You see it as a central theme in most television shows and movies: “Lack of Effective Communication.” Ya know what else, that could be the same theme for Marriages.
Kerry and I facilitate to couples the benefits of effective communication; however, too often we both have learned that when it comes to communication, it’s not a matter of if we disagree, but when we do disagree, how well will we handle it? Yes, Kerry and I have not fully mastered “Effective Communication.”
In a sentence, here’s the key to healthy communication through virtually anything: Both Husband and Wife should never quit and always communicate until they begin to reach the other side. This, of course, takes courage, humility and constant dedication… and a few bits of sound wisdom on how to resolve things more healthily wouldn’t hurt either. Thus, this article.
It’s not our intentions to define everything everyone should or shouldn’t say in every situation. That’s impossible. Instead, we should seek to remove some phrases from our vocabulary as husband and wife. Here’s our list from our personal experiences.
5 Toxic Phrases to Immediately Remove from Your Marriage Vocabulary
1: “I’m busy…”
This could be the easiest to begin to remove. Do you know why you’ll want to remove “I’m busy…” from your vocabulary for good?
Because saying “I’m busy” is often just a force of habit and usually an indication of some deeper dysfunction (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 Kerry and I have worked very hard to remove from our marriage. We’ve yet to fully succeed in this endeavor, but we recognize it and continue to grow in reducing those statements.
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. Let me explain why. Follow the example below.
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 vocabulary 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; 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.
Kerry and I implore you, please remove “divorce” from your vocabulary. Don’t use it as a threat, comedic relief, or otherwise. It is toxic from the get go.
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 that Kerry and I have heard through marriage counseling.
- I wish [my wife] looked more like [other woman]
- I wish [my husband] acted more like [other man]
- 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]?
Let’s close with this thought…
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.
Joe & Kerry