“I wish you were more like…”…and 6 other lines we shouldn’t say in marriage.

Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

I always, say, “Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage.” And just like the car you drive, you cannot afford to use the same oil for great lengths of time.  Oil must be changed every 3000 or so miles to keep the engine running at peak performance.  Thus, as we move forward in our marriage, we should always keep an eye on our communication to see if our communication needs to be refreshed.  Why? Through the seasons of life, you change.  Shocking enough, so will your spouse. The ways you address and respond to each other should always be on our radar as marriage becomes the place to endlessly learn to communicate.

I know marriage is much more than communication, but how many marital issues would be erased or solved if we just learned to communicate in a more healthy manner? Our almost 18 years have taught us that it’s not a matter of if we disagree, but when we do, how will we handle it? Here’s a simple rule: We should never quit and always communicate until you reach the other side. This, of course, takes hard work and dedication… and a few bits of sound wisdom on how to resolve things more healthily wouldn’t hurt either. Thus, this blog.

It’s impossible to define everything everyone should or shouldn’t say in every situation. However, there are a couple of phrases/words that we’ve discovered are usually unhelpful for marriage:

“You always/never…” Absolute statements like “you always…” or “you never…” are something Anne and I continue to try to remove from our marriage. I think we’ve done well. In fact, when we are joking with each other, we’ll usually use this phrase as if to tell the other person, “when you hear this, it’s never about anything of actual consequence.”

The problem with absolute statements is that, first, they’re rarely true when speaking of behavior, and, second they are usually hurtful.  The only thing we accomplish by using this kind of talk is sowing seeds of repeated failure.  It kills any positive momentum, and it’s a reminder of past failures. Absolute statements say more about who’s saying them then they do about whom they’re directed at. To shoot straight with you, absolute statements are just plain lazy. This is an easy one to resort to in an argument. It cuts quick and deep, it’s a low blow, and they’re a poor way to verbalize the real issues at hand.

By being specific and purposeful with your language, you can actually move forward together instead of accusing one another. Removing absolute statements from your marriage diction will do wonders.

“I wish you were more like…” Comparison isn’t a marriage builder; it’s a marriage killer. It is disrespectful and damaging. Any time you find yourself comparing your spouse to another husband or wife, you are comparing their highlight reel to your behind-the-scenes. It is always based on the partial truth of somebody else’s reality  Comparison creates an unfair and unrealistic standard to live up to.

Nobody likes being compared to someone else. Whether it’s a friend, a stranger, or a family member, comparison will break hearts and kill marriage momentum.  Nothing makes me feel smaller than when I’m unscrupulously compared to someone “greater than” me. Feeling that kind of small is ok, I guess, but only if it’s relation to Jesus. May Jesus be the only person we compare with and let the be with ourselves as we ask him to increase and us decrease.

“I’m sorry, but…  I understand can be hard to apologize. But using the word “but” on the end of an apology is giving yourself permission to do something you probably shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Some people are more stubborn than others (like me). But when you do apologize, leave it at “I’m sorry.” If you add the word “but” with any explanation, valid or not, it negates any form of apology that preceded it. Apologies should be sincere and should bring finality to the conversation. If you’re not done sharing your feelings, then don’t apologize!

“Whatever!” The ultimate shutdown response when you’ve run out of words. But even more than that, it becomes an easy immature go-to. What this says is, “I don’t really want to deal with the situation” and/or “I refuse to talk about this.”

The word “Whatever” is the arch-enemy of biblical reconciliation. By dismissing disagreements with “whatever”, you’re essentially stating that you don’t care enough about the person or disagreement to discuss further. Remember, “Love never quits. Love is patient, kind, not easily angered, and always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13). Please understand, it’s not that “whatever” is a bad word, it’s just usually used in moments when love isn’t at it’s best. Ditching “whatever” from your marriage vocabulary will force to either, first, explain why you’re OK with dismissing the conversation, or, second, explain why you’re truly ok with whatever.

“I’m fine.” (Here’s a personal favorite.) Now this one is tricky.  Whoever is the more emotional member (not necessarily the female) will use this as a hint of deeper things going on.  What is troublesome about “fine” is it’s usually a passive aggressive approach to announcing that “everything isn’t fine and you need to pick up on the signal.”

Seeing that your spouse isn’t a mind-reader, I challenge you to remove “fine” from your vocabulary and look for more constructive opportunities mixed with clear open dialogue to convey what the issues at hand is.

“…just sayin’…” This is the arrogant jab at the end of a statement as if you want to flaunt your right to say what you want. But note: Just because you have a right doesn’t make it right. Just as much as pride will destroy the work of Christ in your life, pride will destroy what Christ desires to do in your marriage. The desire to tack this onto your statement should be the red flag that what will proceed “just sayin’” may not set your conversation up for a healthy and constructive interaction.

“Divorce…” Whether is joking or serious, I think it’s dangerous for couples use the word “divorce” in reference to their marriage. I believe marriage only works if divorce is not an option. It’s looking at your life together as if there’s no back door. That way you’ll both be committed to working through anything.

The greatest enemy we’ve seen at play in marriage is simply giving up by mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually check-out of the marriage. How can you work something out if one person leaves or refuses to engage? Divorce is just that: giving up on the marriage.

Using the word “divorce” potentially introduces the idea of a terrible possibility into your marriage. No matter how you slice it, divorce is marital death…and a painful one at that. I implore you, remove “divorce” from your vocabulary. Don’t use it as a threat, comedic relief, or otherwise. Perhaps you should divorce yourself from using “divorce.”

Words are essential to healthy communication.  And I hope I’ve made a compelling case for why you should remove some phrases and words from your marriage.

Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

Be selective with your words. There are two things in this life you can never get back once used, words and time.

Use your words to give life. And your marriage will feast on the fruits of them (words).


Thanks for letting me ramble…

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