Marriage is about being fully honest and upfront with each other, right? When we say “I do” we promise to be faithful and to share everything.
And yet, after almost sixteen years of marriage, I’m convinced more than ever of this: There are some things we should not share with our spouse.
Yes, you read that right. Some things do not need to be shared. At all.
Instead I’ve learned that God only wants me to share those things with my husband that intend to build up our marriage.
I know, I know… I hear your questions:
- What if I’m hurting and he needs to know about it?
- What if I see red flags in our marriage that we need to deal with?
- How can we still have an open and honest marriage if we don’t share everything?
Now, before you throw the tomatoes, hear me out.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t share about troubling issues. I’m not suggesting that you allow things to build up or to fester between you and your spouse.
Instead, I’m suggesting we ask four important questions before the words come flying out: if we should share; why we should share; when we should share; and how we should share.
In short, I’m suggesting that we have a filter in place that ensures we share in a respectful, appropriate way that honors the relationship.
We seem to have this filter in place for our closest friendships and even in how we speak to our own children. We think twice about what should be shared before we share it.
And yet, so often, we wives seem to think we have carte blanche when it comes to sharing every last detail with our husbands. We want them to know how we feel, and we want them to know it now. But really, is this wise?
I didn’t have this filter in the early years of our marriage. And my careless words (spoken simply because I felt my husband needed to know everything on my mind) damaged our relationship instead of causing the closeness I was hoping for.
I’ve seen it happen in too many of my friends’ marriages too. I’ve seen the damage done and heard the regret.
You see, in many cases these “too honest” conversations don’t solve the issue but instead add unnecessary pain that has to be dealt with later. We think we’re making things better by spilling every emotion on our heart, but truly, we’re not.
Instead, what if we developed a common-sense, godly filter that helps us determine if, why, when and how we should share with our spouses? Having a filter like this has saved my marriage from much pain and trouble, and that’s what I want to help you develop in this post.
Again, let’s be perfectly clear: I’m not saying that we shouldn’t feel free to speak our minds in marriage. And please hear that I’m not saying we should ever hide huge issues in our heart, especially if they are emotional seeds that could bloom into huge weeds that could potentially cause division or even divorce.
Instead, I’m just encouraging all of us to share cautiously, prayerfully and with God’s wisdom guiding us as to what to say and when to say it.
When I’m faced with a tough issue in my marriage, I let these four key questions guide my response.
Should You Share About This With Your Spouse? 4 Critical Questions to Ask
#1: The “If” Question: “Have I prayed about this? If so, is God telling me it’s time to share?”
I am a fiery, passionate person who can go from tears of joy to tears of anger in a matter of a few minutes. That’s why I had to learn early on in my marriage not to blindly trust my emotions. Instead, in the heat of the moment, I take a few minutes to pour my heart out to God and then I listen to what He wants me to do next.
At first, it was really hard to know (and to trust) God’s response. It’s taken time (and trial and error), but I’ve learned to hear His voice over the roar of my emotions.
However, during those times when I’m not sure what God is saying, I err on the side of waiting to share with my husband.
Honestly, waiting is always more frustrating because we want our spouse to know what we’re feeling right now, regardless! But I’ve quickly learned the immense power of letting God help me work through the heart of the feelings so that the emotions are tempered, controlled and channeled into productive helpful words. Conversations with my spouse always, always go better when I’ve taken this simple step.
Waiting has also helped me determine the root of the issue (which leads us into the second question).
#2: The “Why” Question: “Why would I share this with my husband? What’s my purpose in sharing?”
This is a critical question! After praying through my emotions, there are many times I discover that what I’m feeling really is my issue (and needs to be worked out between God and me). Gulp, right?
Keep in mind that even if you realize it’s a issue you need to work out on your own you can still speak to your spouse about it. However, that issue would be shared in a different way: It would be from a “I’m-dealing-with-this-and-I’d-love-your-encouragement” way instead of “This-is-your-fault-and-you-need-to-fix-it” mentality. The first option invites your spouse to support you, while the second option points fingers and casts blame.
For example, my husband is extremely introverted and cautious with his emotions, and I used to get angry at him (quite often) that he wouldn’t share or talk more. My husband has definitely opened up and become much more social in the 16 years we’ve been married, but there are times where I still have to tell myself, “Stop expecting (a specific behavior) from him because that’s not who God naturally made him to be.” I can’t tell you how many times my unrealistic expectations about my husband have stolen my joy.
Of course I’ve shared about this issue with him, but do I share with him every single time it bothers me? No. Instead, I bring those emotions to God and ask for His help in sorting them out. I remind myself that my way of responding to a specific situation isn’t necessarily better. So I ask God to help me love and accept my husband just as he is right now. Read more about this ongoing struggle for me here.
The next question also helps determine the best timing on sharing about tough issues.
#3: The “When” Question: “When is the best time to share this information?”
We all have ongoing issues with our spouse where little is solved by talking about it over and over.
That’s why sometimes the best solution is to pray fervently behind the scenes for change (for both of us) and then wait for God to work.
I don’t say this from a hopeless, “the situation-will-never-change-so-why-bring-it-up” mentality, but instead as an acceptance that, at this point, this is the reality of the situation and talking about it probably won’t change much. I share more here about how to handle the incredibly intense feelings of anger, disappointment, and frustration we feel with ongoing marriage issues.
But again, should we never bring up these ongoing issues? Are we doomed to just suffer in silence and allow bitterness to take root?
No. I do believe God wants us to heartily work through our ongoing issues. However, we need to first sort out the root cause, and the “when to share” needs to be guided by God’s direction.
How can you do your part to effectively share with your spouse about tough issues? The last question can help determine a plan.
#4: The “How” Question: “How can I share my concerns in a way that is helpful and uplifting to my spouse?”
No one likes to be confronted on tough issues. But there are ways to share that can establish a healthy open dialogue for both sides.
First and foremost, as they say in boxing, “Keep it clean.” Remember these 10 ground rules for fighting fair in marriage.
This isn’t the time for re-hashing old issues that have been settled, or for all fingers to point your spouse as the sole person responsible for the problem. Instead, approach the issue as “Here’s what I’m seeing and here’s my part in it. I want you to know that I am feeling hurt, and I wonder how you feel about it too.”
Sometimes you need help in knowing how to start the conversation, especially when it’s a difficult one. I’ve compiled a list of 17 marriage conversation starters that you can download here).
Proverbs 14:1, Proverbs 17:27, Ephesians 4:29 and Colossians 3:13 also provide incredible wisdom and practical insight.
Friend, the next time you’re facing a big issue in your marriage, I pray you’ll take the time to walk through these four simple questions so that you too can deal with the problem in an effective, Christ-honoring way.
Let’s share our hearts with our husbands, but only share in a way that promotes healing and martial closeness.