Do these phrases sound familiar?
“You always interrupt me.”
“You always put __________ before me.”
“You always forget.”
Making absolute accusations to or about your spouse will get you nowhere fast. We have all done it (probably more than once!), but “always” is a word we throw around that must, without a doubt, be eliminated from our relationship vocabulary–especially when it comes to communicating with our spouse.
Words can be both building blocks and bulldozers. You can spend days, months, and years using positive and encouraging words toward your spouse, only to shake your solid foundation with a careless phrase that takes only seconds to utter. Fights seem to bubble and burst quickly, and before you know it, you’re in the land of speaking words you can’t take back.
In today’s post, we’ll talk about why dealing in absolutes in your marriage–both by using “always,” as well as its close cousin, “never”–is hurtful to your spouse and destructive to your marriage.
Absolutes Don’t Reflect Truth
In a moment of frustration, statements like, “You always _______,” can escape your mouth, negating past positives and impeding forward progress in your marriage.
Absolute accusations are a form of lazy communication–and what’s more, absolutes are usually dishonest. Sometimes we apply absolutes to something our spouse has done or said that rubs us the wrong way. Instead of addressing the situation at hand and clearly expressing our feelings, we might use absolutes as a cop-out.
Using absolutes automatically puts your spouse on the defensive. Instead of constructively reaching a win-win agreement together, when you use “always” or “never,” you’ll find yourself head-to-head with an angry, defensive spouse–who is now more focused on the perceived character assassination of your accusation than the conflict you were originally trying to resolve.
Communicating articulately and truthfully can be challenging, but it pays high dividends in our marriages. It means choosing our words wisely and carefully, even when we are hurt, and even when it may hurt to say them.
Absolutes Communicate Entitlement
“You never help.”
“You always think about yourself.”
“You never consider my feelings.”
“We always do what you want to do.”
Our behaviors rarely exist in absolutes–especially our bad behaviors. But when your husband or wife has not lived up to your expectations, it can be all too easy to accuse them of “always” or “never” doing whatever we’re upset about.
Are you trying to get the results you desire by hurling absolute accusations at them? After all, absolutes can be used as a highly effective form of manipulation. Controlling outcomes by using absolutes against your spouse is a toxic, damaging way to get what you want. You may feel satisfied at first, but what will you do if your marriage ultimately falls apart?
Check your attitude and ask yourself whether your reaction to your spouse is born of an entitled attitude. Are your expectations of him or her unreasonable? What adjustments can you make to your own expectations and mindset that will take the pressure off of both of you?
Letting go of unrealistic expectations will help to slay the entitlement dragon, as well as help you nurture more positive feelings toward your spouse. And if you’re not leveling your spouse with “always” and “never” accusations, they might just feel more inclined to make you happy.
Absolutes Point to Deeper Insecurity
Communicating with absolutes may point to a deep insecurity or inadequacy within yourself. Maybe this is a projection onto your spouse that deep down, you aren’t feeling loved. Maybe you’re keeping score, tallying perceived wins and losses in your own head–and maybe you feel like you’re on the losing side.
When we aren’t in touch with our emotions and the reasons for them, it becomes easier to project them onto others. Pay attention to what you’re feeling, and ask yourself why. Digging deep could help you focus harder on your own areas of weakness.
Your feelings are valid, and, if talked through with your spouse in a healthy way, they could create a more intimate understanding between the two of you. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and honest. Showing vulnerability is an invitation to be loved, while making absolute accusations opens old wounds and creates new ones.
You may feel like it’s impossible to stop dealing in absolutes, but it’s definitely not–and you will see incredible results in your marriage. Becoming more self-aware will help you avoid turning on your spouse. Remember, you’re on the same team. You were never meant to be enemies.
Be intentional with your communication, and stay in tune with your attitude and expectations. Next time you are tempted to throw around absolutes, take a step back or a deep breath and communicate differently. There are better ways to express your feelings that will propel your marriage forward instead of crippling it.
Speak life into your spouse and make the moments you spend together into strong building blocks. Staying intimately connected to one another will help you fight the urge to use absolutes against him or her.
Focus on these positives in the coming weeks and months. Eliminate those absolutes, address each situation as its own, and watch your marriage grow.