer Smith:
Together.

Aaron Smith:
Thank you for joining us on this journey, as we chase boldly after God’s will for our life together.

Jennifer Smith:
This is Marriage After God.

Aaron Smith:
Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Marriage After God Podcast. We love you all. We thank you that you join us faithfully every week, and we hope you’ve been enjoying all the content.

Aaron Smith:
We wanted to invite you to take the Marriage Prayer Challenge with everyone. It’s a new thing that we’ve launched, and you go to MarriagePrayerChallenge.com to register. What it is, is you get invited to receive an email every day for the next 31 days, giving you prompts every day to pray for your spouse.

Aaron Smith:
The reason it’s a challenge is because we wanted to make a fun thing to see if we can be praying for our spouses every day and, hopefully, build a habit out of it. Our heart is to encourage marriages all over the world to be praying regularly, daily for their spouse. Because we, my wife and I, believe that prayer changes everything.

Aaron Smith:
It’s our way that we communicate with God, and there’s nothing more powerful than bringing your spouse before your heavenly father in prayer, and so would you take the Marriage Prayer Challenge today? Go to MarriagePrayerChallenge.com and register.

Jennifer Smith:
Funny, babe. Okay, so, listen. Talking to your spouse, specifically, about hard conversations, it’s going to come up. It’s probably already come up.

Aaron Smith:
It’s going to come up a million times.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. It’s just what we do as a married couple. We want to prepare you guys, we want to equip you, we want to remind you about what it looks like to go into a hard conversation prepared, and why that’s important. Today, for today’s episode, we wanted to give you some tips and just talk about what that looks like.

Aaron Smith:
Then, if you’re listening to this with your spouse, you guys can look at each other and be like, “Do we have stuff to talk about?” You might.

Jennifer Smith:
Don’t go starting anything.

Aaron Smith:
What are the kinds of … Just to give some examples, what are the kinds of hard conversations that they might be getting into?

Jennifer Smith:
Okay. I’m just going to go deep right now. Confronting sin. It’s like one of the, probably the top-

Aaron Smith:
That’s an easy one.

Jennifer Smith:
I know. It’s the top, it’s number one.

Aaron Smith:
That’s like an easy one.

Jennifer Smith:
But it’s important.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. I’m kidding, it’s not easy. Confronting sin, dealing with sin …

Jennifer Smith:
Now this could be you confronting your own sin, and then having-

Aaron Smith:
Confessing sin.

Jennifer Smith:
… to confess it.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Or it could be, “Hey, I see this in you, and we need to talk about it,” so it could go both ways.

Aaron Smith:
The next one would be parenting differences. I know this is a hard one. We’ve gone through this, and every child it seems like, at the different stages it comes up.

Jennifer Smith:
I was going to say in the beginning, you just, there are certain things that you probably just don’t think about. There might be general things that you think about and talk about before even having kids, but then when you have kids, you’re kind of confronted by the experience of having kids, and so you want to be on the same page. Yeah, like you said-

Aaron Smith:
Sometimes this can be hard.

Jennifer Smith:
With each stage of growth that the kids experience, you’re experiencing as a parent, so we’ll just say parenting issues.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. In-law relationship conflict. This is a big one.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. I would say any family-

Aaron Smith:
One spouse maybe has an unhealthy relationship with their in-laws.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Or with their parents. Maybe one spouse is angry, or there’s something going on.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
The boundaries that need to be set. We have an episode about boundaries with in-laws, and just setting those boundaries is a difficult thing. Because you might be coming to your spouse and they might be very sensitive about it. It might be something that, it’s like a new concept to them.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
So that, I mean that’s a big one.

Jennifer Smith:
I’m going to tack onto that, family relationships.

Aaron Smith:
Family relationships, yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Because as important as it is to talk about in-laws, I think sometimes things come up with sisters or brothers or-

Aaron Smith:
Or aunts or … Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
It could be anyone, so family relationship conflict. Another one would be big decisions to be made, so big-

Aaron Smith:
Purchasing a house, selling a house.

Jennifer Smith:
Big things are on the table. Yup.

Aaron Smith:
Adoption.

Jennifer Smith:
I mean-

Aaron Smith:
Moving.

Jennifer Smith:
Fill in the blank.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. You’re probably thinking right now, all of the decisions that … You’re like, “This is, they’re all big.”

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. Sometimes, it feels that way and you need to talk about it.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. Then this one kind of connects to the sin confronting one a little bit, but it’s also different. Areas of growth or change. Maturity.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah, maturity.

