Strengthen Your Marriage Through Good Communication

Friday, February 7, 2014

A BROTHER in Canada said, “I would rather spend time with my wife than with anyone else.” This brother added that being with his wife makes the happy moments in life happier and the difficult moments easier to endure. A husband in Australia wrote, “In our 11 years together, not one day has passed when I have not spoken with my wife.” He said that good communication has helped them to trust each other completely and to have a strong marriage. A sister in Costa Rica wrote that good communication has helped her and her husband to have a happy marriage. She said, “It has drawn us closer to Jehovah, protected us from temptations, united us as a couple, and made our love grow.”

2 Is there good communication in your marriage? Of course, there will be communication problems sometimes. You are both imperfect, and you have different personalities. (Romans 3:23) You may come from different cultures or you may not have been raised in the same way. So you may have different ways of communicating. For these reasons, marriage researchers John M. Gottman and Nan Silver wrote that couples must be willing to work very hard if they want to communicate well and make their marriage last.

3 A strong marriage takes hard work, but it will make a husband and a wife very happy. (Ecclesiastes 9:9) Think of the loving marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. (Genesis 24:67) The Bible shows that they kept their love for each other strong even after they had been married for a long time. Many couples today have also been able to keep their marriage strong. What has helped them? They have learned to talk about their thoughts and feelings in an honest but kind way. They show the qualities of insight, love, respect, and humility. We will now see how these qualities can help a couple to communicate well.


4 Proverbs 16:20 says: “He that is showing insight in a matter will find good.” God’s Word gives us the insight and wisdom we need to have a happy marriage. (Read Proverbs 24:3.) For example, Genesis 2:18 tells us that God made the woman as a complement to the man. This means that a man and a woman are different from each other so that they can complete each other. That is why women communicate in a different way than men. Most women like to talk about their feelings, people, and relationships. Loving and honest communication helps women feel loved. Many men, though, may not like to talk about their feelings but may prefer to talk about activities, problems, and solutions. Men also like to feel respected.

5 A sister in Britain said, “My husband wants to solve problems quickly rather than hear me out.” She explained that this can be frustrating because all she really wants is for him to listen to her and try to understand her feelings. A husband wrote, “When my wife and I were first married, my tendency was to find a quick solution to whatever problem she had.” But he soon learned that all she really wanted was for him to listen to her. (Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19) A husband who shows insight knows his wife’s feelings and treats her in a way that will make her feel loved. He makes it clear to her that her thoughts and feelings are important to him. (1 Peter 3:7) Also, a wife who shows insight tries to understand the way her husband thinks. When both husband and wife do what God expects of them, they can have a happy marriage and can work together to make wise decisions.

6 A couple should also know that there is “a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7) A sister who has been married for ten years wrote that she has learned when to talk to her husband about certain things. If he is overwhelmed with work or other responsibilities, she waits for a better time to talk to him. As a result, their communication is much better. When a wife speaks in a kind way and “at the right time,” her husband will likely be happy to listen to her.—Read Proverbs 25:11.

7 A Christian husband not only listens to what his wife says but also makes an effort to tell his wife about his own feelings. An elder who has been married for 27 years said: “I have to work at telling my wife what is deep in my heart.” A brother who has been married for 24 years said that he usually does not like to talk about problems. He feels that if he does not talk about them, they will go away. But he added: “I have come to realize that it is not a sign of weakness to show my feelings. When I struggle to express myself, I pray for the right words to say and the right way to say them. Then I take a deep breath and start talking.” It is important for a couple to choose the right time to talk, perhaps when they are alone discussing the daily text or reading the Bible together.

8 It can be hard for a couple to change the way they communicate. Both husband and wife need to pray for God’s spirit and have a strong desire to improve their communication. They will have that desire if they love Jehovah, want to please him, and view their marriage as something sacred. A sister who has been married for 26 years wrote: “My husband and I take Jehovah’s view of marriage seriously, so we do not even consider separation. This makes us work harder to resolve problems by discussing them together.” A couple who are loyal to God in this way will make him happy and have his blessing.—Psalm 127:1.


9 Love is the most important quality in a marriage. The Bible says that love is “a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) True love grows as time passes and as a husband and a wife go through good times and bad times together. They become even closer friends and enjoy being together. They make their marriage stronger, not by doing a few great things for each other, as we see in movies or on television, but by doing many small things for each other. These things could be a hug, a kind comment, a thoughtful act, a warm smile, or a sincere “how was your day?” These little things can make a big difference in a marriage. One couple who have been happily married for 19 years say that they phone or text each other during the day “just to see how things are going.”

