In a sentence, here’s the key to healthy communication through virtually anything: both should never quit and always communicate until you reach the other side. This, of course, takes grit and dedication… and a few bits of sound wisdom on how to resolve things more healthily wouldn’t hurt either. Thus, this post.
It’s impossible to define everything everyone should or shouldn’t say in every situation. However, there are some phrases that are usually unhelpful for marriage:
1: I'm Busy
A very new friend of mine, Tyler Ward, wrote an incredibly insightful article called, “Busy isn’t respectable anymore.” One read through and you’ll want to remove “I’m busy…” from your vocabulary for good.
But why does that matter for your marriage? As Tyler illustrates, saying “I’m busy” is often just a force of habit and usually an indication of some deeper disfunction (no, not always, but often). There’s a saying: “If you’re too busy for your spouse, you’re too busy”. That being the case, we should always make time for our spouses without relegating ourselves to simply being “busy”.
If you are actually busy, that’s fine, just articulate exactly what’s going on so your spouse may understand and support you with your tasks!
2: You Always
Absolute statements like “you always…” or “you never…” are something Selena and I have worked very hard to remove from our marriage. We’ve yet to fully succeed! The problem with absolute statements is that they’re never true when speaking of behavior, and they are always hurtful (there are two absolute statements you can be sure of!). Absolute statements say more about who’s saying them then they do about whom they’re directed at.
If I may be blunt, absolute statements are just plain lazy.
Example: Instead of “You never want want sex…”, consider a statement like “lately, I’ve felt like we’re not connecting intimately enough. Can we talk about what’s going on?”
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.
How many times have we ended an argument with a single dismissive “whatever”?
“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. Love never quits. Love is patient, kind, not easily angered, and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13).
It’s not that whatever is a bad word, it’s just usually used in times when love isn’t at it’s best. Removing whatever from your marriage vocabulary will force to to either 1) explain why you’re OK with dismissing the conversation, or 2) explain why you’re truly ok with whatever.
4: The word Divorce
It’s tragic when we hear couples use the word “divorce”, either jokingly or seriously, in reference to their own marriage. Marriage only works if divorce is not an option (see #4 here). If there’s no back door, you’ll both be committed to working through anything.
The greatest enemy we’ve seen at play in marriage is simply giving up; someone decides to step out the back door. They mentally, emotionally, 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 cracks the door on a terrible possibility into your marriage. Would it be funny or appropriate ever if you said “I sincerely hope you die a horrible painful death”? Nope. It’s hurtful no matter how you slice it.
I implore you, remove “divorce” from your vocabulary. Don’t use it as a threat, comedic relief, or otherwise.
5: *I wish you were more like* and *you’re just like your [parent]*
Ok, yes this is two phrases. I wanted to combine them here because I believe they come from the same place: comparison.
Comparison is truly heartbreaking. Nobody likes being compared to someone else, whether it’s a friend, a stranger, a family member, or a celebrity. People aren’t things, like cars with features to be compared. “This one has GPS”, “that one gets 40 MPG”, etc.
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 ourselves and our spouses to.
Here are some tough comparisons married folks tend to make; some explicitly and some internally:
I wish [my wife] looked more like [other woman] (this is NEVER productive)
You’re just like your father/mother.
Usually used to illustrate an undesirable behavior, thus pigeonholing the person compared.
Why can’t we be more like [some other couple]? (this type of comparison is especially frustrating)
I hope I’ve made a compelling case for why you should remove some phrases from your marriage.
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.
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