Do you remember being a kid and having a peer, a teacher, or perhaps even a parent, either in gest or intentionally speak a word to you that stung your heart to the point where you physically felt the dagger? Maybe it was the boy who told you your nose was too big, the teacher who said how disappointed they were in you, or the parent who told you that you were always a bother?
I think we all know what it’s like to have harsh words come at us, but in addition to harsh words, there are also dismissive words that can hurt too. These are the words that we might be frequently saying to our spouse, and if we’re honest, those can sting just a little bit more. God has given us words to speak life or to speak death, and when it comes to our spouse especially, we need to be choosing life.
One of the quickest ways to ignite fury in your spouse is to tell them to “Calm down.” Now, I know that those words don’t seem harsh or abrasive, but the problem with them is the meaning behind them. What this phrase means is, “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you have self-control like me?” These are words that claim superiority, and they are demeaning. They take advantage of someone who is already upset and in a vulnerable position. Ever seen someone pour gas on a fire? Well, this is doing that with words.
The next phrase you don’t want to come out of your mouth is “Stop worrying.” These words are dismissive. They tell your spouse that their concerns are no big deal, when in fact, they are feeling very valid to them. Give your spouse permission to be afraid, and then remind them that you are right there with them in their fears. Your spouse’s worrying is a great opportunity for you to pray for them or just let them know they’re not alone. Focus on that instead.
Another phrase that can get us into a little bit of trouble is when we tell our spouse, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” The truth is we all have every right to feel however we want to about things. There is no right or wrong in what we feel. There is a right or wrong in the actions that follow our feelings, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. When we tell our spouse their feelings aren’t valid, we’re also telling them that their thoughts and opinions don’t matter. That will obviously not go anywhere good.
So, the next time you want to open your mouth and let one of these phrases roll off your tongue, pause and think about it. As the Message Bible version tells us in Proverbs 21:23, “Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.”
If you want to discuss this more or hear one more phrase not to say, or perhaps learn what to say instead, check out what we have to say on episode 4 of The Expedition Marriage podcast, What Not to Say to Your Spouse.