Aaron Smith:
Just things that we need to grow in. Like, and it happens a lot more in the early years of marriage, but it happens over time. Like the way we communicate, my attitude towards certain things, the way we look at certain things and think about certain things, and the way we talk about certain things. Those can be hard things.

Jennifer Smith:
I’m going to do a little sub-category here just to give them some context. Sometimes, not to make light of it, but when you get married, you’re learning each other and there’s going to be things that we do that bother each other, or annoy each other, or just really crawl up our skin. I think it’s important to talk about those things. Not to point the finger and say, “You’re terrible.”

Aaron Smith:
Can I say one of them that I don’t like?

Jennifer Smith:
Hold on, hold on, hold on. Maybe you’ll forget if I stop you. Not to say, “You’re a terrible person,” but to consider what it means to actually go into a conversation like that, but in the hopes of maybe experiencing some growth or change.

Aaron Smith:
Right.

Jennifer Smith:
Does that make sense?

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. I’m not going to point out one.

Jennifer Smith:
Okay. You’re just being mean.

Aaron Smith:
This will be, that will be another episode. “All of the things that bother us about our spouse.”

Jennifer Smith:
Oh, man.

Aaron Smith:
Can you write that down? That’s a great idea.

Jennifer Smith:
I’m not doing that. Okay, so we have had our share of hard conversations over the years.

Aaron Smith:
I think we’ve had all of them. There’s no more, right?

Jennifer Smith:
Doubt it.

Aaron Smith:
That was a legit laugh. No, we’re going to have a lot more. That’s the point. They’re going to come up, but we want to be better at it.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Let’s talk about the wrong way first, for everyone that’s listening. Because there’s many ways to approach these hard conversations. I would say, more often than not, we have done it the wrong way.

Jennifer Smith:
That’s all learning experience, right? Like it’s-

Aaron Smith:
Yeah, exactly. We’re in school, for marriage school.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah, basically.

Aaron Smith:
But you got to be married to go through it. The wrong way. I would … We’re going to list off a few things, so if you want to take-

Jennifer Smith:
Kind of explain them as we go.

Aaron Smith:
… If you want to take notes, don’t do it if you’re driving. You can go back to this later, but-

Jennifer Smith:
Or vacuuming or cleaning, or any of the things you’re busy with.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah, no. Well, if you’re at home, you should stop what you’re doing and take notes.

Jennifer Smith:
Here. Mental notes. Ready?

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Go.

Aaron Smith:
Okay. So-

Jennifer Smith:
Number one.

Aaron Smith:
Going into a hard conversation, emotionally charged is not a good way to start.

Jennifer Smith:
What’s that even look like? I’ve never done that before.

Aaron Smith:
Like, yeah. You’re so emotionally even-keeled, and it’s like every single time we go into a conversation it’s like neutral. Emotionally charged-

Jennifer Smith:
What’s funny about that is even when I try really hard not to be emotionally charged-

Aaron Smith:
You’re emotionally charged.

Jennifer Smith:
… somewhere along the lines, I get it. Okay, let’s explain.

Aaron Smith:
This one’s a hard one. It takes self-control, it takes walking in the spirit, but emotionally charged. If you’re going into a conversation emotionally charged, as in you’re already really angry and you haven’t even cooled down yet, and you just start off at level 10.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. Like something happens, and you snap.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
You just respond, it’s like reactionary.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. It’s not thoughtful, it’s not-

Jennifer Smith:
Self-controlled.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. It’s not self-controlled. So-

Jennifer Smith:
Another thing that I … Oh, go ahead.

Aaron Smith:
Go ahead. No, you go.

Jennifer Smith:
I was just going to say, another thing that I think of when you say “emotionally charged” is for those that stuff down issues …

Aaron Smith:
The stuffers.

Jennifer Smith:
The stuffers, and they don’t, they’re not willing to address what’s bothering them, so then down the line, something else frustrates them, or maybe that thing that frustrates them happens again, and then they just respond. They’re emotionally charged already because they haven’t dealt with it.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. What they do is they save up all the emotions …

Jennifer Smith:
And then it’s like ammunition.

Aaron Smith:
This is a little side note, yeah. This is a good tip. For those that stuff the emotions instead of actually dealing with them in prayer, in wisdom, in counsel, in talking.

Jennifer Smith:
Talking about it.