10 When a husband and a wife love each other, they try to keep learning about each other. (Philippians 2:4) The more they learn, the stronger their love grows, even though they both have weaknesses. A happy marriage becomes stronger with time. So if you are married, ask yourself: ‘How well do I know my husband or wife? Do I understand his or her feelings and thoughts on matters? Do I often think about the qualities that first attracted me to my husband or wife?’


11 Even the happiest marriages are not perfect marriages. A couple may sometimes disagree. Abraham and Sarah did not always agree with each other. (Genesis 21:9-11) But this did not make their marriage weak. Why not? They treated each other with respect. For example, Abraham said “please” to Sarah. (Genesis 12:11, 13) And Sarah obeyed Abraham and thought of him as her “lord.” (Genesis 18:12) In contrast, a couple who speak harshly to each other show that they do not respect each other. (Proverbs 12:18) And if there is no respect, their marriage is in danger.—Read James 3:7-10, 17, 18.

12 When a couple first get married, they should work especially hard to speak kindly and respectfully to each other. This will make it much easier for them to communicate honestly. One husband explained that during the first years of their marriage, he and his wife did not understand each other’s feelings, habits, and needs. This was sometimes frustrating for them. But they were able to have a good relationship by being reasonable and having a good sense of humor. He says that it was also important to show humility, to have patience, and to trust in Jehovah. This is good advice for all of us!


13 A couple can communicate in a kind and peaceful way only if they are both “humble in mind.” (1 Peter 3:8) One brother who has been married for 11 years said that humility helps a couple solve problems because it moves them to say “I’m sorry.” An elder who has been happily married for 20 years said, “Sometimes the words ‘I’m sorry’ are more important than ‘I love you.’” He explained how prayer helps him and his wife to show humility. He said, “When my wife and I approach Jehovah together, we are reminded of our imperfection and God’s undeserved kindness.” This helps them to have the right view of themselves and of the problem.

14 Pride, on the contrary, makes it very hard for a husband and a wife to communicate and solve problems. A proud person does not have the desire or the courage to say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” He makes excuses for what he did, or he blames the other person instead of admitting his mistake. When a proud person is offended, he does not try to make peace. He speaks harshly or refuses to talk at all. (Ecclesiastes 7:9) Yes, pride can destroy a marriage. It is good to remember that “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—James 4:6.

15 When husband and wife disagree, they should work to solve the problem quickly instead of being proud. Paul told Christians: “Let the sun not set with you in a provoked state, neither allow place for the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:26, 27) What may happen when a couple do not follow this advice from God’s Word? One sister explained: “The result has been some of the worst nights’ sleep I’ve ever had!” It is much better to try to solve the problem immediately and in a peaceful way. Of course, a husband and a wife may need to give each other some time to calm down before speaking about a matter. They should also pray to Jehovah to help them to be humble. This will help each of them, not to think only of his or her own feelings, but to focus on solving the problem.—Read Colossians 3:12, 13.

16 Humility can help a couple to value each other’s good qualities and abilities. For example, a wife may have a special ability that she uses to benefit the family. A humble husband would not feel that he has to be better than his wife at everything but would encourage her to continue using her ability. By doing so, he shows that he loves and values her. (Proverbs 31:10, 28; Ephesians 5:28, 29) Also, a humble wife would not brag about herself or make fun of her husband for not having the same ability. Because the two of them are “one flesh,” showing pride in these ways hurts both of them.—Matthew 19:4, 5.

17 You certainly want to have a marriage like that of Abraham and Sarah or Isaac and Rebekah. You want your marriage to be happy, to be lasting, and to honor Jehovah. So view marriage the same way God does. Look for insight in his Word. Value each other’s good qualities so that your love for each other will grow. (Song of Solomon 8:6) Work hard to show humility. Treat each other with respect. If you do these things, your marriage will bring joy both to you and to your heavenly Father. (Proverbs 27:11) One brother who has been married for 27 years said: “I cannot imagine life without my wife. Our marriage continues to grow stronger every day. This is because of our love for Jehovah and our regular communication with each other.” Your marriage can be just as strong as theirs is!


Good communication: There is good communication in a marriage when a husband and a wife speak to each other honestly but kindly about their thoughts and feelings

To show insight: To treat someone in a way that shows that you truly understand how he or she thinks or feels


Principle: “Let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—Ephesians 5:33.

Some questions to ask yourself

▪ What are my mate’s good qualities, and how can I express appreciation for him or her?—Proverbs 14:1; 31:29; 1 Peter 3:1, 6; 4:8.

