Talk supportively.  Ask God to help you speak positive words that convey support to your spouse and avoid speaking negative words that discourage your spouse.  Keep in mind that God gives you grace every day, and let your gratitude for that gift motivate you to give your spouse grace in the conversations you share.

Take a climate reading before discussing a key issue. Don't just jump into serious discussions about key issues.  Instead, make sure that your current marriage climate can support the stress of difficult conversations before starting them.  When the climate is right, your discussions will have a better chance of being productive than if you and your spouse talked at the wrong time.  If  you need to improve your marriage climate, call a marital truce, temporarily avoiding controversial issues and overlooking each other's offensive actions so you can strengthen your relationship.

Deal with conflict wisely.  Recognize that conflict is a normal part of every marriage, and that your marriage climate can improve as you and your spouse deal with conflict and invite God to strengthen you both in the process.  Pray against evil spiritual forces that cause tension in your relationship.  Seek to understand how both you and your spouse feel about each conflict you engage in, listen well, speak the truth in love, and seek solutions that will benefit both of you rather than just one of you.

Forgive each other.  Let your gratitude for how much God has forgiven you motivate you to obey His command to forgive your spouse when he or she hurts or offends you.  Rely on God's help to get you through the forgiveness process.  If abuse is involved, be willing to forgive, but also get out of unhealthy situations so you're not subjected to any more abuse.  Trust God to help you overcome any obstacle you might encounter, because of His great power and love for you.

Keep strengthening your communication climate with God.  Remember that you must be in a close, loving relationship with God to be able to truly love your spouse well.  Stay close to God through regular prayer and other spiritual disciplines so you can enjoy a great climate in your relationship with Him that will impact your marriage climate too.

December 10, 2010

Adapted from Marriage Forecasting: Changing the Climate of Your Relationship One Conversation at a Time, copyright 2010 by Tim Muehlhoff. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com

Tim Muehlhoff (Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is an associate professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California where he teaches classes in family communication, interpersonal communication and gender. Tim is the coauthor of The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith and Authentic Communication: Christian Speech Engaging Culture. He and his wife, Noreen, are frequent speakers at FamilyLife Marriage Conferences, and Tim has served with Campus Crusade since 1986. They live in Brea, California, with their three boys.  Tim has written about God, communication and faith in diverse publications such as the Journal of Religion and Communication, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Mars Hill Review and Discipleship Journal.