FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Improving Communication, Part 1

with Bob Lepine | July 28, 2011
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Even if you have a degree in communication, you still may need a remedial course when it comes to communicating with your spouse. Bob Lepine talks about a few differing ways couples communicate.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Even if you have a degree in communication, you still may need a remedial course when it comes to communicating with your spouse. Bob Lepine talks about a few differing ways couples communicate.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Even if you have a degree in communication, you still may need a remedial course when it comes to communicating with your spouse.

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Improving Communication, Part 1

With Bob Lepine
July 28, 2011
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Bob:  A while ago when Tim Hawkins was a guest here on FamilyLife Today, he gave us some sound, musical advice about marital communication.

Tim:  I’ll do a classic here.  This is a song about being married and how you learn the hard way as a husband.  Here we go.

(Guitar playing in the background)

Tim: (singing) 

Hey, honey, have you gained some weight in your rear end?

The dress you wear reminds me of my old girlfriend.

Where’d you get those shoes?  I think they’re pretty lame.

Would you stop talking because I’m trying to watch the game?


If you’re a man who wants to live a long and happy life,

These are the things you don’t say to your wife. 


I planned a hunting trip next week on your birthday.

I didn’t ask you, but I knew it’d be okay.

Go make some dinner while I watch this fishing show.

I taped it over our old wedding video.


If you’re a man—I’ve done that, Chuck—long and happy life,

These are the things that you don’t say to your wife.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 28th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  We’re going to talk about ways we can improve our marital communication on today’s program.  Stay with us.

Tim:  (singing) 

Your cooking is okay but not like mother makes.

The diamond in the ring I bought you is a fake.

Your eyes look puffy dear; are you feeling ill?

Happy anniversary, Sweetie; I bought you a treadmill.

(mumbling lyrics)


Dennis:  I agree with that.  (laughter)

Tim:  Live and learn, people.

Bob:  Welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  When you talk to couples about areas of conflict in their marriage, one of the things that inevitably comes up is communication.

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  Now, I went to college.  I got a degree in communication.

Dennis:  That means you’re a flawless communicator in terms of your communication ability with Mary Ann in your marriage, right?

Bob:  You would think so, wouldn’t you?  You would think.

Dennis:  You would think there would be some carry over.  What percentage…

Bob:  You would think with all that money and all that time.

Dennis:  What percentage carry-over would you say there is in all that, Bob?

Bob:  I was a skilled debater when it came to marriage.

Dennis:  This is bad.

Bob:  This is not a good thing to bring into your marriage relationship.  When we get together with couples at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, one of the issues a lot of these couples are going through is, “We just are missing one another when it comes to communication.”  Sometimes they are—it’s devolving into conflict.  Sometimes, “It’s just we’re not on the same page.”

I’m still learning that my wife would like more specific information from me multiple times.  That vague information on occasion…

Dennis:  Texting her that everything is going okay is not what she wants to hear.

Bob:  When I come home at the end of the day and she says, “How was it,” she wants something more than just, “You know, it was a pretty good day.”  She would like a little de-brief. 

When we’re getting ready to go on a trip, she would like a little more than the departure time from the airport—like the location we’re going would be something she would like to know.

Dennis:  Maybe a little bit of the schedule, perhaps?  (laughter)

Bob:  What’s the dress code?

Dennis:  Who’s going with us?

Bob:  Yes.  Those kinds of things…

Dennis:  What’s the temperature going to be?

Bob:  I say, “Honey, don’t worry about it. I got it all in control.”

Dennis:  Yes.  You got it all in control.  She freezes to death; you’re out of control.

Bob:  This issue of communication is one of the things that we try to help couples with at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.  One of the reasons is because the Bible has a lot to say about communication.

Dennis:  We’re going to get a chance here in just a couple of minutes to listen to a message that you gave at a recent Weekend to Remember marriage getaway around communication and how our communication either leads us to isolation or to oneness in the marriage relationship.

Bob:  We’re hoping that as you listen to this message, not only will you benefit from listening to it today, but you’ll go, “You know?  We ought to go to one of those Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.  We’ve never been,” or, “It’s been awhile since we’ve been.  We ought to sign up and go to one this fall.” 