▪ Do I honor my spouse by seeking to understand his or her thoughts and feelings?—Philippians 2:4.

▪ Am I willing to overlook my spouse’s shortcomings?—Matthew 6:14, 15.

▪ When was the last time I expressed my affection for my spouse?—Song of Solomon 2:9-14.

▪ Toward what spiritual goals are we working?—Matthew 6:33, 34; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

▪ What initiative can I take to encourage my mate to read the Bible and consider the daily text together with me?

Let Marriage Be Honorable

ARE you married? If so, is your marriage a source of happiness, or are you experiencing serious marital problems? Have you and your spouse drifted apart? Are you enduring married life but not enjoying it? If so, you likely feel sad that the warm marital bond you once enjoyed has cooled. As a Christian, you surely would like your marriage to bring glory to Jehovah, the God you love. Hence, your present circumstances may well be a source of concern and heartache to you. Even so, please do not conclude that your situation is hopeless.

2 Today, there are fine Christian couples who once had marriages that were merely surviving, not thriving. Yet, they found a way to strengthen their relationship. You too can find more contentment in your marriage. How?


3 You and your spouse will draw closer together if you strive to draw closer to God. Why? Consider an illustration: Imagine a cone-shaped mountain—wide at the base and narrow at the top. A man is standing at the foot of the northern slope while a woman is standing on the other side, at the foot of the southern slope. Both begin to climb. When both are still near the mountain base, a long distance separates them. Yet, as each climbs higher and higher toward the narrow summit, the distance between them becomes less and less. Do you see the reassuring lesson in this illustration?

4 The effort you put forth to serve Jehovah to the full could be compared with the effort it takes to climb a mountain. Since you love Jehovah, you are already trying hard to climb, so to speak. However, if you and your spouse have grown apart, you may be climbing opposite sides of that mountain. What happens, though, when you continue to climb? Granted, a considerable distance may separate you at first. Nevertheless, the more effort you put into drawing closer to God—into climbing higher—the closer you and your mate become. Indeed, drawing closer to God is the key to drawing closer to your spouse. But how can you actually do that?

5 One important way to climb, as it were, is for you and your spouse to heed the counsel on marriage as found in God’s Word. (Psalm 25:4; Isaiah 48:17, 18) Consider, therefore, a specific point of counsel stated by the apostle Paul. He said: “Let marriage be honorable among all.” (Hebrews 13:4) What does that mean? The word “honorable” implies that something is esteemed and precious. And that is exactly how Jehovah views marriage—he esteems it as precious.


6 Of course, as servants of God, you and your spouse already know that marriage is precious, even sacred. Jehovah himself instituted the marriage arrangement. (Matthew 19:4-6) However, if you are currently experiencing marital problems, just knowing that marriage is honorable may not be enough to motivate you and your mate to treat each other with love and respect. What, then, will move you to do so? Note carefully how Paul addressed the subject of showing honor. He did not say, “marriage is honorable”; rather, he said, “let marriage be honorable.” Paul was not merely making an observation; he was giving an exhortation.* Keeping that distinction in mind may help you find added motivation for rekindling esteem for your spouse. Why is that the case?

7 Consider for a moment how you regard other Scriptural commands, such as the commission to make disciples or the admonition to meet together for worship. (Matthew 28:19; Hebrews 10:24, 25) Granted, carrying out those commands may at times be a challenge. The people to whom you preach may respond negatively, or the secular work you do may leave you so exhausted that attending Christian meetings is a struggle. Even so, you keep on preaching the Kingdom message, and you keep on attending Christian meetings. No one can stop you—not even Satan! Why not? Because your heartfelt love for Jehovah moves you to obey his commandments. (1 John 5:3) With what good results? Sharing in the preaching work and attending meetings gives you inner peace and heartfelt joy because you know that you are doing God’s will. And those feelings, in turn, renew your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) What is the lesson here?

8 Just as your deep love for God moves you to obey the commands to preach and to meet together despite obstacles, so your love for Jehovah can move you to obey the Scriptural exhortation to “let [your] marriage be honorable,” even when that appears to be difficult. (Hebrews 13:4; Psalm 18:29; Ecclesiastes 5:4) Additionally, just as your efforts to share in preaching and in meeting together bring rich blessings from God, so your efforts to honor your marriage will be noticed and blessed by Jehovah.—1 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 6:10.

9 How, then, can you make your marriage honorable? You need to avoid behavior that will damage the marital arrangement. In addition, you need to take steps that will strengthen the marital bond.


