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Are You Tearing Your Marriage Down with Your Words?
You always… You never… That’s so stupid… What where you thinking? You’re just like your mother… You’re just like your father… I can’t believe you did that…
We’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Many of us heard that growing up. But the truth is – words can hurt us and negative words can really damage a marriage.
We’ve all been hurt by words at one time or another. We know the pain a sarcastic comment can cause. We know how much a snide remark can hurt. So why do we allow these hateful, hurtful words to come out of our mouths? And why do we say the most hurtful things to those we love the very most – our spouses? Why do we ignore how powerful words can be?
James 3:5-8 says this:
“Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
“A restless evil full of deadly poison.” There’s just not a better way to say it than that. The words we say have power. They can hurt or heal – tear down or build up – undermine or encourage. No matter how our marriages grow in maturity, we always seem to find ways to hurt each other, either intentionally or unintentionally. And with every offense comes pain.
Hurt leaves us wide open and upsets our equilibrium. We feel as if our hearts have been torn out and our spirits brutalized. Sometimes we don’t recognize the inner pain right away; other times, we just try to hide it. Sometimes we don’t tell our spouses when they have wounded us because we don’t want to appear vulnerable; we suppress the hurt and act as if nothing happened.
You’ve probably found yourself in a situation like this. Few couples escape the conflicts that result from differences in family backgrounds, personalities, or perspectives. But for some, hurtful words have become the norm in their lives. Some spouses dread going home from work because they know their spouse will have something hurtful to say to them. Some spouses avoid talking with their spouse about issues that are troubling them because they worry their spouse will ridicule them for their concerns. Some spouses have become so beaten down because of years of hurtful, hateful words that they see themselves as worthless.
Hateful words and anger can rob your marriage of intimacy and connection. The mean things we say to each other can slowly erode our relationship – and ultimately destroy our marriage. Many times, we say hateful things because we’re angry, so here are some suggestions for how to diffuse your anger.
Be aware of anger. One of the many myths about anger is that a person with an anger problem shows it through his or her appearance and actions. However, a person with a seemingly calm demeanor can stuff anger and explode when least expected. People need to identify what makes them susceptible to anger, how their bodies respond to anger, and what physical manifestations of anger they adopt when enraged.
Accept responsibility for anger. It’s easy to blame others for our problems. You often hear people say, “So-and-so made me angry.” Blaming a personal reaction on someone else is not appropriate. People don’t lose their tempers; they choose their tempers.
Identify the source of anger. Anger is a secondary emotion that is experienced in response to a primary emotion such as hurt, frustration, or fear. Anger is usually a defense mechanism against being hurt. Frustration is a large part of anger. Frustration occurs when expectations and personal goals aren’t met. The things that frustrate people are usually not very important. Identifying frustrating personalities or situations will prepare a person for handling similar encounters in the future.
Choose how to invest anger energy. You can’t always control when you will experience anger, but you can choose how you will express it. With God’s help, you can find creative and constructive ways to deal with anger. Handling anger well involves open, honest and direct communication. It involves speaking the truth in love. It involves declaring truth and righting wrongs. It involves being open to an apology or explanation and seeks to work toward an agreement.
For many, both the experience and the expression of anger have become a habit. Habits can take some time to break. The good news is that, with God’s help, you can change and grow. As you allow the Holy Spirit to fill you, you can replace the old, unhealthy ways of responding with new, healthy, and God-honoring emotional responses.
Portions of this article were adapted from "Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage," Copyright 2004 and “The Great Marriage Q&A Book,” Copyright 2006 by Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg, all rights reserved. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., www.tyndale.com. To order this resource or to find our more about Dr. Gary and Barb – Your Marriage Coaches, visit www.drgaryandbarb.com or call 1-888-608-COACH.
Married over 30 years, the parents of two adult daughters and four grandchildren, Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg, your marriage coaches, have a unique blend of insight and wisdom that touch people of all ages. Together with Gary's 25,000 hours of counseling experience and Barbara's gift of encouragement and biblical teaching, they are equipping thousands of families across the nation through their interactive daily radio program, conferences, and marriage and family resources.