Healthy Communication: I'm FINE! (are you?)
Updated: May 20, 2021
James 1:19-20 tells us that “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” What a powerful verse! Especially in a relationship! Engrain this in your life and it will change the way you communicate forever.
Sounds so easy doesn't it? Well, it all depends on your viewpoint.
If you choose for it to be hard and complicated, then it will be. (In this case, it will require great adjustment on your part).
If you choose to let it be God-guided, joyful and slow to anger- then you will experience a fuller and happier relationship.
We humans are interesting specimens to say the least. Even the most mild-mannered, calm and God-centered person can overreact to a minor situation or erupt with anger or be 'not understanding' in the relationship, especially if under a lot of stress. Give each other some slack. You're both on the same team! Talk about it. Calmly.
In a relationship or marriage, communication is the key to maintaining happiness and building respect. We expect our significant others to communicate honestly don't we? Of course! But how are you communicating to them? Are you sending mixed messages? Do you give the 'silent treatment' if they said something that you didn't like or say something that you disagree with? If they didn't act immediately on what YOU feel needed to be done in the moment? Do you think that is fair? When asked if you are okay, do you ever respond with an "I'm fine" and expect them to know all of the emotions that you are experiencing? Is that open communication? No.
"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” (Psalm 32:3) (Let that one sink in for a moment. In fact, read it three times).
How easy is it to say "I'm fine" when someone asks you "How are you doing?"
How are you?
– Yup, Fine. I'm good...
Are you sure, ’cause you don’t sound fine?
– I said I'm fine.
It's almost an instant human reaction. Sometimes we state it without even thinking. It's an automatic response. Especially if it's an aquatiance, (the grocery store clerk, the mailman, a neighbor, your child's teacher, etc.). After all, are you going to give them the real answer? -I'm a mess, I'm broke, addicted, my loved walked away from me, my kids won't talk to me, I'm experiencing severe loss, I'm depressed, I cry all the time, just lost my job but how are you?..... You get the gist. Or, is it easier to say "I'm fine"? Okay yes, it's definitely easier to say that to just an acquaintance and I think we can both agree that there are times and places to keep things to yourself (or to gush) and there are a LOT of people who are filled to the brim with FINE. I get it. BUT, how about your significant other? The one who is your closest friend. The one who loves you unconditionally. The one you confide in and trust. Your soulmate. Your husband or wife? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? Will you give them an honest answer or are you going expect them to know everything that is going on in your head by giving them an "I'm fine"? Or even the infamous, "nothing".
As in, "What's wrong with you?" ......"nothing!"
I would like to challenge you and don't say "I'm fine" or "nothing" in your relationship unless you REALLY mean it. And if you do mean it, say it with grace and not with sarcasm. It's really better to replace it with something like, "I'm blessed!", "I'm great!", "I feel so much better!", "I was upset but I'm better now", or "I'm still upset and still need to talk about it". All are honest answers.
You see, when "I'm fine" is stated in a relationship, FINE usually stands for Frustrated, Insecure, Negative and Exhausted. It can also stand for Feelings I’m Not Expressing.
Over twenty years ago, I learned a lesson from a great friend, mentor and sister in Christ who is now residing in heaven with Jesus, (I miss her so much) when I did not reply "I'm fine" to her question of "Why are you in such deep despair?"
My honest answer to her direct question gave me a chance to deal with the upsets and frustrations I was facing back then. She was the one who taught me about "I'm fine" and not when to say it. Because I opened up to her and had not just given her a robotic answer, I was able to step forward in a growing process of being a more godly, loving wife and mother. I call it a crescendo process because it starts off soft and increases gradually. It takes a lot of time and dedication and much trial and error.
In fact, I'm still in the process of growing in this area and this process won't be completed this side of heaven! I'm so thankful I answered honestly because if I didn't, the chance to grow and learn a powerful life lesson that is still with me today would have been missed, as would the divine appointment that God had place before us.
Like the Psalmist said above in Psalm 32:3, there's no need to keep silent and groan. Writing this article is really meant to be an encouragement for you but it is also a reminder for me. We do need someone we can trust enough to be open with when we are Frustrated, Insecure, Negative and Exhausted.
