Yellow Light Communication: How to prevent disaster in your marriage
Updated: Feb 19
Our boys loved learning about traffic lights. We made it a game. While driving around town we’d ask them “what does a red light mean?” They’d respond loudly “Stop!” “What does the green light mean?” They’d yell “Go!” “What does the yellow light mean?” “Go slow!”
Technically, the driver’s manual states the yellow light means “proceed with caution.”
Yellow lights are a fantastic idea. We need more “proceed with caution” lights in life. Like when you enter a room with Legos on the floor, check a baby’s diaper, or think about eating the last chocolate your spouse stashed in the back of the pantry.
Communication in marriage needs a yellow light too. Communication in marriage is a busy street. Safety is critical.
Most communication in marriage is a green light situation. Everything is awesome. You understand each other and share important information about your world and your relationship. It’s Go! time.
Red light communication consist of conflict. Communication breaks down and arguments erupt. Stop! The safety of your relationship is at risk. It’s time to pause your hurtful communication before you cause a wreck.
Now, if only you could find a way to prevent unnecessary conflict. A way to alert you of upcoming problems or potential damaging arguments. The Yellow light!
To prevent disaster in your marriage;
Identify when your communication is no longer going well.
The light has changed.
First you have to recognize the light is no longer green. Couples with a healthy relationship quickly identify when their communication is beginning to crumble. Couples who lack this skill fly into hurtful conversations unaware.
Be on the lookout for early warning signs of tense communication. Usually the first clue is in the tone of voice or your spouse’s body language telling you they are disappointed, shocked, or angry.
Ask your spouse how you’re doing. Ask them “did I say that ok?” or “Am I communicating well?” Clearly state your intention to be open and engage in a respectful conversation. Communication starts to crumble when one partner senses the other is withdrawing or is becoming too aggressive.
Acknowledge your communication is not going well.
Use a yellow light code word, a word or phrase you can say when your communication is headed to a danger zone. A yellow light code word can prevent blaming, criticism, and defensiveness which kills your communication. “Yellow Light” could be a great code word for you to adopt.
Our code word is actually a sentence. When a conversation gets tense in our marriage either Hollie or I say “we’re not communicating well.” Saying “I don’t think we’re communicating very well” helps us pause the conversation. We use the brief pause to rethink and continue the conversation with extra caution.
Healthy couples avoid unnecessary conflict simply by acknowledging their communication is getting off track and intentionally redirecting their communication into a constructive conversation. To “proceed with caution” you must proceed. Spouses who freeze up or withdraw at the slightest tension cripple communication. For great communication; remain engaged.
Keep in mind to communicate love not simply information like you learned in The 2 Parts of Communication.
Remember to point out the obvious barrier to good communication like you learned in blog post 9 Reasons Your Communication Sucks.
Say “I know we are both tired and we need to figure out ________lets take a few minutes to talk about it.”
Before you know it your communication will turn green again. The more you recognize and prevent communication problems before they destroy your connection, the closer you will feel to each other in your marriage. Great communication builds connection. You can become a competent spouse who knows how to communicate well.