Aaron Smith:
You’re not actually-

Jennifer Smith:
Dealing with it.

Aaron Smith:
Dealing, you’re not fixing anything. What you’re doing is you’re … Think about it this way. You’re storing it up to spew it out later.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Because what’s going to happen is, and we’ve seen this, we do this, we have done this. It’s stored, and then the moment you have the opportunity to pour it out, you do.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
So that one thing, and you want to talk about this one thing, and what comes out of you is a list of everything. All of the things that you’ve been … You’re like, “And this, and when you did this, and then you hurt my feelings when you did this.”

Jennifer Smith:
Okay. I’m going to be real honest here and just admit that there have been times where I say I’m brushing it off, like, “I’m not going to let that thing bother me,” but instead of letting me brush it off, I stuff it, and so we need to be careful that we’re not justifying what we’re doing.

Aaron Smith:
I don’t know if there’s really anything, any such such thing as brushing it off. Either you come to the conclusion of, “I’m not going to mad about that.”

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. “I’m not offended.”

Aaron Smith:
“I’m not going to be offended, and Lord, if I am, I want you to help me not be offended.” Meaning, “I’m not going to bring this up again.” Brushing it off is just another way of saying, “I’ve stuffed it. I’m saving it for later,” but you don’t do that as much as you used to.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
That used to be a tactic that happened in our marriage a lot. I think it’s a lot better nowadays. She’s laughing.

Jennifer Smith:
You say “tactic” like I was trained in that way, I-

Aaron Smith:
You were trained in that way.

Jennifer Smith:
I know. I wasn’t, it didn’t mean-

Aaron Smith:
These are things that we learn as we grow. We all learn how to deal with emotions in different ways.

Jennifer Smith:
I’ve matured, a little.

Aaron Smith:
You know what? We all get to change also and grow.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
I mean, you know me. I’m usually pretty even, but when it comes to feeling wronged, feeling manipulated, being angry, I usually … Or not usually, but I could just let it all out, and I have no self-control, and so you’re not the only one in this story here.

Jennifer Smith:
All right, all right.

Aaron Smith:
Another one, another, so that was number one, is emotionally charged.

Jennifer Smith:
We’re still talking about the wrong ways of going into a hard conversation.

Aaron Smith:
This is the wrong way to go into a hard conversation, yeah. Number two is with generalities, “You always, you never.”

Jennifer Smith:
I hate those.

Aaron Smith:
But we do them all the time.

Jennifer Smith:
No, when you say, we don’t do it all-

Aaron Smith:
See, all the time.

Jennifer Smith:
Okay. Yeah, you just did it, but listen. We have grown in this a lot, and-

Aaron Smith:
A better word is, “We have often, in the past, used generalities.”

Jennifer Smith:
We have often. Okay, but seriously, this was one that really got to both of us.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. Well, and it still comes out, but we catch it. We’re like, “No, don’t generalize.”

Jennifer Smith:
But why? But why?

Aaron Smith:
Because it’s not right.

Jennifer Smith:
There’s no recognition of growth or what’s actually taking place.

Aaron Smith:
And it’s false, just so even if there is some truth to it, it’s still false and what it does is it discounts everything, like you just said.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
It also paints the other person in just only black or only white.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Rather than grace and mercy and forgiveness.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. It’s a short way of sharing the list. You know, the list of all the things that are-

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. It’s like a quick and dirty like, “Nope, see. There you go, and you always do that.”

Jennifer Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). We got to stop. When I say “we,” I’m saying collectively.

Aaron Smith:
“We” as in you, and everyone else. Because I don’t … Yeah, I get it. Okay.

Jennifer Smith:
You never.

Aaron Smith:
I never. I never use generalities.

Jennifer Smith:
Okay. Number three.

Aaron Smith:
Number three. A bad way, a wrong way to go into a hard conversation …

Jennifer Smith:
Is viewing your spouse as the enemy rather than …

Aaron Smith:
Yeah, going in on opposite sides.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Which is hard, because oftentimes, the disagreement is, that’s the definition, “We’re on different sides.”

Jennifer Smith:
What do you do if you feel like, you know that your spouse isn’t the enemy, but you feel like they’re being the enemy? Like you feel like they are on a different side.

Aaron Smith:
Well, that’s in the, when we talk about the biblical way to do it. We have to get to that point first. The wrong way is going in viewing as the enemy, and this is something that we’ve talked about. Me reminding you, like, “I’m not the enemy.” Or vice-versa. You saying, “We’re on the same team,” so that’s a tactic to defuse that feeling. If we’re going in, just in our mind, “No, she’s wrong.”