Dennis:  You’ve heard us talk about it for years.  It’s time for you to get away to get it together.

Bob:  We’ve tried to “incentivize” FamilyLife Today listeners with a special offer.  If you will identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener—you either do that online at by typing my name, “BOB,” into the key code box on the online registration form—or you do it by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY and just saying, “I listen to FamilyLife Today.  I want to be a part of the radio listener group.” 

We’ll give you the group rate, which is the lowest rate we make available throughout the year.  You’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee if you sign up to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway and identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener. 

In addition, if we hear from you before the end of the month, we’ll send you an early- signing bonus.  We’ll send you a copy of Spouse-ology®.  It is a game for couples designed to help you get to know one another better.  It’s a lot of fun to play with other couples.  If you want to get that, we’ve got to hear from you before the end of the month. 

Take advantage of the special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners.  Sign up to attend and save at least $100 off the regular registration fee.  Sign up by the end of this month, and you’ll get the Spouse-ology® game.  Then, plan to join us at one of these upcoming fun, romantic weekend getaways for couples, the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. 

Dennis:  You know what?  I can think of nothing better right now than to take our listeners to one of these events and to listen to you give the message on how to communicate with your spouse.  Let’s listen to Bob Lepine from a recent Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.

Bob:  (recorded message)  The natural drift in every relationship is apart from one another.  It’s away from each other.  It’s toward isolation in marriage.  When we get married, we think, “We’re just going to drift closer and closer to one another because we’re so much in love.  Once we’re married, it’ll just be great.  We’ll get even closer and closer.” 

We get married; and we find that the natural drift, instead of coming together, we start drifting apart.  Then, when we try to get together to work through some of these things and try to practice communication, we find that our communication is breaking down.  We’re missing one another there.  I’m going to give you just some simple rules of communication. 

I want to start it off by just talking about how challenging cross-cultural communication is.  If you’ve travelled abroad, you know that some people’s use of the English language, even though they try, they don’t always get it exactly right.  For example, in a Tokyo hotel, there was a sign up that said, “It is forbidden to steal hotel towels, please.”  Then, it said, “If you are not a person to do such thing, is please not to read this notice.”  Okay, they’re trying to get the idea across; but it’s just a little awkward, right?

In a Bucharest hotel lobby, it said, “The lift is being fixed for the next day.”  What’s the lift?  The elevator, right?  “During that time,” it says, “we regret that you will be unbearable.”  Which, you know, we got the idea; but it was a little awkward. 

In Belgrade, they had instructions for the lift.  It said, “To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor.  If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor.”  You figure, you got the—then, they try to make it more clear, “Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.”  I’ve no idea what that means, right?


You’d be stuck on the lift all day. 

In a hotel in Paris, they put a sign up that said, “Please leave your values at the front desk.”  You know what they meant, but it wasn’t exactly right. 

In a hotel tailor’s shop, it said, “Ladies may have a fit upstairs.”  Again, you get the idea; but it’s not exactly right.

A Hong Kong dentist said, “Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.” 

In a cocktail lounge in Norway, ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.  “The screaming scares away the customers.”

In a doctor’s office in Rome, it said, “Specialist in women and other diseases,” which is not exactly the way you want to say that.

Here’s my favorite—a hotel just up the road in Acapulco.  It said—you go to Acapulco, what do they tell you?  What are the instructions?  Don’t what?  “Don’t drink the water,” right?  “You go to Mexico; don’t drink the water.”  You don’t have to worry at this hotel because it says here, “The manager has personally passed all the water served here.”


You can see where communication can get to be a challenge and where you want to make sure that you’re not missing each other when it comes to communication. 

Now, you need to know I studied—I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from a university, the University of Tulsa, in Communication.  I took “Intro to Communication.”  I took “Communication Theory.”  I had more—I was a double major, both of them in the Communications Department.  I took 66 hours of classes about communication. 

You would figure when I got married, I would be the perfect husband, right?  I have a degree in communication.  I have studied it.  Here was the challenge.  That was my undergraduate training.  My plan, post-graduate, was to go on to law school. 

