If you had to grade your significant other based on the way he or she talks to you, what grade would you give? How would he or she score you? As we become comfortable in our relationships, the true content of our hearts shines through more readily. If we have the Holy Spirit living in us, our words and actions should reflect our Savior.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV)
To hopefully save you and your honey much grief, here are ten phrases we strongly recommend deleting from your vocabulary! ~smile~
- You do not have what it takes. Maybe you are madly in love and cannot even imagine telling your significant other anything of the sort. My boyfriend can do anything! My girlfriend is the smartest woman I know! Well, marriage has a way of showing us the best and worst a person has to offer. After time passes, expectations go unmet, and resentment (if given a chance) grows, you will no longer think of your person as the best. His or her limitations will be front and center; and, whether in anger or desperation, you may eventually be tempted to say, “Stop! You cannot do that! You do not have the skills necessary to do that! What makes you think you can do that?! You have never done anything like that before, so what makes you think you can start now?” Few statements deflate our inner-balloons quite like hearing the love of our life say, “You do not have what it takes.” If you are concerned about an endeavor your sweetheart wants to take, listen first. After hearing his or her vision, ask sincere questions. Think about the answers and then (later) approach him or her with sincere concerns. To cut your sweetheart off mid-sentence and say, “You do not have what it takes” is one of the quickest ways to kill confidence and ensure that he or she stops (or significantly slows down) sharing his or her thoughts, feelings, concerns, or joys with you.
- You do not meet my needs. Such a statement can be tricky because we need to speak up when we feel mistreated or if we are struggling. If we feel ignored or neglected, we have to be able to share those feelings or communication will shut down and bitterness will take root. However, to say you do not meet my needs as a blanket statement sends the message: you are a failure. A better way to approach this would be through specifics. “Sweetie, I know you have been busy lately working for that promotion. Is there some way we can carve out some more time for us? I am missing you so much and I do not want us to lose our connection.”
- I am not attracted to you anymore. Not too long ago, a young woman I knew as a teenager recounted the story of her first marriage which sadly ended in divorce. She talked about finding his correspondence with another woman. She talked about him pushing her away. But, the one phrase she mentioned which comes to mind, again and again, is when he told her, “I am just not attracted to you anymore.” Any woman anywhere – thin, heavy, tall, short, beautiful, or less beautiful – would have gasped at his incredibly hurtful comment. True or not, hearing those words from a husband or boyfriend kills a part of a woman’s soul. The body ages, beauty (and strength) fades, and the person you marry will not always be as attractive on the outside as he or she was at twenty or thirty-years-old. However, when we seek to love a person, he or she can grow more attractive as time goes on – especially if we choose someone who possesses a noble character. How a man treats his wife is far more important than how smart he is, or how strong. A woman who treats her husband well shows greater beauty than any celebrity model with a poor attitude. Outward beauty does not last and there is no excuse for telling the woman you supposedly love that she is no longer attractive to you. Encourage her. Build her up. Show her she is special to you and she may just become far more attractive to you.
- You do not treat me as well as (named former boyfriend or girlfriend) did. It is easy to remember the good parts of former relationships and to forget the reasons you parted ways. No relationship is perfect and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Your former boyfriend might have been sweeter than your current one, but what were his weaknesses? Even if you long for the ways you were treated in old relationships, comparing your new loved one to your former love interest is hurtful, unhelpful, and plants seeds of doubt in the mind and heart. Nobody wants to be compared. It always communicates, “You are not good enough” along with a myriad of other messages.
- You do not feel that way. If there is anything that makes us crazy, it is someone telling us what to think and how to feel. “If I say I feel sad, Jack, I feel sad! If I say I feel angry, it is in your best interest to believe me.” Though still not without its issues, reframing your thoughts into a question is safer. Instead of saying, “You are not hurt!” (which is an accusation of lying) it is better to ask, “Why are you hurt?” No matter the circumstances, it never helps to tell someone they don’t feel the way they say they feel.