Jennifer Smith:
“We’re different.” There’s no reconciliation.

Aaron Smith:
“She needs to change. Everything she’s done … I’m the right one in this conversation.” Like I’m already just in the wrong position. Which goes to number four, which is having a personal agenda or wrong motives.

Aaron Smith:
I’m going in, specifically, for an outcome that I want, and I’m going to either feel better as in, “I got you good, and now you hurt how I hurt.” That’s something that we dealt with in the beginning of our marriage. When you felt I hurt you, you would react and respond in a way to make sure that I not only knew that you were hurt, but you wanted me to hurt also.

Jennifer Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, I thought it would teach you a lesson. I thought it would help you understand.

Aaron Smith:
Right, and so the motive is, “I’m going to … If I don’t do this, he won’t change the way I want him to change.” I’ve done that as well in different ways, but that motive or that agenda of, “No. They are going to change the way I want them to change. They are going to think the way I want them to think. They are going to see what I want them to see.”

Jennifer Smith:
Just as a side note, we’ll probably talk about this in the more biblical way to approach a hard conversation, but when you are going in with a personal agenda like that, are you submitting your will and your desire to the Lord, and desiring what he wants to come of this?

Aaron Smith:
No. God’s going to step back and, “I’ll let you know how this is going to go, God.” That’s how sometimes our hearts can be.

Jennifer Smith:
That’s a dangerous place to be. Okay, number five. Not specific or focused.

Aaron Smith:
Going into a conversation and it starts off with, “I want to talk to you about how you communicated today to me.”

Jennifer Smith:
Then 30 seconds into it, there’s all these other things that you’ve thrown out and mixed up and …

Aaron Smith:
To win the conversation or to paint this, again, this picture of, “How much you’re the enemy, and how you always do this, and how you never do that, and …”

Jennifer Smith:
Okay, but the spouse who’s listening or the spouse that has been invited into this conversation at this point also needs to be aware that if your spouse brings something to the table, their response matters. If then they go on a rant about all these other things, they can contribute to this mixing up of a bunch of issues when you … It’s hard to deal with something, especially a hard issue, if it’s clouded.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah, so just kind of being clear on, “We’re trying to communicate about this thing.” Now that, it might include other things, but not using it as an opportunity to just throw the baby with the bath water.

Jennifer Smith:
Throw it in the bucket.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. Like, “Let’s just talk about all of it.” Because that’s not going to work with anything. Here’s another one. If you’re going into the conversation to be right.

Jennifer Smith:
Just to be right. Like you don’t even care what the issue is. You just want to be right because you want to be on top, you want to be the one that’s wise and …

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. “I don’t care how I get there, I just want to end out right.” That’s been my problem. Regardless of feelings, regardless of solutions, regardless of my character, our reconciliation, regardless of all those things, “No. I’m not giving up, because I’m right.”

Jennifer Smith:
Now, that makes the conversation feel really hard, because it literally feels like you’re sharing something with a brick wall, which is also-

Aaron Smith:
Which is what it is, because I’m right.

Jennifer Smith:
It’s pride.

Aaron Smith:
It’s pride, which is in number seven. Going in and being hard, not with a listening ear.

Jennifer Smith:
Not with humility.

Aaron Smith:
Not humble.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
No, it’s just pride. A lot of these are tied together, of course.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah, yeah.

Aaron Smith:
They’re very sinful, fleshly things.

Jennifer Smith:
We should have just started with that.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Don’t go in selfishly.

Aaron Smith:
Number eight. Timing.

Jennifer Smith:
Oh. Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Like the best time to confess sin is like, to you, is like right before we’re about to go on a date, right?

Jennifer Smith:
No. Well-

Aaron Smith:
Or … Go ahead.

Jennifer Smith:
If it needs to be talked about and that’s what the date is for, I would say, “Okay.”

Aaron Smith:
Or like …

Jennifer Smith:
But … What?

Aaron Smith:
I’m just thinking about the times that I’ve done this or you’ve done this.

Jennifer Smith:
There’s just times where it’s not conducive to have a hard conversation. Maybe your kids are right there, and you just brought something up that they shouldn’t be hearing, or they’re not age appropriate for, so being mindful of like, okay, this has happened before where we’re headed into an event.

