Marriage Blog: How to Say “No” by Saying “Yes”

My family has been spending a ton of much-needed time with my parents the past few days. It’s a very nostalgic and humbling experience. It’s “nostalgic” because of the holiday mixed with the sharing of memories and stories. Humbling, because the more time I spend with my father, the more I have to face the fact that I’m more like him than I realize.

There are things that come out of my mouth that are very much him. Of all of the things I say, the answer that I hated, I now give to my kids:


“Dad, can I go out with my friends?” “Perhaps.”
“Dad, can I use the car?” “Perhaps.”
“Dad, the youth group is going to a concert.” “Perhaps.”
“Dad, can I have a few bucks?” “Go talk to your mother.”

That word “perhaps” is so non-committal. But “perhaps” gives you options (which is probably why I say it).  It gives you room to completely back-out later or, if circumstances change, go into a different direction whilst being able to say, “I didn’t fully agree to it.” As one who now uses it (I’m trying to stop), it’s a lame answer and it frustrates the listener.

We all like options. Why? Either we don’t want to be disappointed or don’t want to disappoint others.  The idea of “options” helps lessen the blow if things don’t work out the way we anticipated and helps us to save face.

But I propose that the healthiest replies in our marriage are the simplistic replies of “yes” and “no.” Why? Because that’s how the marriage started. By saying “yes” to your spouse, you were saying “no” to everyone else. So I asked myself, what are good “yes’s” and good “no’s”?

  • Saying “yes” to commitment of marriage is saying “no” to the fear of failure.
  • Saying “yes” to forgiveness is saying “no” to bitterness creeping in to corrode your heart.
  • Saying “yes” to the unplanned coffee date is saying “no” to the mundane.
  • Saying “yes” to generosity as a couple is saying “no” to stinginess.
  • Saying “yes” to serving your spouses love language detours your spouse from saying “no” to yours (doesn’t promise they will, but gives them the opportunity to reciprocate).
  • Saying “yes” to sex is saying “no” to allowing temptation to come against my spouse.
  • Saying “yes” to stewardship is saying “no” to stupid debt.
  • Saying “yes” to consistent dates is saying “no” to the feelings of disconnection.
  • Saying “yes” to talking about the tough stuff is saying “no” to miscommunication.
  • Saying “yes” to receiving forgiveness is saying “no” to self-abuse.
  • Saying “yes” to working through frustrations is saying “no” to allowing hearts to get septic.
  • Saying “yes” to communicating and agreeing on sexual frequency is saying “no” to allowing lust and resentment to have a place.
  • Saying “yes” to praying for and with your spouse is saying “no” to dealing with things through your own power.
  • Saying “yes” together to God means we are saying “no” to other voices that shout for our attention.

As I type these out, I think of the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote the words,

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” Philippians 3:12

I wish I could say I’ve perfected all of this marriage stuff. But as long as Anne and I are alive, we’ll always battle with the “yes” and “no” replies as our human tendencies get in the way. I’m sure you struggle as well. But if we can make a simplistic goal to begin to shape our marriages one healthy “yes” at a time, we’ll see ourselves saying “no” to the things that want to destroy our marriage.

Do you have any you could add? Are there “yes” statements the Lord is laying on your heart to add to your marriage? If so, sit with your spouse and talk them through. This would make a great sit-down talk with your spouse to work through (and even repent through) some areas where you’ve given the wish-washy reply of “perhaps” and left your marriage in a bit of limbo.

Love you all. Keep encouraging your spouse’s effort. Celebrate the progress you’ve made. And don’t forget to feed hope.


Thanks for letting me ramble…

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