10 A Christian wife some time ago noted: “I pray to Jehovah for strength to see me through.” Through what? She explained: “My husband strikes me with words. I may not have visible bruises, but his constant cutting remarks, such as ‘You’re a burden!’ and ‘You’re worthless!’ have scarred my heart.” This wife brings up a matter of grave concern—abusive speech within marriage.

11 How sad it is when spouses in Christian households hurl cruel words at each other, causing emotional wounds that are not easily healed! Obviously, a marriage marked by hurtful speech is not honorable. How is your marriage faring in this regard? One way to find out is by humbly asking your spouse, “What effect do my words have on you?” If your mate feels that time and again your words have caused emotional wounds, you must be willing to change the situation for the better.—Galatians 5:15; Ephesians 4:31.

12 Keep clearly in mind that the way in which you use your tongue within the marriage arrangement affects your relationship with Jehovah. The Bible states: “If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man’s form of worship is futile.” (James 1:26) Your speech cannot be separated from your worship. The Bible does not support the notion that whatever happens at home is of little consequence as long as one claims to be serving God. Please do not deceive yourself. This is a serious matter. (1 Peter 3:7) You may have abilities and zeal, but if you willfully hurt your spouse with cutting words, you dishonor the marriage arrangement and your worship may be viewed by God as futile.

13 Marriage partners also need to be alert not to cause emotional pain in less direct ways. Consider two examples: A single mother frequently phones a married Christian man in the congregation to ask him for advice, and they talk at length; a single Christian brother spends considerable time each week working together in the field service with a married Christian sister. The married individuals in those examples may have proper intentions; yet, how does their conduct affect their respective spouses? A wife facing such a situation said: “To note that my husband gives so much time and attention to another sister in the congregation hurts me. It makes me feel inferior.”

14 It is understandable that this spouse and others who face a similar situation in marriage feel hurt. Their mates ignore God’s basic instruction for marriage: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife.” (Genesis 2:24) Of course, those who marry still respect their parents; however, it is God’s arrangement that their foremost obligation is to their spouse. Similarly, Christians dearly love fellow believers; yet their primary responsibility is to their spouse. Thus, when married Christians spend inappropriate amounts of time with or become overly familiar with fellow believers, especially those of the opposite sex, they put strains on the marriage bond. Could that be a reason for tension in your marriage? Ask yourself, ‘Do I truly give my spouse the time, attention, and affection that rightly belong to my mate?’

15 Moreover, married Christians who give inappropriate attention to those of the opposite sex who are not their mate unwisely tread on dangerous ground. Sad to say, some married Christians have developed romantic feelings for those with whom they have become overly familiar. (Matthew 5:28) In turn, such emotional bonds have led to conduct that dishonors marriage even more. Consider what the apostle Paul stated about this subject.


16 Immediately after Paul gave the exhortation to “let marriage be honorable,” he added the warning: “[Let] the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) Paul used the term “marriage bed” to refer to sexual relations. Such relations are “without defilement,” or morally clean, if they are experienced solely within the marriage arrangement. Therefore, Christians heed the inspired words: “Rejoice with the wife of your youth.”—Proverbs 5:18.

17 Those having sexual relations with someone other than their spouse show gross disrespect for God’s moral laws. True, many today view adultery as fairly acceptable behavior. Yet, whatever other humans may think about adultery should not influence how Christians regard it. They realize that in the end, not man, but “God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 10:31; 12:29) Hence, true Christians cling to Jehovah’s view on this subject. (Romans 12:9) Recall that the patriarch Job said: “A covenant I have concluded with my eyes.” (Job 31:1) Yes, to avoid even one step on the road that could lead to adultery, true Christians control their eyes and never look longingly at a person of the opposite sex who is not their mate.—See the Appendix, pages 219-21.

18 In Jehovah’s eyes, how serious is adultery? The Mosaic Law helps us to appreciate Jehovah’s feelings on the matter. In Israel, adultery and idolatry were among the offenses that carried the death penalty. (Leviticus 20:2, 10) Can you see a similarity between the two? Well, an Israelite worshipping an idol broke his covenant with Jehovah. Similarly, an Israelite committing adultery broke his covenant with his spouse. Both acted treacherously. (Exodus 19:5, 6; Deuteronomy 5:9; Malachi 2:14) Hence, both were reprehensible before Jehovah, the faithful and trustworthy God.—Psalm 33:4.

