I’ve taken a lot of marriage classes, sat under a lot of biblical teaching on the topic, and been through my share of marriage counseling. It dawned on me recently that the goal of reaching Understanding and Agreement is the highest standard for marital communication that I’ve ever encountered. Entrusted with a Child’s Heart explains this concept in depth in Lessons 4 and 5.
What if you didn’t just refuse to “let the sun go down on your anger," but you worked to understand?
What if you didn’t just try to be peaceable, but you listened to know what your spouse values?
And then—what if you came to agreement about what your family will look like and how it will operate to bring God glory?
Initially, it may be exhausting. But in time, it is the most efficient, fruitful method.
Perhaps you are like me and tend to dismiss empty promises that claim to fix it all, and get skeptical over formulas that can “fix” relationships. Truly, I get it. Yet, there is room for hope with the LORD, amen? Scripture shows us that when we humbly partner with Him, true transformation is the result. And on that path of transformation, there are some practical tools that can guide us in our growth. These four questions are one of the most helpful communication tools I’ve come across.
How are you doing? Share details.
Is there anything troubling you? Share burdens.
What can I do to help? Share needs.
What are you looking forward to? Share hopes.
If you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, you need clear direction and tangible steps that can actually bear fruit.
If you have a great track record of communication—but need a little tune-up because you’ve been focusing on keeping little ones alive and well!—these questions are wonderful to set the tone again.
You may have even talked for an hour with your spouse yesterday, but maybe you need some extra guidance to get to the heart of the issues.
These four questions are simple, yet effective. We’re offering two printable versions so you can pick the one you like and stay consistent. Just click on the image above that you prefer and download! Should this resource be on your nightstand as a reminder? In the car so you connect deeply and use travel time wisely? Perhaps it’s in the living room for you to discuss after the kids go to bed. Tuck it in your Bible or the book you’re reading so you have a daily reminder to connect with your spouse.
Details. Burdens. Hopes. Needs.
Doesn’t that cover so much ground?
Here are a few testimonies of these priceless, practical prompts in action:
It had been a long time since we truly connected. Our opposite schedules had made us like ships passing in the night. I didn’t know where to begin. Then the water heater broke. And the dishwasher. And something else I don’t recall. It felt a little hopeless to try to communicate anything beyond the practical necessities, but I knew it needed to happen. Thankfully, I remembered the four questions. As we began to discuss them, the distance parted. We didn’t know everything we had missed, but we were hitting the things that were important right now.
The questions are fruitful every time if I can choose to be humble, vulnerable, and keep the goal in mind. I am ashamed to say that there have been seasons in which the questions, “How are you?” and “Is anything troubling you?” seemed like opportunities to attack for the hurt I was feeling. When I chose to lay down my disappointments and frustration, and share how I was struggling, I could see my husband soften instead of get defensive. We could look at the issues and try to fix them instead of retreating to our separate battle grounds. Even when there is pain, we can slowly work to come back together. Proverbs 15:1 states that, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” and James 4:6 warns that “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.” These verses have helped guide the discussions when there is tension to work through.
It's easy to find ourselves driving to the next game in a minivan packed full of snacks, excited kids, and a mind that’s racing to the next thing. During these busy stages of life, often the thing we unintentionally drop at the doorstep is communication with our spouse. We all know how important this is in a marriage, but sometimes head knowledge struggles to work coherently with the application of biblical understanding. At the moment it can seem like such a small thing, but over time it can be the thing that breaks our marriage down or builds it up.
Recently, our family moved across quite a few state lines. There’s nothing quite like a move to expose the areas of communication that we needed to work on. During this time a few lessons were revealed to us. 1. Don’t assume your spouse knows what you're thinking. 2. Communication styles differ, which means it is constantly necessary to extend grace to one another. In the absence of grace, pride can easily slip in. During this very busy season of our lives, we took one day at a time and talked through what needed to be accomplished that day. Now that we have moved and begun to settle in, those daily meetings have become weekly meetings. During those weekly meetings we both bring our calendars to the table to discuss schedules, appointments, and logistics. Also incorporated into this time together are the four questions:
How are you doing?
Is there anything troubling you?
What can I do to help?
What are you looking forward to?
Understanding each other’s heart and way of thinking is a constant and lifelong goal that we work towards. It’s in prayerful consideration of one another that these four questions help us live in enjoyment of a revealed heart to each other.