Your words matter. They carry power, and they can be forgiven–but hardly forgotten. They can fuel or kill momentum, build up or tear down. They are givers and takers of life. And it’s so very important to remember that they can never be taken back.
We have all said things that we regret. We have hurt, torn down, or criticized in moments of frustration. And it’s likely that you have done this to your spouse–perhaps multiple times. You know the drill: harsh words, immediate regret.
Most of us know better. To cut down our spouse with our words is never our intention–that is, until conflict arises or until hurt sets in. This is when we fight with phrases we should never say. Below we will visit six of them. You likely already know them. Perhaps you have even used them. Regardless, it is healthy to remind ourselves just how much power our words carry.
As we mature in marriage, let’s work to eliminate these six phrases, even in times of conflict.
1. “You never/always”
Whatever you do, stay away from absolutes. “You always walk away.” “You never help out before I ask.” “You never admit you’re wrong.” “You always put work ahead of me.” If you have been the accused, this one hurts. We simply don’t live in absolutes. 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. This is an easy one to resort to in an argument. It cuts quick and deep. It’s a low blow.
One great way to counteract this is to repeatedly tell your spouse who they are. “You are an amazing husband/wife.” “You are a provider.” “You are loved.” “You are a great friend, mother, father.” You get the point. The truth of the matter is, conflict occurs frequently when we haven’t sown good seed ahead of time. Make it a habit. Sowing those good seeds will help you avoid using those hurtful absolutes during times of conflict.
2. “I wish you were more like ________”
Nothing kills a marriage quicker than comparison. 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 another’s reality, and it creates an unfair and unrealistic standard to live up to. Oftentimes comparison is bred out of your own insecurity, which is a dangerous fuel to run on. Any time you feel this one boiling to the surface, let it go.
3. “We should just get divorced”
This one should receive a simple “don’t say it.” Divorce is a reality for over 50% of American marriages. It’s not a word to toss around, angry or not, and is often a quick escape route from an argument. If you have reached this level of anger in a conflict with your spouse, take a break. Remember, we can’t take back what we say. The damage has been done. The “D” word may as well spell “danger.” Make every effort you can to not say this word to your spouse!
4. “I’m sorry, but”
It can be hard to apologize. Some people are more stubborn than others. 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 if you’re not done sharing your feelings, then don’t apologize!
5. “This is why”
None of us want to live under a microscope, and most of us are well aware of our wrongdoings without them being pointed out at every turn. “This is why you’re so stressed.” “This is why you don’t finish anything.” These are toxic, demeaning phrases, and they’re typically a reminder of a source of shame in your spouse’s life. Using them puts you in a place of inferiority, and can make you come across as a know-it-all.
Instead of inferring that you have all of the answers, ask your spouse what their source of frustration or insecurity might be, and how you can help. This keeps you on the same team, as opposed to causing separation. The simple truth is, you may not know why. Ask and assume the best. It will be a sweet and even surprising way to approach a source of frustration.
6. “You’re crazy”
This one is for guys, mostly. News flash! Men and women are different, but it doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Men, your wife may appear to be acting crazy, and she certainly may even know it, but let’s stop pointing it out. It is most certainly an attack, and it could escalate an argument to a place it never needed to go.
Men, you are meant to be the stronger vessel in your marriages. If your wife is acting in a way that appears crazy, let us suggest that it could be a result of your actions. Take the high road. Choose to love your wife in these moments, even if you don’t understand.
Have you ever found yourself using these phrases? It’s likely that you have, but you don’t have to continue patterns of destruction. The good news is, you have a choice from now on to cut these out and to replace them with constructive and loving communication. Life is too short and marriage is too important! Love your spouse with the way you address them. Use your words to build up and not to tear down. Start today!