By Meg Gemelli, Crosswalk.com
Wedding planning. Pinterest-inspired living spaces. Parenting hacks. Romantic vacations and date night suggestions. If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that we’ll never suffer a lack of advice on the internet when it comes to keeping a home or making marriage great.
Opinions abound. Biases that began in childhood evolve in response to our personal experiences of dating and marriage. What do we really know about communication? Relationship giants like Gottman, Chapman, Eldredge, and others have much to teach us. Are we listening? Here are 10 things that we should never say to our husbands:
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1. I'm fine.
If there’s a single phrase that can kill intimacy in an instant, it’s this one. This deathly two-word statement communicates a number of things to our husbands:
- I can’t trust you enough to be honest.
- You probably wouldn’t understand how I feel.
- You should already know what I’m thinking and it’s not worth the time to explain.
Being honest with our partners can be scary sometimes, but the reward of healthy intimacy is much greater than the risk.
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.” (Colossians 3:9)
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Recent studies suggest that the “nagging wife, checked-out husband” cycle may not be the biggest threat to a relationship. Researchers are currently considering the ways wives are using the silent treatment.
The effect can be debilitating. Marital satisfaction is low in couples with an angry, silent wife – even more so than those who hash out problems heatedly, then return to business as usual. A cold shoulder is perhaps the most dangerous kind of avoidance.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
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3. Forget it, I'll just do it.
No phrase speaks to haste and superiority like this one. For any wife who’s slipped into “go mode,” this one has probably come up. The mindset assumes that our husbands are incapable or that different is bad. When control and over-functioning becomes the norm, our partners won’t be likely to offer help in the future.
“We ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work...” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
4. Calm down.
You shouldn’t feel like that. I can’t handle your emotions. This conversation will happen on my terms. Those are the messages we send when we tell a spouse to “relax.” For those of us with conflict-avoidant personalities, anger feels scary. We want to stop it, but healthy conflict management requires us to acknowledge every emotion. We need to hear our partner’s honest thoughts without forcing him to speak through our own comfort filters.
“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (Proverbs 18:13)
5. Why are you doing it like that?
Nobody likes a chronic micro-manager. These questions are often addressed to children, but no man wants to feel like a child in his wife’s eyes. There are more thoughtful ways to help.
“Do you need me to do anything?” is a much better option. We remove the accusation of failure or judgment and create an atmosphere of partnership – the foundation of any great marriage.
“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow… healthy… and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16)
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6. You're just like your...
This comment assures its recipient that his entire family comes from a line of bad seed. It’s an identity-labeler. You’ll never change. You can’t help yourself. I don’t like your (Dad) and I don’t like you at the moment. There’s no punishment like throwing a relative’s sins in the face of a spouse.
In the moment, we feel justified to point out a pattern, but over time, shame, distance, and helplessness is fostered, making change and intimacy seem impossible. We may not always agree with our husband’s decisions, but choices can change. His identity in Christ never will.
“But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
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7. My mom thinks we should...
You told your Mom about that? Social women easily share too much information with friends and family. While it’s helpful to garner wisdom, our husbands may feel betrayed if we’re not discerning about when and how it’s done.
Some men have a private nature when it comes to sharing personal information, due to a responsibility to lead the family. Before taking our business to the neighbors, we should first go to the relationship that matters most.
“Her husband has full confidence in her… She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:11-12)
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8. I'm never getting married again!
A woman I know shouted this during an argument. The purpose was to inspire change in her husband, but he heard, “You’ve single-handedly ruined marriage for me. I’d rather be alone for the rest of my life than have another marriage as bad as this one.” He felt like a failure.
We can avoid terminal comments by tackling each problem as it comes, instead of snowballing them into one giant fear of the future. Occasional discord is unavoidable, but there’s hope when we remember that we have an enemy, and it’s not our spouse.
“She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)
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9. If you would just [fill in the blank] then I would...
“Tit-for-tat” is modern-day relationship currency. Sadly, commitment is driven by what we get out of relationships and respect has become something to be earned.
Though it feels like we need a reason to do the right thing, the Bible says otherwise. We’re instructed to respond kindly, even to those who treat us poorly. Women often set the emotional temperature in their homes. We’re called to be initiators of love, not reactors, and encourage our families to follow suit.
“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” (Romans 15:1-2)
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10. I'm not "in love" with you anymore.
It’s a fact that 100 percent of us will “fall out of love” within a few years of marriage. In the beginning, adrenaline is responsible for the heart fluttering sensations of a new partner. Dopamine increases energy. Seratonin keeps love interests on our minds throughout the day, and ocytocin and vasopressin are responsible for pleasure and bonding.
Excitement subsides after two or so years of contact with the same person, so we’re in big trouble when we peg our “love” on a physiological response! It’s not a feeling, but an act of devotion to the one God gave.
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A Prayer for Your Marriage
God, thank you for marriage. It’s not always easy, but help us to season every word spoken to your sons with salt. Thank you for the companionship that we have in our husbands and strengthen us for the journey together. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Meg Gemelli is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a wife and mama to three crazy-brave guys, and an unfortunate disaster in the kitchen. Join conversations about faith, health, and family at www.TheGrittyPearl.com.
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