Wouldn’t it be great to know that when you’re talking to your spouse, what you’re trying to say is received exactly how you intended? Of course, it would! Communicating would be so much easier — no miscommunications, no arguments, no need to over-explain yourself to a spouse who you swear must have heard you wrong. Perfect, Positive communication!

But we all know that usually doesn’t happen. And why is that?

It’s because you speak through, and your spouse listens through different filters. We all talk through and receive through our own filters, and they are governed by our:

Some of our Communication Filters

  • Individual personalities
  • The way we communicate
  • Previous relationships
  • Your existing relationship history
  • The way we grew up
  • Personal stresses and fears
  • The way we see life


Our filters don’t match. They never will, and that’s completely normal. So, we all must do a better job of putting our message out there so it can be understood the right way by the person receiving it.


 The Intent vs. Impact communication model (see above)

The husband and wife combo of Friesen & Friesen came up with the model below to illustrate what happens when you communicate, specifically when it comes to the intent of your message and how the other person actually receives it.


Essentially, we each have filters in front of us. Even if I say something that passes correctly through my filter, it still has to pass through Susan’s filter the exact same way to have the correct impact. But more often than not, it doesn’t. I think that I have said clearly and calmly, “Can you keep it down? I’m trying to work.” But when it passes through her filter, she thinks I’m being rude or testy. In her mind, she may hear, “Shut up! Go away! I’m trying to work here.”


What do you think her reaction is going to be? Not very good. I promise you!


To put the model above another way, imagine having to pass through those metal detectors at the airport. With a normal metal detector, you have to rid yourself of your watch, cellphone, rings, car keys, etc., to get through without setting off the alarm. The same principle holds true with our personal filters. We’re basically trying to ensure that what we say passes through our spouse’s detector (or filter) in a way that they understand it positively.


Methods of Responding

It can all be so confusing! But luckily, there is plenty we can do to improve how we communicate. Friesen & Friesen add that when the intent of our message has an unintended impact, the natural response is to blame, defend, become controlling, or withdraw completely from the conversation. What should happen instead is that both parties should ask themselves a series of questions to gain a better understanding of each other and what happened.

Why am I upset?


What are my issues?


Why is she upset?


What may be her issues?

When communication breaks down, both spouses have a responsibility to clarify, or “Check Out” the situation. This is sort of like hitting the reset button. As Friesen & Friesen said,


“When you experience a negative reaction (impact) to what your partner said, the impact was not totally by your partner’s words. They did not produce your feeling. Instead, your partner’s words, as interpreted by you, produced your feelings. The stuff in your filter caused your interpretation.”


You must then “Check Out” and clarify with non-judgmental, non-accusing questions so that the speaker can confirm or correct their statement.

All we are saying here is that great communication is possible. But we must consider our individual filters and then be open to asking each other to clarify when we misunderstand what that person was trying to say. This element of positive communication takes time and lots of practice and both spouses must want to be better at it.

WANT TO GO DEEPER:  The best first step is understanding how our Brain/Heart Connection works. Join us in this free mini-workshop to discover your unique, God-built construction and how you can make the most of your Brain/Heart Connection so you can utilize this to deepen your connection and create a fulfilling relationship with that special someone. Get It NOW!

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Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to communicate better in your marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.

Did we leave anything out? Do you recognize situations in your own marriage where what you were trying to say wasn’t received the same way? How did your spouse respond? How did you both try to fix the misunderstanding? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.