“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…

2 Minute Devo: What are you thinking Day 16

We’re focusing on what the Bible says about the “mind” and how that affects us.  Spend time on the devo and take a minute or two to ponder what the Word is challenging you to do.

Matthew 12:33-34

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

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2 Minute Devo: What are you thinking Day 14

We’re focusing on what the Bible says about the “mind” and how that affects us.  Spend time on the devo and take a minute or two to ponder what the Word is challenging you to do.

Luke 6:45

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

2 Minute Devo: Ecclesiastes Day 2

September is all about diving into the book of Ecclesiastes.  Watch the devo and read the scripture for today:

 

Ecclesiastes 7:20-22

20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

2 Minute Devo: “Can you hear me?”

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We started a new series this month called “His Faithfulness” We are looking at the faithfulness of God revealed to us in the scripture.  Take time to read the passage here on the blog or in your own bible.

Today’s scripture: 1 John 5:14-15

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

New Series: Marital Catchphrases – “Yes Dear!”

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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?

Title Marriage Catchphrases

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:

“Yes Dear”

“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.”

Yes Dear.

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?
Yes Dear.
(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…

Yes Dear.

2 Minute Devo: “Worthless Christianity” James 1:26

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August is our journey through the 2 minute series called “Watch Your Mouth”.  I want to invite you to join me as we. It’s as simple as viewing  the vlog and reading the passage for the day.  Today’s passage is James 1:26:

James 1:26

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.