19 Of course, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law. Yet, recalling that in ancient Israel adultery was viewed in a serious light may strengthen Christians in their resolve not to commit such an act. Why? Consider this comparison: Would you ever enter a church, get down on your knees, and pray in front of an image? ‘Never!’ you will say. But would you be tempted to do so if you were offered a large sum of money? ‘Unthinkable!’ you will reply. Indeed, the very thought of betraying Jehovah by worshipping an idol is repulsive to a true Christian. In a similar way, Christians should be repulsed by the thought of betraying their God, Jehovah, as well as their spouse by committing adultery—no matter what the incentive to sin might be. (Psalm 51:1, 4; Colossians 3:5) Never do we want to commit an act that would cause Satan to rejoice but would bring grave dishonor to Jehovah and to the sacred marriage arrangement.


20 Besides avoiding conduct that dishonors marriage, what steps can you take to rekindle your respect for your marriage mate? To answer, think of the marriage arrangement as being a house. Next, think of the kind words, thoughtful deeds, and other expressions of honor that marriage partners extend to each other as the decorative items that add beauty to a house. If you feel close to each other, your marriage resembles a house adorned with decorations that give it color and warmth. If your affection diminishes, those decorations gradually disappear, leaving your marriage as bleak as a house without any decorations. Since you desire to obey God’s command to “let marriage be honorable,” you would be moved to improve the situation. After all, something precious and honorable is worth repairing, or restoring. How can you do so? God’s Word states: “By wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established. And by knowledge will the interior rooms be filled with all precious and pleasant things of value.” (Proverbs 24:3, 4) Consider how these words can be applied to marriage.

21 Among the ‘precious things’ filling a happy household are such qualities as true love, godly fear, and firm faith. (Proverbs 15:16, 17; 1 Peter 1:7) They create a strong marriage. But did you note how the rooms in the above-quoted proverb are filled with precious things? “By knowledge.” Yes, when applied, Bible knowledge has the power to transform people’s thinking and to move them to rekindle their love for each other. (Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:9) Hence, whenever you and your spouse sit down together and calmly consider a Bible passage, such as the daily text, or a Bible-based article in The Watchtower or Awake! pertaining to marriage, it is as if you were examining a lovely decoration that can beautify your house. When love for Jehovah moves you to apply in your marriage the counsel that you just examined, you are, as it were, bringing that decoration into “the interior rooms.” As a result, some of the color and warmth that you once enjoyed in your marriage may return.

22 Granted, it may take considerable time and effort to put those decorations back in place one by one. Yet, if you strive to do your share, you will have the deep satisfaction of knowing that you are obeying the Bible’s command: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Romans 12:10; Psalm 147:11) Above all, your earnest efforts to honor your marriage will keep you in God’s love.

The context shows that Paul’s admonition about marriage is part of a series of exhortations.—Hebrews 13:1-5.

[Study Questions]

1, 2. What question will we consider, and why?

3, 4. Why will marriage mates draw closer together if they strive to draw closer to God? Illustrate.

 5. (a) What is one way to draw closer to Jehovah and to one’s marriage mate? (b) How does Jehovah view marriage?

 6. What does the context of Paul’s counsel about marriage show, and why is that important to keep in mind?

 7. (a) What Scriptural commands do we carry out, and why? (b) What good results come from obedience?

8, 9. (a) What may move us to obey the exhortation to honor marriage, and why? (b) What two points will we now consider?

10, 11. (a) What conduct dishonors marriage? (b) What question should we consider with our mate?

12. How could one’s worship become futile in God’s eyes?

13. How could a marriage mate cause emotional pain?

14. (a) What marital obligation is highlighted at Genesis 2:24? (b) What should we ask ourselves?

15. According to Matthew 5:28, why should married Christians avoid giving inappropriate attention to someone of the opposite sex?

16. What command does Paul give regarding marriage?

17. (a) Why is the world’s view of adultery irrelevant to Christians? (b) How can we follow the example set by Job?

18. (a) In Jehovah’s eyes, how serious is adultery? (b) What similarity is there between adultery and idolatry?

19. What may strengthen one’s resolve to reject adultery, and why?

20. What has happened in some marriages? Illustrate.

21. How can we gradually strengthen our marriage? (See also the box on page 131.)

22. What satisfaction can we have if we strive to do our share in strengthening our marriage?

[Box/Picture on page 131]

Why Are We Always Arguing?

In the scenario below, Rachel contributes to an argument in three ways. Can you identify them? Write your answers below the scenario, and then check them with the box “Answers” at the end of the article.

It’s Wednesday night. Rachel, 17, is done with her chores, and she’s ready for some well-earned downtime—finally! She turns on the TV and collapses into her favorite chair.

As if on cue, Mom appears in the doorway, and she doesn’t look happy. “Rachel! Why are you wasting your time watching TV when you’re supposed to be helping your sister with her homework? You never do as you’re told!”