Jennifer Smith:
Like let’s say a wedding, and right before we get out of the car, there’s this conversation that’s brought up and it’s like, “I can’t walk in there right now. I can’t feel this way.”

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
So paying attention to timing. Another one, when we were talking about timing, is I was thinking, before an intimate experience. If you know that … I’m just going to use my own experience because I’m sure I’ve done this before, where I know you want to be intimate with me, and you’re desiring that.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Then I sabotage it by bringing up this emotionally charged, hard conversation instead of enjoying your …

Aaron Smith:
I would say, on most things, and I’ve done this before, right before wanting to be intimate with you, bringing up a parenting thing.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. “Hey, what about this thing that we should talk about?”

Aaron Smith:
It really just ruined the whole night, because we were like, it was something that we were like-

Jennifer Smith:
I laid pack on my pillow and I was like, “I … What?”

Aaron Smith:
… It was something that we were broken over, and we were frustrated with, and like just turn in, and I don’t even know why I did it, but I mean, it was a good thing to talk about. It just probably wasn’t the right time to talk about it.

Aaron Smith:
I would say though, not avoiding confessing sin. Because, man, like being intimate with you, and one with you, and having those experiences with you is about being pure and intimate, and our unity. If I’m not in unity, I think that the appropriate thing is to confess it, rather than avoid it, just so I can get that.

Jennifer Smith:
Right.

Aaron Smith:
I would say …

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. Discern what it is that is the hard conversation. Because if it’s something that could be left for another time, and you can still be one, and share in that purity, and share in that intimate, intimacy, then-

Aaron Smith:
Wait.

Jennifer Smith:
Wait. Be okay with waiting, and don’t let it bother you so much that it just gets in the way or sabotages your evening, or morning, or whenever that is.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah, so going back to, you mentioned this before, but another thing is just being aware of our responses.

Jennifer Smith:
Both parties are responsible.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. We can respond with wrong motives, wrong attitudes, pride. That’s going to just fuel a hard conversation, or make a hard conversation harder.

Jennifer Smith:
Now, here’s the catch, okay? As humans, we tend to reciprocate how someone approaches us or reacts toward us. The natural, fleshly response when someone comes at us, say, emotionally charged, is to respond emotionally charged, but as a Christian, we’re called to be self-controlled. We’re called to be mindful of our words, and all of it.

Jennifer Smith:
Yes, our responses matter. What that means is we’re responsible. Even if, even if our spouse enters a hard conversation the wrong way, we’re still called to be responsible.

Aaron Smith:
To be … Do it our way. Do it the right way. Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
To do it the right way.

Aaron Smith:
Let’s talk about, some of these will sound like we’re repeating, because it’s the opposite of what we just talked about.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Let’s talk about some tactics for going into a successful, hard conversation.

Jennifer Smith:
Things we’ve learned over time.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. We talked about timing a little bit. Timing is kind, is being aware. Timing it right is being considerate. Like let’s say you’re having a really hard day, emotionally, with the kids, right?

Jennifer Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Aaron Smith:
It would be unkind and inconsiderate of me to come to you in that moment and say, “Hey, this is, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about how you discipline the kids.” You’re like, already have had a hard day, emotional, broken. That is not a considerate time to bring that up.

Aaron Smith:
That’s not me discerning you, that’s not me walking with you in an understanding way, as the word tells me to do. Considering like, “Hey, is my wife in a place that we can effectively have this conversation, and she can hear it, and absorb it, and that we could communicate about it together in a right way?”

Jennifer Smith:
That’s good. Being the person that knows what is going to be on the table, and what you want to talk about. Being considerate of the other person’s heart and where they’re at.

Jennifer Smith:
I would say another one is being mindful of the time it takes to share words. Because you’re going to share a bunch of words, they’re going to respond, and that just takes time. If you’re in a car ride headed to someone’s wedding, or a family reunion, or a family dinner.

Aaron Smith:
Or anywhere. Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Wherever you’re going, don’t ask the question or bring up the topic 30 seconds getting out of the car, because that’s not going to sit well with your spouse.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. Then you’re just sitting there stewing, like, “Oh my goodness. What’s going on? What …” Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Then they’re charged emotionally.

Aaron Smith:
Be discerning enough to be patient, if you have to, and to find the right time. Maybe even say, find the time to let your spouse know, “Hey, I have a hard conversation that we need to talk about. Can we make some time tomorrow? Just so you know, I’m not mad or anything. It’s about this, and I think it’s something we should talk about it. Don’t worry about it now, we’ll talk it about it then.” Just kind of prepping-

Jennifer Smith:
Prepping.

