Many times women and well-meaning individuals mention communication as the problem that hinders marriage. She is withdrawn instead of vulnerable. He communicates in anger or not at all.
Communication is a symptom, not a root problem. Addressing broken patterns and outward fruit it does nothing more than teach someone to sin better or practice sin hypocritically. It’s like the priest’s garment in Malachi 2:14-16 that covers treacherous, violent acts against his wife. Words, in the book of Proverbs, are referred to as swords (Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 25:18, Proverbs 30:14): violent and destructive.
Strong-arming a woman into sharing her opinions, thoughts, and feelings with a dominant individual provides cannon fodder to be used against her. It is not sinful for her to withhold herself; it is survival. Those who tell her she must or should are sinning against her, choosing not to trust her judgment and judging unseen motives. She is the one seeking help. She is willing to change. She will try “anything” to “make this work.” But pushing her to share is a set up. And she won’t realize that until it’s happened a few times. This is, honestly, casting stones. A dangerous husband will follow this example and use the words of the counselor, pastor, friend, to bring about death, not life.
It is important for a wife to understand that she is not wrong to withhold herself verbally, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, or physically from a man who uses her to serve himself (neither she nor others will know this for a long time). She just knows it’s “hard” and she doesn’t want to. Until she has been out of the relationship for a significant period of time–a month or two–she will use the dominant individual as her compass. His ability to punish, manipulate, and coerce is unseen, but she is surviving–protecting herself and her children).
There is hope. When a man has earned trust gradually, over long period of time, tested by failure (both his and hers); when he treats his wife with the honor and respect with which God created her; when he cares for and puts her interest above his own; when he not only listens but seeks her opinion and values it–when he is a safe person–then, and only then, will she freely, openly give what has been reasonably withheld. No one has to tell her. She wants to share. She wants to be known. She wants to be loved.
But at the cost of being known and loved, a woman will instinctively protect her life and humanity.
If a man refuses to be vulnerable and transparent with his wife, perhaps he needs to practice with someone else. Often, his communication (stonewalling, criticism, sarcasm, etc.) is his way of refusing to address the darkness within: pain, grief, addiction, failure, confusion. There is no way to restrain darkness–it can only be vanquished with Light.
Until he allows Christ to shine into the darkness of his heart, slowly, surely, event by event, conversation by conversation, silence by silence, the darkness within destroys others in the same way it destroys him. There is no relationship. He is not keeping his marriage vows. This is not a picture of Christ loving His Church. This is not God’s intent or design.
God created man to have a relationship with Him first and foremost–a relationship free of guilt, shame and fear. When a man enjoys fellowship with God, he is ready and able to enjoy fellowship with other individuals–free of guilt, shame and fear–life-giving, refreshing, mutual, blessing.
That is the heart of communication.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1)
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 4:4-24 ESV)