“Here we go again,” Rachel mutters, loud enough to be heard.

Mom leans forward. “What did you say, young lady?”

“Nothing, Mom,” Rachel says with a sigh, rolling her eyes.

Now Mom is really angry. “Don’t use that tone with me!” she says.

“What about the tone you’re using with me?” Rachel shoots back.

Downtime is over . . . Another argument has begun.

1. ․․․․․

2. ․․․․․

3. ․․․․․

DOES the above scenario seem familiar? Do you and your parents constantly argue? If so, take a moment to analyze the situation. Which topics cause the most conflict? Put a check mark next to the ones that apply—or fill in your own topic next to “Other.”

◯ Attitude

◯ Chores

◯ Clothing

◯ Curfew

◯ Entertainment

◯ Friends

◯ Opposite sex

◯ Other ․․․․․

Regardless of the topic, arguing leaves you—and your parents—feeling stressed. Of course, you could just bite your tongue and put on a show of agreeing with everything your parents say. But does God expect you to do that? No. It is true that the Bible tells you to “honor your father and your mother.” (Ephesians 6:2, 3) But it also encourages you to develop your “thinking ability” and to use your “power of reason.” (Proverbs 1:1-4; Romans 12:1) When you do, it’s inevitable that you will have strong convictions, some of which may differ from those of your parents. However, in families that apply Bible principles, parents and youths can communicate peacefully—even when they don’t see eye to eye.—Colossians 3:13.

How can you express yourself without turning normal conversation into open warfare? It’s easy to say: “That’s my parents’ problem. After all, they’re the ones who are always on my back!” But think: How much control do you have over others, including your parents? Really, the only person you can change is you. And the good news is, if you do your part to ease the tension, your parents are more likely to remain calm and hear you out when you have something to say.

So let’s see what you can do to put a lid on the arguing. Apply the suggestions that follow, and you might amaze your parents—and yourself—with your newfound communication skills.

(Suggestion: Put a check mark next to the suggestions that you need to work on.)

◯ Think before you respond. The Bible says: “Good people think before they answer.” (Proverbs 15:28, Today’s English Version) Don’t blurt out the first thing that comes to your mind when you feel that you’re under attack. For instance, suppose your mom says: “Why didn’t you wash the dishes? You never do as you’re told!” An impulsive reply might be, “Why are you nagging me?” But use your thinking ability. Try to perceive the feeling behind your mom’s words. Usually, statements with terms like “always” and “never” are not to be taken literally. They do, however, indicate an underlying emotion. What might it be?

Perhaps your mom is frustrated, feeling that she is burdened with more than her share of the housework. It could be that she merely wants reassurance that she has your support. Or, to be honest, maybe you’ve built up a track record of balking at chores. In any event, saying “Why are you nagging me?” will get you nowhere—except maybe into an argument! So instead, why not put your mom at ease? For example, you could say: “I can see you’re upset, Mom. I’ll do the dishes right away.” A caution: Do not lace your words with sarcasm. Responding with empathy will more likely ease the tension between you.

Below, write a statement that your dad or mom might make that could provoke you, if you let it.


Now think of an empathetic response you could use that might address the feeling behind the statement.


◯ Speak respectfully. Michelle has learned from experience the importance of how she speaks to her mother. “No matter what the issue is,” she says, “it always comes back to Mom’s not liking my tone of voice.” If that’s often true in your case, learn to speak quietly and slowly, and avoid rolling your eyes or giving other nonverbal indications of your annoyance. (Proverbs 30:17) If you feel that you’re about to lose control, offer a brief, silent prayer to God. (Nehemiah 2:4) Of course, your objective isn’t to get divine help to ‘get your parent off your back’ but to maintain self-control so that you don’t add fuel to the fire.—James 1:26.

In the space below, write down some words and actions you would do well to avoid.

Verbal expressions (what you say):


Nonverbal expressions (your facial and body language):


◯ Listen. The Bible states: “You will say the wrong thing if you talk too much.” (Proverbs 10:19, Contemporary English Version) So make sure you give your dad or mom a chance to speak, and give your parent your full attention. Turn off your music, set aside your book or magazine, and maintain eye contact. Don’t interrupt to justify your actions. Just listen. Later, when they’re finished talking, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to ask questions or to explain your viewpoint. On the other hand, if you dig in your heels and press your viewpoint now, you might only make things worse. Even if there’s more you’d like to say, right now is probably “a time to keep quiet.”—Ecclesiastes 3:7.

