Proverbs 13:3 “Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.” (The Message)
I’ll share with you a secret about my marriage. Anne and I talk in “catchphrases” from TV show and movies. I don’t know when it began, but somewhere early in our 15 years of marriage, phrases from favorite shows and actors started coming through out mouths sparking the connection and laughter we feel is necessary to keep our marriage healthy. Why? First, we take the scripture at face value when we are told that laughter is a medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Secondly, it’s been proven that people who laugh are healthier (Wish I could find that article right now but you’ll have to take my word it).
Last September, I had come across an article about the Top 60 Catchphrases from TV. What these simple one-liners are, are quotes that you not only hear consistently from the characters, but the “phrases” are associated with the character’s development in the show. Some of them are funny the first 50 times. The problem, if you watch a show over and over, the “catchphrase” becomes white noise. It kinda loses something because it is so predictable. After reading through, a marriage blog series began to form. I asked myself the question:
Do I have marriage “catchphrases” that I use?
Over the years, there are things that I say that I’ve been stating so often that it’s become white noise. In other words, theses statements don’t carry the punch or effect it used to have. What ends up happening is my actions (or lack thereof) negate the effectiveness of the phrases I use with my wife. Something needs to change.
I asked Anne which catchphrase to start with. She hit a home run with the answer:
“Can you take out the garbage?” “Yes Dear.”
“Can you bring me ___________?” “Yes Dear.”
“The kids are screaming at each other. Do something about it!” “Yes Dear.”
What is communicated by that two-word phrase? If you’re in the “Honeymoon Phase” of marriage, “Yes Dear” means “I’m thrilled to do this for you…by the way, we’re going to have sex later.” A few years after that, the meaning usually changes to “I’m saying these two words to pacify you till you either forget you asked me for something or you go and do it yourself.”
We throw it out so casually. It, if we’re not careful, can become a cop-out to actual conversation. Anne made a great point this morning. “Yes Dear” is almost a mockery of your spouse. It an easy out for actually taking the time to give open and honest communication to your spouse. For example:
“Can you take care of something for me?”
(Either one spouse is disgruntled because their spouse didn’t get the task done in the time expected or the other spouse is frustrated that he/she had to stop what they were doing to get the tack accomplished.)
Perhaps the new response should turn into:
“Can you take care of something for me?”
“That shouldn’t be a problem. I’m in the middle of something now. Can I take care of it a bit later?”
BOTH parties need to step back out of their agenda and have respect enough to stand back and think before engaging.
If you don’t want a “Yes Dear” reply:
1 – Timing is everything. Make sure you have your spouses’ complete attention. If you don’t think you have it, simply ask.
2 – Clearly define what is being asked. Make sure your spouse knows what you require as well as timing. You cannot blame your spouse if you haven’t communicated clearly.
3 – Be polite. The longer we are married the more we take each other for granted. Don’t stop saying “please” and “thank you.”
4 – If you get “yes dear”, ask your spouse what the “yes dear” means. What you should hear back is “I heard that you need __________ done by (certain time) today.” Don’t let the catchphrase pacify you. Make sure you know that you’ve been heard.
For you “Yes Dear” people (like myself):
1 – What is my spouse actually asking for? Look past the surface. You’re spouse may be wanting attention, affection, time, or simply want to be heard more than actually getting a task done.
2 – What is the emotion driving it? Is he/she frustrated? Is there a sense of urgency? If you spouse is urgent about something but you refuse to sense that urgency, you’re telling your spouse that you don’t have the time to validate their feelings and you are asking for the same treatment. Don’t just hear the request, listen to the feeling behind the request.
3 – How important is this to my spouse? We always want what’s important to us to be important to our spouse. It’s a wonderful fairy-tale scenario. But reality is: so many couples struggle because their only urgency rests in what they selfishly feel is urgent. I will get into a zone watching a football game. Anne will get into a zone when she is organizing. It may be a silly illustration, but we have both been frustrated with the other because we were bothered at inconvenient moments. In our “zones”, we refuse to listen to the importance of what our spouse is saying.
Back to the scripture we started this whole blog with. Proverbs 13:3 says “Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.” A careless approach to marital longevity involves the use of over-used catchphrases that can be detrimental to a healthy life with our spouse. Take a step back. Examine your words. Ask for forgiveness. Communicate effectively.
Thanks for letting me ramble…