I took a summer job at a radio station between undergrad and graduate school.  Halfway through the summer, they came to me and they said, “Are you having fun?”  I said, “I’m having a great time.”  They said, “Why don’t you just put off law school for awhile and stay?  We like what you’re doing, and we’ll give you a raise.”  I said, “How much?”  They said, “We’ll give a $100 a month more.”  I was making $750 a month; I was going to go up to $850 a month.  I thought, “I can put off law school for that $100 a month raise.”  So, I put law school aside and never looked back.  I just had so much fun on radio that I just stayed with it. 

When I got married, now, I had an opportunity to experiment with what I’d wanted to do in graduate communications, you know?  I’d wanted to be a lawyer.  Now that I was married, whenever Mary Ann and I would have a disagreement, I would just say, “Would you please take the stand?  I’d like to just ask you a few questions.” 

Now, I was being very reasonable, very logical about this.  I remember one Saturday morning in particular.  I don’t remember what the dispute was.  I don’t remember the issue.  We were having a discussion about something where we were not on the same page.  I said, “Well, can I just ask you a few questions?” 

You need to know, my wife is a good, deep thinker; but she’s a processor.  Anybody in here a processor—you need some time, some space to think things over?  You like that?  Mary Ann is like that.  If you want to talk with Mary Ann about something, it is good to say, “I’d like to talk with you about this.”  Give her some time to process it.  Kind of lay things out; let her think it through. 

I have done call-in radio talk shows.  I’m good on my feet.  Toss me one and I can come right at you, right?  Here we are having this conversation.  I said, “Well, I just like to—can I ask you a couple of questions?”  “Well, sure,” she says.  Well, I should have just said, “Would you put your hand on the Bible?  Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the…” because I was about to cross-examine my wife for sport. 

I didn’t realize it.  This wasn’t—I wasn’t being devious.  This was just how I did it.  I started asking her a few questions.  In the middle of our conversation, she had the nerve to get up, walk out of the kitchen, walk back to the bedroom, shut the door, and lock the door.  I thought to myself, “How juvenile can she be?  I’m asking her some questions.  We’ve got just a simple conversation going on here.  She walks out of the room and locks the door!” 

I went and knocked on the door.  I said, “Would you come out here so we can continue talking about this?”  No response from the other side of the door.  “Honey?”  No response.  I went and sat in the living room just thinking how immature she was acting by the way she responded and how we were never going to get anything resolved if she wouldn’t communicate. 

Then, I just started pouting because I was kind of lonely out there in the living room all by myself with my wife back in the bedroom.  I think I was probably there for 45 minutes while she was back in the bedroom.  She finally came out.  What she explained to me that morning was revolutionary for me. 

I said, “I was just trying to talk to you about this.”  She said, “No, you weren’t.”  She said, “You were trying to win the point.”  I said, “Well, isn’t that what you do when you’re trying to talk things through?” 

She said, “No.  You try to listen to one another.   You try to hear what the other person is saying.  You try to understand one another.  Then, you try to express what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling.  It’s not a debate.”  I said, “It’s not?!  Well, this isn’t what I got married for.”  No, I didn’t say that. 

You understand how we can get sideways because we have different approaches to communications.  When it comes to communication, we are different, aren’t we?  We think differently.  We process differently.  Mary Ann is slower.  I’m more fast-paced.  That’s just one of those differences.  We communicate with one another differently. 

For example, some of us, when it comes to our communication, we are “land the plane” communicators, right?  We don’t want to have a long conversation about anything.  We just want to get the important points out—land the plane.  Others of us are “enjoy the ride” communicators.  Watch this video, and this will illustrate what I’m talking about here. 

Man:  Did you meet with Johnnie’s teacher today?

Woman:  Yes, and on my way to school, I ran into Kathy Gillis. 

Man:  Oh.

Woman:  Did you know they are redoing their entire kitchen?

Man:  No.

Woman:  They’re talking about cedar.  I told her it would be way too dark.

Man:  What did his teacher say?

Woman:  He has to stay after school tomorrow.  You know, the whole time I was talking to Kathy I kept thinking that she reminds me exactly of your sister.  Don’t you think that she reminds you of your sister?

Man:  I never noticed.  What did his teacher say?