◯ Be willing to apologize. It’s always appropriate to say “I’m sorry” for anything you did to contribute to a conflict. (Romans 14:19) You can even say you’re sorry that there is any conflict. If you find it hard to do this face-to-face, try expressing your feelings in a note. Then, ‘go the extra mile’ by changing any behavior that contributed to the conflict in the first place. (Matthew 5:41) For example, if neglecting a chore has ignited an argument, why not surprise your parents by caring for that chore? Even if you dislike the task, wouldn’t getting it done be better than facing the consequences when your parents see it’s still been neglected?—Matthew 21:28-31.

In the end, working to resolve or prevent conflict will make life easier for you. In fact, the Bible says that a person “of loving-kindness is dealing rewardingly with his own soul.” (Proverbs 11:17) So think of what you stand to gain by doing your part to reduce the tension between you and your parents.

Successful families have conflicts, but they know how to settle them peacefully. Practice the skills outlined in this article, and you may find that you can discuss even difficult topics with your parents—without arguing!

More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site


● Why do some of your peers often prize the ability to argue?

● Why does Jehovah view an argumentative person as being foolish?—Proverbs 20:3.

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  “I had to realize that although I work and support myself financially, I still live in my mom’s house and have to listen to her. She has taken care of me for many years, so when she checks up on me—like with regard to my curfew—I completely understand.”

  “If my parents and I don’t agree on something, we pray about it, look up information on it, and discuss it. We always come to a mutual resolution in this way. When we keep Jehovah involved, it always works out in the end.”


 1. The use of sarcasm (“Here we go again”) only poured fuel on the fire of Mom’s frustration.

 2. Rachel’s facial expression (rolling her eyes) was just asking for trouble.

 3. Talking back (“What about the tone you’re using with me?”) almost always backfires.


  Look at the scenario that opened this article. Can you identify some things Rachel’s mom did that only contributed to an argument? How can you avoid arguing with your teen? The following are some points to keep in mind:

  Avoid sweeping assertions, such as “You always . . .” or “You never . . .” Such statements only invite a defensive response. After all, they are likely to be exaggerations, and your child knows it. Your child may also know that sweeping assertions are really more about your anger than his or her irresponsibility.

  Rather than using blunt statements that begin with the word “you,” try expressing how your child’s behavior affects you. For example, “When you . . . , I feel . . . .” Believe it or not, deep down your feelings are important to your teen. By letting your teen know how you are affected, you are more likely to elicit his or her cooperation.

  Hard as it may be, hold back until your temper is in check. (Proverbs 10:19) If the issue that is causing the argument involves chores, discuss it with your child. Write down specifically what is required of him or her and, if necessary, make clear what the consequences will be if your expectations are not met. Patiently listen to your child’s point of view, even if you feel that view is incorrect. Most teens respond better to a listening ear than to a lecture.

  Before hastily concluding that the world’s spirit of rebellion has taken control of your teen, realize that much of what you observe is part of your child’s natural development. Your child may argue a point just to prove that he or she is growing up. Resist the urge to get involved in disputes. Remember, how you respond to provocation teaches a lesson to your teen. Exercise patience and long-suffering, and you will set a good example for your son or daughter to follow.—Galatians 5:22, 23.

Teen Pregnancy—A Global Tragedy

TEEN pregnancy has been called an epidemic. However, the tragic proportions of this problem are best seen when the impact of a pregnancy upon one frightened teenage girl is considered. At the very least, she will experience drastic changes in her life that will deeply impact not only herself but also her family and loved ones.

Teenagers are in what the Bible calls “the bloom of youth”—a time when sexual desires are often at their peak. (1 Corinthians 7:36) Yet, it would be simplistic to consider teen pregnancy to be merely an issue of contraception. The evidence indicates that teen pregnancy involves a number of complex social and emotional issues.

Contributing Factors

Research shows that many teen mothers come from broken homes. “My whole life all I have ever wanted was a real family” is the recurrent cry of many pregnant teens. Evidently, then, dysfunctional families may set the stage for teen pregnancy. An outreach program that assists teen mothers found that they often have “volatile relationships with their mothers and no relationships with their fathers.” Anita, who became a mother at the age of 18, remembers that although her single mother worked hard to provide for her materially, Anita still felt the emotional void created by the absence of her father.

Other girls become unwed mothers as a direct result of rape. For some of them, the trauma seems to trigger emotional pain that may become manifest later in destructive conduct. Jasmine, for example, was raped at age 15. “After that,” she remembers, “I became self-destructive. When I was 19, I got pregnant.” Sexual abuse may also trigger feelings of worthlessness. “I never felt worthy of anything,” laments Jasmine. Anita went through a similar ordeal: “Between the ages of 7 and 11, I was molested by a teenager. I hated myself. I blamed myself.” She became pregnant at the age of 17.

