Real Family Talk:Proactive Conversation

More important than what your spouse does or says is your ability to decide to respond proactivly.

Willie and Elaine Oliver
Real Family Talk:Proactive Conversation

I recently went to a workshop where I learned about the need to be proactive in conversations with my spouse. But what if my spouse continues to be negative and difficult to deal with?

Learning to be proactive is a wonderful gift to anyone with whom you are in relationship. More important, it’s a gift you give to yourself and your emotional well-being. The beauty about being proactive is understanding that the only person you can control is yourself. While you have no control over what others do or say, you can control your response to whatever stimuli comes your way.

So more important than what your spouse does or says is your ability to decide to respond proactively. This means that regardless of what your spouse says to you, or how your spouse says it, you have already decided to be proactive. Being proactive means that you will choose to take a space before you respond. The opposite of being proactive is being reactive. This means that you simply say whatever comes to your mind at that moment, without giving a thought to the consequences your statement will have on your relationship.

To be proactive—to take a space—means that before you respond to what your spouse says, regardless of what is said, you will do three things: (1) you will pause, which can also mean saying a short prayer for God’s help; (2) you will think about what you should not say as well as what you should say to make the situation better; and (3) you will choose the correct response, whatever will bring peace and calm to the situation at hand.

So our direct response to your question is that since you cannot control what your spouse does or says, but you do have the capacity to control what your response will be, your responsibility is to concentrate on what your response will be to your spouse, regardless of what your spouse does or says. This is how to put into practice the lessons you learned about being proactive.

Also, you must always remember the inspired wisdom of the New Testament: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). If you sow a positive spirit in your marriage—regardless of what your spouse does—in due season God will reward your good choices if you don’t grow weary.

The Bible also has a clear message about what happens to those who are altruistic in their approach to life. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

Please know we are praying for you as you choose to be proactive in every interaction with your spouse, or anyone else with whom you communicate.

Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Elaine Oliver, MA, LGPC, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at or

Willie and Elaine Oliver