Woman:  Let me tell you something.  I talked to one of the other moms, and her kid doesn’t have to stay after school.  Her kid is Trouble.

Man:  Honey, time out.  Why does Johnnie have to stay after?

Bob:  (recorded message)  Okay.  Who’s the “land the plane” person there?  The guy, right?  The wife wants to bring on the full experience.  It’s not just about Johnnie’s teacher.  It’s about everything that happened in and around. 

Now, here is the key question:  “Which one of those two is right?”  How many of you say the husband is right?  Raise your hand.  You raised your hand.  Then, you put it right back down, “My wife is going to see me do this.” 

How many of you would say the wife is right?  You see, it’s not that one’s right and the other is wrong.  It’s what?  They’re different.  It’s not right and wrong.  It’s different.  We have to learn how to deal with our differences. 

Okay, here’s another way that we can be different.  Some of us are “share our feelings” communicators; others of us are “just the facts” communicators.  Let’s keep it factual; others want to bring you into the emotion.  Watch this video.

Woman:  Honey, can you help me with this?  Thanks.  Did you see the news today?  Major airline disaster.  The plane’s engine fell off and landed in the middle of a populated area.  Are you listening to what I’m saying?

Man:  You said, “There was an airline disaster, and it landed in a populated area.”  Where did it land?

Woman:  I didn’t get that part, but 200 people on board and no survivors—whole families just gone like that.  The images were terrible! 

Man:  Mm-hm.

Woman:  That’s all you can say is, “Mm-hm”? 

Man:  I don’t know what you want me to say, “That’s bad”?


Bob:  [recorded message] That’s bad.  Yes, that is bad, isn’t?  Who’s right there—the husband or the wife?  Not right or wrong.  It’s different.  He’s on the factual level.  “Yes, got it—got the information.  Yes, that’s sad; that’s tragic.” 

She’s feeling it, and she wants him—in fact, what is she thinking about him by the way he communicates?  “He doesn’t care.  He lacks compassion.  He has no heart.” 

What is he thinking about her?  “She overreacts to everything.  I mean everything.  It could be the dog didn’t get home on time, and I’m so sad about that.  I mean, she’s just—she’s overreacting to everything.”  Now, it’s not that one’s right and one’s wrong.  It’s that they’re different.

Third way that we can be different:  Some of us are—we think out loud.  That’s just how we do it—we kind of process out loud.  Others of us are—instead of thinking out loud, it’s, “Let’s take turns.  You do your part, and I’ll do my part,” rather than just this kind of out-loud processing.  Watch these couples.

Woman:  Your folks called today.  They said they bought one of those…

Man:  Don’t tell me they bought a bread maker.  What kind did they get? 

Woman:  Kitchen-Aid®  They said that they really like it. 

Man:  Oh, yes.  They may like it now; but it’s going to end up like all the other ones, in a corner collecting dust.

Woman:  Oh, no.  They’ve already made five loaves.  So…

Man:  They’re not coming over here to give us a loaf are they?  You know we’re trying to watch our carbs. 

Woman:  No.  They said that they were going to take…

Man:  The neighbors again.  Do you remember the fruitcakes last year?  Fruitcakes?! 

Woman:  Would you let me finish a sentence?

Bob:  [recorded message]  Okay.  Yes.  Now, he’s just kind of being spontaneous, just thinking out loud.  She’s going, “Could we take turns at this?  You know, you say your part; and I say my part.”  It’s not wrong; it’s different.  You can see how these kinds of differences cause us to have communication problems. 

Really, when it comes to communication, there are two big things that we have to do.  It’s really a simple process.  This goes all the way back to my “Intro to Communications” class.  In order for communication to be effective, you have to have a messenger with a message.  It has to go through a channel.  It has to arrive at a receiver; and then, there’s a feedback loop.  That’s how communication theory works.  Basically, what we’re saying is, “For communication to work well, you have to talk well and listen well.” 

Bob:  Well, we’ve been listening to Part One of a message on communication from a recent FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. 

Dennis:  You make it sound so simple in that message. 

Bob:  It is simple, isn’t it?  You just have talk well and listen well. 

Dennis:  Listen well. 

Bob:  Okay.

Dennis:  I mean, what’s the big deal?