On the other hand, some youths are the victims of their own overconfidence and curiosity. Nicole, quoted in the preceding article, admits: “I thought that I had all the answers, that I was capable of doing anything. Unfortunately, I was also capable of having a baby.” Carol, who likewise became an unwed mother at an early age, experimented with sex because of curiosity. She says, “I felt there were things out there that I was missing.”

Ignorance of the consequences of sexual activity also plays a role. In Britain, according to sociologists Karen Rowlingson and Stephen McKay, some young people “lack accurate knowledge about . . . what to expect in relationships and what it means to get pregnant.” Some youths seemingly do not grasp the connection between sex and pregnancy. In one survey, teen mothers “often reported being shocked or surprised to find they were pregnant even if they had not been using contraception.”

Nevertheless, it is the changing attitudes toward sex that have had the biggest influence on teen pregnancy. We live in times when people are “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) Australian researchers Ailsa Burns and Cath Scott say there has been “a reduction in social, religious, and economic sanctions against sex outside of marriage.” Having an out-of-wedlock child may no longer carry the same stigma that it did in times past. Why, in some areas teenagers may even view having a baby as some sort of trophy or status symbol!

Emotional Aftermath

The realities of teen motherhood are quite different from youthful fantasies. Upon learning that they are pregnant, girls often experience a storm of emotions. Many admit feeling shocked or stunned. “Common reactions include anger, guilt, and denial,” says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Denial can be dangerous, though, as it may prevent a girl from pursuing needed medical treatment.

“I got scared,” recalls Elvenia of the moment she came face-to-face with the results of her “adventure” with sex. Many pregnant girls do not have someone to confide in or are too ashamed to talk about their situation. Not surprisingly, then, some become overwhelmed by guilt and fear. Many pregnant teens also suffer severe depression. “I didn’t particularly care about living, and I didn’t care if I died,” says Jasmine.*

However a young girl may react initially, she must eventually make a number of far-reaching decisions for herself and her child. How young girls can make such decisions wisely is the subject of our next article.


For information on coping with suicidal feelings, see “Life is Worth Living,” in the October 22, 2001, issue of Awake!

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Teen Pregnancy—The Grim Facts

  Although the following describes the situation in the United States, it reflects some of the realities faced by pregnant teens all over the world.

● Four in 10 girls become pregnant before age 20—over 900,000 teen pregnancies annually.

● About 40 percent of teen mothers are under 18 years of age.

● Children of teen parents suffer higher rates of abuse and neglect than children of older parents.

● Only 4 out of 10 mothers under the age of 18 finish high school.

● Nearly 80 percent of fathers do not marry the teen mothers of their children.

● Only 30 percent of teen mothers who marry after their child is born remain in those marriages; teen marriages are twice as likely to fail as marriages in which the woman is at least 25 years of age.

● Children of teen mothers are more likely to be born prematurely and at low birth weight, raising the probability of infant death, blindness, deafness, chronic respiratory problems, mental retardation, mental illness, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, and hyperactivity.

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Taken from Not Just Another Single Issue: Teen Pregnancy Prevention’s Link to Other Critical Social Issues, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, February 2002.

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Teen Pregnancy Worldwide

  BRAZIL: Reportedly, “698,439 teenage girls under the age of 19 gave birth in 1998 using the Brazilian State Health System . . . 31,857 of these girls were children between 10 and 14 years of age, which, you will have to agree, is an absurdly young age to have a child.”—Folha de S. Paulo, August 25, 1999.

  BRITAIN: “Britain has the highest rate of teenage births in Western Europe . . . There were almost 90,000 conceptions to teenagers in England in 1997. Roughly three-fifths resulted in births (56,000), and 90 per cent of teenage births in 1997 were outside marriage (about 50,000).”—Lone Parent Families, 2002.

  MALAYSIA: “Children born out of wedlock in the country have increased since 1998 with most mothers in their late teens.”—New Straits Times–Management Times, April 1, 2002.

  RUSSIA: “Nearly one-third of all babies born in Russia last year were born to unwed mothers, double the percentage of a decade earlier and at a level not seen since World War II, government statistics show. More than 40 percent of these babies were born to teenagers.”—The Moscow Times, November 29, 2001.

  UNITED STATES: “Despite the recently declining teen pregnancy rates, 4 in 10 teenage girls get pregnant at least once before they reach age 20.”—Whatever Happened to Childhood? The Problem of Teen Pregnancy in the United States, 1997.

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