Communication, the Daily Temperature of Your Marriage

Lisa May, Executive Director, Live the Life South Florida

Winter in South Florida is likened to paradise: a refreshing temperature of Sunny and 72, a cool breeze that caresses our face and sunshine that captures the colorful splendor of creation in high definition. Fall in South Florida is very different: sweltering heat, the air is thick, the breeze is still and the sky is more white than blue. The temperature often determines our mood, clothing, activities and even what we eat. Think about it… a bowl of chili is less appetizing in the heat of summer. 

Like the weather, our marriage has a relational temperature that determines mood, appetites and activities. Some days are frigid with stone-cold silence, some are filled with scorched earth verbal exchanges and others are Sunny and 72 with clear skies. Similar to how global warming (if you are a believer) affects the earth, communication affects our marital relationship.


Communication complaints

Research indicates that communication is one of the primary reasons cited for divorce. Men and women have different complaints about their partners’ communication skills. In a recent survey, approximately 70 percent of men who said their marriages ended due to communication problems said that nagging and complaining were the primary issues. About 60 percent of men identified their partners’ failure to show appreciation as the leading communication factor. Over 80 percent of women, however, said that their relationships ended because their partners did not do enough to validate their feelings and opinions. In addition, almost 60 percent of women stated that their partners were self-absorbed.


Frequency matters

communicationDr. John Gottman, a nationally recognized psychologist, states that he can predict with about 90% accuracy whether a couple will remain married based on how they respond to one another. His premise is that couples regularly issue bids and gambits that invite conversation, laughter or some response. After years of videotaping couples, he found that couples who divorce respond to roughly 33% of their spouses’ bids, while those who stayed married responded to their partner’s bids 86% of the time. Couples that responded to 86% of their spouses’ bids also built up a reservoir of positive emotions that allowed them to quickly manage conflict without escalating and make amends. The amount of time or depth of the communication wasn’t the factor. The number of times they responded to one another made the difference. Their engagement in one another determined a long-lasting relationship — the frequency of our communication matters.


Our loudest voice

Webster defines communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs or behavior. You notice there’s nothing in the definition that says it requires speech. Body language is our loudest voice. The unspoken element of communication we use to reveal our true feelings and emotions is our gestures, facial expressions and posture. Albert Mehrabian undertook an experiment in 1971 concluding that face-to-face communication consists of three separate elements: Words, Tone and Body Language. Words account for 7% of the overall message, tone accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55%. Many marriages communicate very loudly in silence. The goal is to grow our communication from silent body language to a verbal conversation that creates an environment of understanding and communion, communion being an intimate fellowship or rapport. 


One of the cornerstones of Live the Life is to teach the HOW. Again, most of us know what we’re supposed to do. Life is busy, time is fleeting and many communicate with one-syllable words because they’re trying to get to the next place. Our tone is misunderstood because our words are over a text message. Our body language is only as detectable as our connection with FaceTime. So, how do we regulate the temperature of our marriage? How do we go from icy cold or blistering heat to fewer storms, 72 and sunny? 


Here’s the how: Daily Temperature Reading

Couples should spend at least 15 minutes daily in an uninterrupted, no phones, kids-free, focused conversation. The Daily Temperature Reading isn’t a tool for conflict, although it will prevent many misunderstandings. This simple yet profound tool for staying in touch keeps your molehills from growing into mountains. The word “daily” is critical: every 24 hours. Posture should allow you to set the stage for active listening. Sit knee to knee, maintain eye-to-eye contact, and address these seven touchpoints of the Daily Temperature Reading:


  1. Appreciation – express at least one appreciation for what your spouse has done in the last 24 hours. No “buts” allowed. 
  2. New Information – This isn’t a time for confession, but most people assume the worst in the absence of information and our assumptions are often wrong. This is more of an update; “I ran into so and so, and they said…”  “I have a board meeting after work and will be late for dinner tomorrow.”
  3. Puzzles – Don’t assume you know the answer. If there are things you don’t understand, ASK. “I don’t understand why…” “Please explain what you want me to do again…” When questions and puzzles go unanswered, it can lead to trouble.
  4. Complaints with a Request for Change – this is non-nuclear and should be used as “Instead of THIS, would you do THAT?” “Please put your dishes in the dishwasher rather than leaving them in the sink.” No complaining without a change request. This is limited to a single item not a list. 
  5. Apologies – this is a sincere request for forgiveness for your mistakes- it’s not the time to point out what your spouse needs to apologize for. “I’m sorry I snapped at you this morning. Will you forgive me?” This expresses humility and honors the other person.
  6. Wishes, Hopes and Dreams – these can be as simple or extravagant as you’d like. “One day, I’d like a home in the mountains,” or “I’d like us to have a date night once every two weeks with no one else; no double dates.” Wishes, Hopes and Dreams point to your future together.
  7. Prayer Request – Research indicates that couples who pray together stay together; it’s like pouring superglue all over your marriage. Something specific, such as “Please pray that God will establish my thoughts as I prepare for my deposition.” “Please pray about where we should send Mary to school.” Once requests are made, each spouse prays out loud for the other.


This can be accomplished with each of you going step by step, point by point and concluding with a kiss. If this is done daily, there will be days when you don’t have new information or some of the other touchpoints.

Like most concepts we teach, the Daily Temperature Reading is SIMPLE. Good communication is one of the antidotes for marital stress. Give this a try and monitor the weather of your marriage; a temperature of 72 with sunny blue skies could be the forecast. 

You’ve read what man’s research about communication has discovered. Research backs up the Bible. What does God say?


“But you must put away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from our mouth” (Colossians 3:8).


“…for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).


“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25).


If you have a story to share or questions to ask, or if you’re interested in participating in one of our classes, please email [email protected] or visit our website, Need a weekly refresh of what you can do to enhance your marriage and family relationships? Enroll in our Marriage and Family Monday Minute.

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