Aaron Smith:
… your spouse’s heart.

Jennifer Smith:
I would say, along this line of timing, not to tell yourself that you’re going to wait for the right time, just to avoid it.

Aaron Smith:
Which, we do. I’ve done it.

Jennifer Smith:
Just to neglect. The reason why I think that’s important is because you’re just stuffing. You’re still bothered by the issue, you’re just avoiding talking about it.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Don’t let so much time go that it eats at you.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. I think of the scripture that tells us when you have an offense against a brother, to go immediately to them in private. Again, which is a timing thing. Like are you in a place that is conducive to that? Is it-

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. Is it a safe zone for you to talk about?

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. Is there phones on? Going immediately, as soon as you can, in an appropriate way.

Jennifer Smith:
You want-

Aaron Smith:
Not just pushing stuff, I’m going to say, like you said, stuffing, and just saying, “I’m not going to deal with it now.”

Jennifer Smith:
You want to resolve it, because you desire reconciliation.

Aaron Smith:
Which gets to what we’re going to be talking about later, is our purpose.

Jennifer Smith:
Okay.

Aaron Smith:
What’s number two?

Jennifer Smith:
Another way is, pray about it. Pray about the words that you want to say. Pray about how your spouse receives it or how they respond. I think about Esther in the bible and how she fasted and prayed for the thing that she felt was so necessary, and to be able to address her husband in the matter.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
I just think that it’s so important that we’re praying about these things and we’re submitting … I mentioned it earlier, submitting our will and what we desire the outcome to be to God and saying, “God, am I even right in this?”

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. That’s a good question to ask God, actually. I was just thinking, like if the listeners took one thing away, if we just practiced praying about something before we spoke about it.

Jennifer Smith:
Go do that Prayer Challenge.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. Go do that Prayer Challenge we just talked about. If we prayed about it before we spoke about it, I wonder how many conversations wouldn’t have to happen. Because-

Jennifer Smith:
Or how many conflicts would be dissolved, just being able to talk about it.

Aaron Smith:
Right. Well, because if you think about it, we can’t change anyone’s hearts. I can’t change your heart, babe, on an issue. I can present something to you, and you know what? The Holy Spirit’s going to have to be the one changing your heart.

Aaron Smith:
Prayer is essential in the fact that I’m literally asking God, “Hey, would you change my heart and my wife’s heart? Would you reveal to her? Would you soften her? Because I want her to receive, I want her to hear, I want us to be on the same page.” It also preps our hearts to be in the right place for our spouse.

Jennifer Smith:
There’s actually, I’m thinking of a situation where you had been praying for me. Something that didn’t sit right with you, and a couple days later, I came to you and confessed, “Hey, I’ve been feeling a certain way, and I’ve been doing this thing, and I just-“

Aaron Smith:
I had, literally, been praying for that thing for like three days straight.

Jennifer Smith:
I just wanted to say, “I’m sorry.” Looking back on the situation, had you confronted me on it, I don’t know if I would have …

Aaron Smith:
You probably wouldn’t have seen it maybe.

Jennifer Smith:
Seen it right away. I don’t know.

Aaron Smith:
Or been defensive, possibly. I don’t know.

Jennifer Smith:
But anyways-

Aaron Smith:
We don’t know. We didn’t have to do it.

Jennifer Smith:
That’s just one example of how God can move, and he wants to, and he will. When we submit ourselves to him in prayer, oh, it’s powerful for marriage, powerful, so we pray for each other.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah, so number three, and we kind of touched on it from number one, on the timing, but it’s making plans for undistracted time to talk.

Jennifer Smith:
This takes intentionality.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. Know that, “Hey, this is going to take time to talk, to fully flesh out, to listen, and so we need that time. We need … We don’t want the kids around, or we don’t want friends around.”

Jennifer Smith:
Maybe you take a date night to do it.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Or maybe you wait until everyone goes to bed.

Aaron Smith:
We have the phones off, we don’t have something looming over our heads, a project, or work, or whatever. We make sure that we’ve set aside that time, specifically, to have that conversation.

Jennifer Smith:
Another thing I want to, another way that I want to mention, and I don’t know if we’ve done this, necessarily, but I have a good friend who has done something similar.

