Your husband seems to say one thing yet do another. Your wife seems to expect you to read her mind. You and your spouse are frustrated that what you heard each other say wasn’t what was meant. Sometimes it can be like your spouse is speaking a different language from yours – one you don’t understand.

But you can learn to speak your spouse’s language when you work on communication skills in your marriage. Here’s how:

Make your marriage a covenant, not just a contract. God intended marriage to be much more than the contractual relationship it typically is in our society. Viewed as a contract, marriage is simply about what and your spouse agree to do for each other (and if either of you fail, the relationship can be canceled). But God designed marriage to be a covenant, a permanent relationship that’s built on unconditional love. The first step in effectively communicating with your spouse is for both of you to view your marriage as a covenant. Be willing to love your spouse with a steadfast love. Decide to focus on what you can do for your spouse, instead of on what you want your spouse to do for you.

Realize that communication leads to intimacy. The better you and your spouse communicate, the closer your relationship will become. Aim to build intimacy by focusing on your communication skills. Think of how loved you each will feel in a truly intimate marriage, and let that thought motivate you to improve the way you communicate.

Plan a daily sharing time with your spouse. Schedule a time each day or night to give each other a few minutes of undivided attention. Take turns asking each other to share three experiences that happened in your lives today and how you feel about them.

Change unhealthy communication patterns. Instead of trying to achieve peace at any price, recognize that conflict is necessary to deal with issues and find solutions to problems. Rather than blaming your spouse for everything, ask God to show you how you’ve contributed to problems. Then take responsibility for your own failures, confess them to God, and ask for His help to change. Instead of expressing only your reasonable thoughts and hiding your feelings, realize that you must share your emotions as well as your logic if you’re going to build true intimacy with your spouse. Rather than ignoring your spouse’s offensive actions or comments, hoping that they’ll go away, realize that the problems between you will never go away on their own. The only way to get them to go away is to work together to solve them.

Raise the level of your communication. Get to know the five different levels of communication. Then aim to go to the highest level – level five – with your spouse. Level one is hallway talk like “Fine, how are you?”. Level two is reporter talk like “Just give me the facts.” Level three is intellectual talk like “Do you know what I think?”. Level four is emotional talk like “Do you know how I feel?”. Level five is the most intimate – loving, genuine truth talk like “Let’s be honest.” On this level, you can speak the truth in love to each other. You can be honest but not condemning, and open but not demanding. You can give each other the freedom to think and feel differently about issues, situations, and people. You work to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings, looking for ways to grow together in spite of your differences.

Get to know yourself well. You must know yourself before you can share yourself with your spouse. Train yourself to become more attentive to your five senses (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting) to be able to fully experience situations. Pay closer attention to the way you interpret your experiences. Notice how the way you interpret experiences affects your emotions and your behavior. Consider what your spouse may have said or done lately that you interpreted in a wrong way.  Ask God to help you avoid jumping to conclusions about situations in your marriage, and instead take the time to find out what truly motivated your spouse to speak or act in certain ways. Get to know your emotions, what triggers them, and how the way you feel affects the way you behave. Recognize your desires, and the different values you place on each of them. Consider whether your desires are good or bad, loving or selfish – and how those desires and their varying intensities are affecting your marriage. Then come to understand how your behavior reveals the reality of your choices. When you act a certain way toward your spouse, you’re making a choice, whether you’re fully aware of it or not. If you pay more attention to the choices you’re making – even at the subconscious level – you can change your behavior by changing your choices. Ask God to help you integrate your feelings and desires with your intellect and your will. Instead of letting your changing emotions rule your life, decide to live by the timeless truths of the Bible. Pray for the strength you need to deal with your emotions maturely, so you can remain committed to your marriage even during tough times.