Here are some things to help you with communication and help you and your love have a happy, healthy relationship:
Communicate often! Doing so will help maintain unity and peace in your relationship. Don't let things fester. Talk about what is upsetting or annoying you. Don't assume they know what you are thinking. Don't assume they know what is wrong. And certainly don't think that 'they should just know'. Tell them! State yourself clearly and then be respectful and LISTEN inventively to what they have to say. "With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace". Eph 4:2-3.
Don't go to bed angry! Settle it. It will give you rest. Now, I know this will not be possible every single time. But really put forth effort here. Sleep means rest. Nobody want's to go to sleep with an angry or broken heart. It's important here for both parties to be good listeners, compromise, and discuss problems. Acknowledge that you hear them just as you want to be heard. When you communicate like this with issues both big and small, you are not only pleasing God, but you'll draw closer together and strengthen both your friendship bond, as well as your relationship bond. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil". Eph 4:26 (See? Even the bible says it!)
Be truthful. Practice honesty in your relationship. Even if it hurts. "An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips". Proverbs 24:26.
Pray Together! Prayer is your direct connection to God. It's a unique and blessed way to learn more about each other as a couple, learning each other's thoughts, opinions, worries and goals. It's also a guaranteed way to draw closer to each other as a couple. "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
Be kind! It's as simple as that. Treat your spouse or significant other with kindness, patience, and respect. If you disagree, talk about it. Arguments are not a time to verbally attack one another. Stop overreacting!! You want to have undeniable confidence that when you raise an issue to your soulmate, it will be listened to and fairly discussed. Avoiding 'rapid fire blame' and the spewing of unkind words will give couples the encouragement to come to one another with problems, knowing they won't be attacked for it. Experiencing kindness with one another is comforting, knowing you always have each other's backs. "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone". -Colossians 4:6
Choose your timing wisely! This is important! Trust me as I'm coming from 36 years of experience with my husband. If you have a serious concern to bring up to your soul mate, timing is vital. Would it be wise to bring it up as soon as they walk through the door after work? Probably not. Not if this can be avoided. And certainly don't text them while they are at work regarding issues or try to argue over text. Issues should never EVER be discussed over text unless it's an absolute emergency and they cannot be contacted via a phone call. I could write a whole article on why texting is such an inappropriate way of communication other than the quick "Hey, thinking about you" text to encourage them. Texting instead of talking about issues in relationship is a HUGE mistake! Texting can be so misinterpreted. We will discuss this more in the future. Sorry, I got slightly off track but it was important to say...so back to my question. Should you bring it up right when they get home? No. They will most likely be tired, hungry and less likely to have a productive conversation. Food is important here! I don't know about anyone else, but my husband and both boys turn into Grumpy Mc Grumpersens if they are hungry. A fed person is a happy person. If you are married with children, be away from the kids so you can give your full attention to your spouse. Either get a sitter or wait until they are asleep. You want an uninterrupted, undistracted atmosphere. You also don't want your kids hearing your conversation, especially if you suspect it will get escalated. With this, timing is vital. 'May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer". Psalms 19:14
Make time for worship together! Again...vital! Attend church together, even if you have to watch it online. Do you two like to play board games, cards, or just hang out and talk? Going for a walk? This is a perfect time to put on worship music! Pray together. Read the bible together, even if it's just picking a daily verse and sharing why you chose that verse for the day. Worship can come in many forms. Make time for it! Worship has many benefits as it helps you draw closer to God as a couple and keep His standards in your relationship. It's also a great way to learn the art of communication from successful biblical couples such as Abraham and Sarah. To put it plainly, bringing worship into your relationship will never lead you down the wrong path. It will grow and strengthen your relationship steadily and incredibly. "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him". Col 3: 14-17
Every relationship has its problems, but what makes it perfect is if you still want to be together when things go wrong. Be honest about how you are feeling. Talk to each other. After all, you chose each other for a reason! Right? And when you do talk about it, give each other grace, just as God gives us grace. We expect all the grace in the world from God because we are so imperfect, yes? Well if we expect it from God, we should also extend it to others. Be quick to forgive and don't kick your partner when they are down. Talk about it, sort it out, learn from it and let it build your relationship. Most important? PRAY TOGETHER! Strengthening communication skills in your relationship will help you build a stronger foundation. As a result, you will feel more connected to your partner, and your relationship will become more resilient to setbacks. Even doing just one thing I mentioned in this article is a step forward. Go ahead! Take that step!
Not fine, but still blessed!