Jennifer Smith:
I think it’s helpful for people who kind of get lost in their words, and lose their train of thought, but it’s taking notes. If you have something on your heart that you want to talk to your spouse about, make some bullet points, make a little list. Not that you’re going in to …

Aaron Smith:
Like, “Here’s my list of demands, or my …”

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. I just want to clarify. This is not to-

Aaron Smith:
This is notes to help facilitate your thoughts to your spouse.

Jennifer Smith:
Exactly.

Aaron Smith:
About what you’re trying to get across.

Jennifer Smith:
Exactly, so that, if you start fumbling in your words, you can go back to your notes and just say, “This is what I wanted to say,” and so I think that, I think it’s important to share.

Aaron Smith:
This one might not be for everyone, but I think taking notes could be a … Again, it’s not to be right or win. It’s to help you communicate well to your spouse.

Aaron Smith:
Number five, again, it’s the opposite of the other, what are the wrong ways, is be specific and avoid generalities. The wrong way is using generalities, but avoid them. Like they’re never fruitful. Saying “always” and “never” and using these global terms-

Jennifer Smith:
They’re like trigger words.

Aaron Smith:
Well, and they don’t mean anything, also. Because they’re not, they can’t possible be true.

Jennifer Smith:
Because then that person needs to go down and evaluate whether or not they’ve done that.

Aaron Smith:
So there’s, I don’t think there’s ever, ever … I think this is the only generality I could use. There’s never a reason to use generalities. They’re just hurtful and it just, literally, paints it like, “You’re never going to change. You can’t change. This is how I see you. You are this person.” That’s not a fruitful way to talk to anyone.

Jennifer Smith:
So-

Aaron Smith:
Then being specific goes to what we talked about of, don’t use the opportunity to just throw everything at your spouse that’s kind of vaguely connected to the topic you’re bringing up.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Just talk about the thing and get it resolved.

Jennifer Smith:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Another way we want to share with you guys …

Aaron Smith:
This is the biggest one.

Jennifer Smith:
This is to combat that prideful, hard heart that wants to be right and it’s, know your end result. Your end result is always reconciliation.

Aaron Smith:
And unity.

Jennifer Smith:
It’s unity, it’s oneness, it’s love, it’s-

Aaron Smith:
It hurts. Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
… Caring about the other person more than yourself.

Aaron Smith:
It’s caring about our unity and our marriage and the ministry God’s given us, more than being right. More than feeling justified. More than making sure you know exactly how I feel right now.

Aaron Smith:
Because now, some of those could be valid, and if we communicate well and we have the right end result, then we can communicate well and say, “You did make me feel this way, and I really hope you would change in this area, because it makes us stronger when you are, when you don’t do that, and it helps me feel close to you,” and those kind of things, but the goal should always be reconciliation.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. If your motive is reconciliation, one, you’re going to go into the conversation with a soft spirit because your goal is peace, right?

Aaron Smith:
You’re right.

Jennifer Smith:
Your goal is unity.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
And so you’re not going to be on the defense, you’re going to be … Or on the offense. You’re just going in going, “Hey, our marriage matters, God matters. Let’s figure this out.” Then if your goal’s reconciliation and you’re coming in in that way, the other person’s going to have a chance to respond. Are you going to be available to listen?

Aaron Smith:
Is your heart open towards your spouse?

Jennifer Smith:
Are you going to be walking in humility to say that, or to be in a place where if your spouse has a response that actually corresponds to how they’re being because of you?

Jennifer Smith:
Like let’s say you’re doing something that’s bothering me. I’m going to talk to you about it, and you point it back at me. I’m able to look at it and go, “Oh, I didn’t see that. Okay, let’s talk about this.” Right?

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
Because the goal’s reconciliation. It’s not, I’m bringing this to you and then I’m cut off from the rest of the conversation.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
It’s reconciliation.

Aaron Smith:
That should be our goal because, to be honest, we need to remember none of us are righteous in our own right. None of us deserve the goodness that God has given us.

Aaron Smith:
Anyway, if we have that perspective, there’s nothing my wife could ever do that’s more sinful or wrong toward me, than my sin did toward Christ, so the salvation I have, the forgiveness I have is unearned, unmerited, and it’s a gift from God. Because of that, that should lead me to a place of saying, “Well, man, I should be able to forgive my spouse for anything.”

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Like, “Literally, there’s nothing she could do against me that is worse, and more deserving of hell than what I’ve done to God, on any level.” Again, that goes back to why the bible wants us walking in unity and forgiveness, because none of us deserve the forgiveness we do have.