Bob:  Let’s pray, and we’ll be done, right?  (laughter)

Dennis:  Yes.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve got two imperfect people, with two imperfect backgrounds, forming an imperfect marriage.

Bob:  Which one of those do you think is more important—the talk well or listen well part? 

Dennis:  Nearly, 40 years of marriage has taught me…

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  If I could have a skill,…

Bob:  Yes.

Dennis:  I would much rather be an astute listener.  I don’t think I need any speech courses.

Bob:  In Part Two of this message, we’re going to unpack what it looks like to do a better job of listening and a better job of expressing yourself in marriage.  You know, when we present this material at the Weekend to Remember, we present it on Friday nights at the getaway because we know that there is going to be some communication going on over the course of the weekend.  We know…

Dennis:  Oh, yes, bunches.

Bob:  Couples are going to be talking to one another.

Dennis:  They’re going to be doing projects.  The projects are really the bonus part of the Weekend to Remember.  You do these practical projects alone as a couple.  You apply what you’ve just heard; then, you talk about it.  You interact around it.  It’s just extremely practical and creates immediate takeaways.

Bob:  By providing some coaching on Friday night on communication, we’re hoping that couples can do a better job of communicating with one another as they go through these projects—maybe reduce some of the stress and some of the possible conflict.

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  We’re also hoping some new patterns will emerge in these couples—that they will learn some principles about how to be a better listener or how to do a better job of expressing what’s going on in your life and in your feelings. 

Again, we look at what the Scriptures have to teach.  The Bible has a lot to say in Proverbs about communication.  In fact, it’s all through the Bible.  That’s one of the foundations of the Weekend to Remember.  When you come to the getaway, you’re going to hear, not just some good ideas about marriage, but you’re going to hear what the Bible teaches about human relationships. 

Jesus was the one who said, “If you want to keep the law, what you do is, you love God and you love one another.  All of the law and the prophets are summed up in this.”  That means that everything that the Bible is teaching is about how we can love God better and how we can love one another better.  That starts in our marriage.

Dennis:  It begins right there.  I think that’s where most of the tests are—to see if you really love God and you’re going to obey Him.  Also, whether or not you’re going to practically become a student of your spouse and know how to love him or her better.  Honestly, I don’t know of a better investment in your marriage that you can make than the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. 

It’s practical; it’s biblical.  It’s got authentic speakers who are going to share out of their own mistakes from their own lives.  I’d invite our listeners to take us up on this special offer we’re making to FamilyLife Today listeners.  Come join us for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.

Bob:  You said a better investment.  Let me offer a little insider trading tip.  Now, this is legal.   Because you’re a FamilyLife Today listener, you can sign up to attend one of the upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaways either in a city near where you live or a weekend that works for you and you don’t mind travelling. 

Go to to find out when the getaway is going to be in a location near where you live.  Then, when you’re ready to sign up, let us know you’re a FamilyLife Today listener.  If you’re signing up online, when you get to the key code box, just type in my name.  Type in, “BOB.”  Then, they’ll know you’re a FamilyLife Today listener; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. 

We can answer any questions you have about the getaway.  Just mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today and you’d like the FamilyLife Today group rate.  When you do that, you’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fee.  This is the lowest price we offer throughout the year.  You can take advantage of it as a FamilyLife Today listener.

If you sign up before the end of the month, we’ll send you a copy of the game, Spouse-ology®, for couples to play with other couples.  It’s a fun, interactive game that helps you get to know one another better.  It’s a gift to you for signing up early.  Of course, again, when you identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener, in addition to that gift, you’ll save at least $100 per couple off the regular registration fees.

Go online today at  Don’t forget to put my name—put “BOB” in the key code box on the online registration form; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get signed up for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.  Don’t forget to say you listen to FamilyLife Today so you can get the special group rate.  Then, we’ll see you at one of these upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.

Now, tomorrow, we are going to be back to talk about how we can do a better job of listening to one another and how we can do a better job of expressing ourselves.  I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Help for today.  Hope for tomorrow.

©Song:  Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife

Artist:     Tim Hawkins

Album:   Extremely Madeover, ℗2004, 2010 Tunafish Productions, L.P.

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