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“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me!”
It doesn’t take long to realize this old saying is a big fat lie. While the sticks and stones certainly hurt us physically, words can cut like knives into us mentally and emotionally. This is especially true of our spouses.
There are any number of things you shouldn’t say to your spouse, but here are five things you may definitely want to reconsider saying before you do so:
“But you did that a few months back, remember?”
Arguments are going to happen in marriage. It’s unavoidable, and it’s part of what makes marital bliss difficult at times. When our spouse confronts us about something we did that hurt or offended them, we tend to immediately put up our defenses.
What’s even worse is when we, as a part of our defense, bring up some past hurt our spouse caused us. This shows two things: our need to keep score of wrongs and our unwillingness to admit our own wrongs.
Be humble, and recognize that you hurt your spouse, even if it was unintentional.
“I can’t forgive you for that.”
If you’re a follower of Christ, this statement is contradictory to your faith. We’re told in Ephesians 4:32 to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as Christ Jesus forgave you.”
Along with the previous thing you shouldn’t say, this falls in line. Marriage is intended to be a portrayal of Christ and His union with the church. Can you imagine Christ telling us there are things He wouldn’t forgive us for?
Forgiving our spouse doesn’t remove the hurt. It shows them we don’t hold that hurt against them. This can be a sensitive issue depending on the wrong one spouse committed against the other. Adultery and abuse cause deep scars that can take years to heal. Forgiveness is never easy, but bitterness against our spouses can take root and keep a marriage from thriving for a long time until forgiveness finally takes place.
“That is a stupid thing to care about.”
Maybe you’d say to your spouse “Football is such a ridiculous thing to care about” or “The Bachelor is a stupid show,” showing your contempt for something they care about, even if it seems small.
When we marry someone, we enter a relationship with someone who is going to have a variety of different likes and dislikes. Those likes and dislikes aren’t all the same as what ours might be. Because we love our spouse, we in turn also learn to love, if not at least appreciate their interests.
Most of us men think The Bachelor is a lame show, but if our wives like it, then we learn to like it simply because they do. In turn, wives may think some sports are a silly thing to get worked up about, but because their husband’s favorite team just lost the big game, they share in that hurt in part, too.
In my 10 years of marriage, I’ve come to appreciate women’s gymnastics and horses, two things before marriage I could have cared less about. Caring about what our spouse cares about is critical to a marriage. It shows great love for them, and also that we are willing to place their wants and desires above our own.
It seems like a harmless word. Like an “anything goes” statement.
The fact is, when presented with a question from our spouse seeking our opinion, saying “whatever” might as well be saying “I don’t care.” What do you think of this outfit? Where do you want to go for dinner? Do you want to see a Nicholas Sparks movie tonight or the new one with Vin Diesel driving fast cars?
Our opinion matters because our spouse matters. When they ask for an opinion, shrugging it off with “whatever” is a tiny dart that tells our spouse we don’t value their question enough to give it thought and consideration. When we do that enough times, it adds up to our spouse feeling unworthy. Again, showing genuine interest in what our spouse is thinking about or concerning themselves with shows great love for them. Stop with the “whatevers.”
“You look so tired!”
This “thing you shouldn’t say” is mostly intended for husbands. You may think you’re being sympathetic, but if she is tired, it’s the last thing she wants to hear, and if she isn’t, then you’re in trouble.
There are probably many more things we shouldn’t say to our spouses. And there are probably some specific to your marriage that you can think of. And this doesn’t just apply to marriage—it’s important to be aware of the tender topics in any relationship, the things that we can use as weapons to wound or defend or stir up an argument. But coming from a spouse or a family member, they can cause the deepest cuts of all.
If you’re not married, begin now considering things you say to friends or family that can cause a negative impact on your relationships.
Marriage is a lifetime commitment. Ensuring we avoid saying things that can unnecessarily hurt our significant other makes that marriage commitment honoring to both our spouse and to God, even if it means sitting through a season of The Bachelor (or a football game).
lives with his wife and two daughters in Bowling Green, South Carolina, where he writes about faith, pop culture and sports.