Aaron Smith:
Therefore, out of that love, out of that recognition, I could say, “You know what, Lord? I’m going to lay down all my weapons because my wife is just like me. We all deserve one thing, and you’ve given us another, and so I’m going to give her what you’ve given me,” so reconciliation.

Jennifer Smith:
Okay, so here’s a question. If a husband or a wife has something on their hearts that they feel that they need to talk about to their spouse, something that they need reconciliation on, would you say that they should first talk it through with a friend, or get counsel, or what does that look like? Because I know people are going to have that question, and I don’t want to avoid-

Aaron Smith:
I know. It really depends on what the context is. It’s like, I don’t want to give a generality like, “Yes, you should always get counsel.” Some things, you just go to your spouse and you do it. Other things, maybe you have a spouse that’s not in the same place, spiritually, as you and maybe you can’t address certain things.

Aaron Smith:
Again, I’d say the first place is you begin praying for that person, your spouse. Over and over again, every day, all the time, and watching the Lord work in their life. I think there are definitely situations that someone should get counsel on how to deal with something and so, again, I think the people listening should discern that.

Aaron Smith:
If your heart is to go just paint your husband or your wife in a picture towards others so that people are on your side versus them, if you’re just trying to gain people on your team against your spouse, you’re wrong.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
If you’re going, generally, to be like, “I don’t know what to do. I need help,” maybe you should. Maybe you should go get godly counsel. People that you trust, who have marriages that you look up to, who love God, who love the word of God, and get some godly counsel for the purpose of reconciliation. For the purpose of growth, maturity, closer, closeness to Christ.

Aaron Smith:
I would say, each person needs to discern that, and search their own hearts and saying, “Am I doing this just because I just want to make my spouse look bad, and win the argument, or have people on my side?”

Jennifer Smith:
Maybe that’s not your goal, but consider your words and what you’re sharing with people, because that could be happening.

Aaron Smith:
Without you intending it to, but in your heart, yeah. That’s a good point.

Jennifer Smith: 

We just wanted to encourage you guys, with this conversation today, because hard conversations come up in marriage, they happen. Maybe they’ve happened in the past, and you regret some of the things that you’ve said or did. Or maybe they’re going to come up in the future, and now you feel more equipped going into it.

Jennifer Smith: 

That was our heart with today’s episode. I just want to share that having grown through the way that we communicate, Aaron, I feel like utilizing these biblical steps of praying beforehand, of going in with the heart of reconciliation, it actually has helped us communicate clearer and quicker, in that when hard conversations come up, we are able to find a solution, or be reconciled in situations where, maybe in the beginning of our marriage, took a lot longer.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah. Also, let go of things quicker.

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah.

Aaron Smith:
Like actually release. Like, “Oh, I don’t even need to be angry about that. There’s no reason to.”

Jennifer Smith:
Yeah. As we practice maturity and walk in maturity, it really does benefit the marriage.

Aaron Smith:
Yeah.

Jennifer Smith:
It allows God to move through us in a way that is humble and beautiful and for the purpose of oneness, so we just, we were excited to share this with you guys. As always, we would like to pray with you before we head out, so please join us.

Jennifer Smith:
Dear Lord, thank you for the intimacy of marriage. Marriage can be messy and challenging at times, but it is such an incredible place for deep love to exist. Please help us to be transparent in marriage. Help us to walk in light as well as grace.

Jennifer Smith:
Lord, please help us to confront the issues that need to be confronted, and to say the hard things, but in love. We pray we would be courageous and humble, willing to make time for each other to share and to listen. We pray we would have hearts that truly desire reconciliation. May you go before us and with us as we share these moments in marriage, and may these moments be growth opportunities that make us stronger and that help us to love deeper, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Aaron Smith:
Amen. I hope you were encouraged by this episode. If you were, would you share about it on Instagram, and tag @Marriage After God, so that we can see it? We love seeing people post about the episodes. It also helps other people know about the episodes.

Aaron Smith:
One last thing. If you haven’t yet, would you leave a star rating today? That helps people on the podcast apps find the podcast as well. We love you, we’re praying for your marriage, and we’ll see you next week.

Aaron Smith:
Did you enjoy today’s show? If you did, it would mean the world to us if you could leave us a review on iTunes. Also, if you’re interested, you can find many more encouraging stories and resources at MarriageAfterGod.com, and let us help you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.

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