10 statements that will change your marriage

(for better or for worse)

10 statements that will change your marriage

When you get married, you’re looking for the “magic words” that will propel you and your spouse into marital bliss. You’ve watched a lot of romantic comedies, and you’re waiting to hear “You had me at…” or “I’d die for you.”

Instead, you hear “Why can’t you—“ and “You should have—.” Arguments spin out of control from what seem to be simple conversations, like who forgot to put gas in the car or who left milk on the counter.

The reality of married life is that we all settle into negative and positive communication. Both kinds of communication change a marriage, for better or for worse. Married life is a fast-paced adventure. Take steps to insure you are not disappointed or confused about the hardships you will encounter along the way.

Proverbs 12:18 warns, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Let’s look at some common negative and positive statements that have the power to bring healing to your marriage, instead of strife.

Negative Statements to Avoid:

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

  1. “You always… /You never…”

While it may seem like your husband never puts down the toilet seat or your wife never gets ready on time, making “always” and “never” accusations puts your spouse in a defensive posture. It’s an attack, which means the person being attacked will go into fight/flight/or freeze mode because he/she feels threatened. When threats are emanating from the spousal relationship, hurt and distrust will be sown into the marriage. Be careful not to pigeonhole, over-exaggerate, or misinterpret your spouse’s actions. Nobody does the same thing all the time. Pointing out an annoyance with “always” or “never” creates a combative environment and will certainly not encourage changed behavior. An alternative action toward annoyances is to have honest conversation. Express how your spouse’s actions make you feel. That directs the conversation toward your problem, not his/her problem.

  1. “If you _____________, I’ll divorce you.”

This statement is a threat and a signal that your commitment to the marriage is conditional. Although your intention might be to draw boundaries or give a warning, you’re really saying, “Measure up to my standards, or you will prove yourself unworthy of me.” That’s not a “til-death-do-us-part” promise or a covenant with God (He doesn’t manipulate us). When catastrophes happen in your marriage, seek wise counsel until the issues can be worked out. Divorce is just one of many solutions to continued disagreements. Let a professional guide you through other options before leaping to divorce.

  1. “We never should have gotten married.”

Many people, during rough patches of married life, wonder if they married the wrong person. they may even get angry at God for “directing” them to the wrong person. Remember that God’s will is that you worship Him. Marriage is merely a tool for that purpose. Wedding day vows exist to remind you not to bail out when the marriage gets tough. Instead of obsessing about your incompatibility, focus on learning to become a better person and better partner to your spouse. Believing that your spouse isn’t good enough for you or that you could do better if you married someone else sets you up for infidelity, bitterness, and/or misery.

  1. “I told you that you shouldn’t _________.”

Any version of “I told you so” passes blame and responsibility to the other person and claims superiority for oneself. It means you’re too proud to consider your contribution to the misunderstanding. That’s not exactly a friendly atmosphere for communication or problem-solving. If you retaliate or blame your spouse, you are showing disrespect, thus driving a bigger wedge between you and avoids the real issues under the surface.

  1. “Everyone was right about you.”

Similar to “I never should have married you,” this one adds another punch—shame—(i.e. my friends or family hates you, and we’ve talked about you a lot). Using relatives or friends as ammunition against your spouse communicates a collective idea that your spouse will never amount to anything, and everybody knows it. It also confirms that you love other people more than your spouse, since you are willing to engage their negative opinions about the person you married. Even if you resolve things between you, you’ve planted the seed that he/she will never please you or the people whose opinions you value. You have taken a hack-saw to his/her self-image and removed the possibility of a good relationship.

Positive Statements to Incorporate:

Proverbs 16:24 promises, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” 

  1. “I will love you forever.”

Ephesians 6:23 explains how a husband and wife should love/respect each other: their relationship should mirror Jesus Christ and the church. Eternal, sacrificial love is not a feeling—it’s a decision. It requires sacrifice. That’s what loving forever is all about. The proof of forever-love is in the daily grind–the sickness, depression, misfortune, and failures of life.

  1. “I’m not leaving. You can’t push me away.”

Sometimes, when a person is in crisis, he/she begins using language like “You’d be better off without me,” “I’m no good for you,” “Why don’t you leave me?” These are cries for help; they are indications of emotional stress and insecurity, not a desire to be parted from you. Rather than jumping down the rabbit hole with anger or flattery, affirm your commitment to your spouse. Address the root of these comments by taking your spouse to see a counselor who can help peel away the layers of fear that will ruin your marriage.

  1. “You’re my hero. You’re amazing.”

Stating your admiration for your spouse in reference to character (who he/she is) is key to building a strong marital relationship. Beauty will fade, but integrity will gain strength and influence with encouragement. Look for ways to appreciate and admire your spouse for internal, not external, beauty and accomplishments. Praise will also make it harder to find fault and will create an environment of grace and security.

  1. “I want to help you. Tell me how.”

When our spouse is struggling through something, instead of solving the problem or telling him/her how to solve it, try asking how your spouse would like you to be involved. This will eliminate disappointment and confusion on both sides and give you a chance to problem-solve together. Your spouse may not know how you can help–he/she may only feel the present crisis. In that case, look for ways to affirm your spouse and lighten his/her stress level. Speak your spouse’s love language. Your spouse may want to handle problems alone; if so, have a conversation about why. (Problem-solving alone is often due to insecurity or a fear,) Affirming your love and support can be the best help of all. When your spouse feels safe with your response, he/she will invite you into the solution.

  1. “I’m sorry for ____________; please forgive me.”

Admitting your faults, asking forgiveness, and asking your spouse how you can make it right covers the basics of a good apology. If you are not willing to go through the complete forgiveness process with your spouse every time you have a disagreement, you will not completely resolve the offense. Then, the next time something similar happens, you will find yourself in an escalated argument, simply because a previous issue had never been settled. Take ownership of your part in every disagreement, even if you erred unintentionally. Be willing to apologize first.

Communication is not a mystery. But it is an important part of being happily married. 

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

 

Reprinted with permission from Crosswalk, published Jan. 30, 2017.

 

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