- You are the biggest problem in our relationship. Paul Tripp did an excellent series on marriage called, “What Did You Expect.” At one point in his teachings, he told us we all had to get to the point we were able to say, “I am my biggest marriage problem.” Though a profound statement, I could not physically allow myself to say it for two weeks. The words stuck in my throat every time. My inner-child was kicking and screaming, “But, I am not my biggest marriage problem! He is!” However, I finally allowed myself to say it, and instead of it making me feel like a big loser, it empowered me to change. Even if we see more sinfulness in our partners than we see in ourselves, we cannot change them – we can only change ourselves. So, when you feel the urge to place the majority of the blame on your partner, take a step back, look in the mirror, and start working on changing yourself. You may be surprised how much your relationship improves. And, if it does not, you have still improved yourself! Blame never pulls a relationship out of the ditch. It only pushes it down deeper.
- I am probably the only person in the world who could put up with you. When our significant others hurt us, it is comforting to think, “Wow. I must be an incredible person because I do not know of anyone else in the world who would put up with this person!” It is normal for such thoughts to surface when we are hurt or frustrated, but allowing them to escape our mouths is unwise and unhelpful. How would you feel if someone said it to you? (This is always a good question to ask before saying something in anger.)
- I never said that! Occasionally, your loved one will be absolutely sure you said something you are absolutely sure you did not say. The human response to being falsely accused is to defend, defend, defend! “I did not say that! I would never say that! I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I did not say that!” The problem is that your honey is standing across the room with a completely different memory and is just as sure you did say it. Emphatically declaring your innocence does little good and a lot of damage. It throws gasoline on the fire and suddenly you are both throwing out hurtful, hateful words you can never retrieve. A better way to confront the accusation is by calmly and sincerely responding, “I do not recall saying that. When did I say that?” Pride tells us to keep pushing our truth until the other one breaks. However, pride and selfishness are at the root of broken hearts and relationships. If your significant other will not concede that you indeed said “it,” instead of fighting a pointless battle, let him or her know that you do not recall saying it, but you are sorry for the hurt it caused. If Eric said to me, “I honestly do not remember making that comment, but you do, it hurt you, and I am so sorry,” I would melt into a puddle. (If you want to apologize as effectively as possible, have your sweetheart take the Apology Language Quiz. After you both take it, exchange and discuss your results.)
- I don’t care. No matter how angry you feel, no matter how beaten down you feel, and no matter how over it you feel, resist the urge to say, “I don’t care.” This phrase communicates to your partner that he or she does not matter, is annoying, is unloved, and is disrespected. When exhausted couples are at the end of their rope, it is tough to resist the urge to throw up hands and walk away from the drama. Phrases like I don’t care shuts down communication in its tracks. Whether you are whispering or yelling, any form of the phrase, “I do not care about your feelings and the words coming out of your mouth right now,” signals the end of mature communication. Chaos ensues which may consist of stonewalling, name-calling, accusations, or screaming obscenities. I don’t care is a verbal slap in the face. If you feel like you do not care (and you will – we all do sometimes), then avoid saying it in anger. It is fine to say, “I need a minute,” or “I am not feeling rational right now. Let’s talk in an hour when we are not so upset.” If you want to say something internally damaging, step away from the situation.
- Any sarcastic, biting comment. Even normal sentences can be damaging if said in a hateful, sarcastic tone. I guess I will have to get another job because you certainly will not get one. The only way to interpret that is, “You are a lazy bum whom I have to support.” Or, “Will you help me with the dishes? Oh, wait. I forgot. You do not do dishes. That is what they pay me the ‘big bucks.’” Such a comment screams, “You are a misogynous (or, misandrous) user who does not appreciate my hard work!” We are quick to chastise physical abuse in relationships (as we should be!); however, psychological, spiritual, and verbal abuse exist as well. It is more difficult to prove these – and, like many abuse victims, it is normal to wonder, “Am I crazy? Am I the problem?” But, a lifetime of biting sarcasm rips the victim to shreds, destroying confidence, causing fear, and making one feel completely foolish, helpless, and unintelligent. If sarcasm is your primary means of communication, please find another avenue to express yourself before getting into a serious relationship or marriage; and, if your partner uses cruel language or sarcasm, please do not move forward in your relationship until significant, time-tested changes have occurred. If you are not sure you can take anymore, you do not have to wait for him or her to change. You do not have to marry someone who repeatedly breaks your heart. You should not marry someone who repeatedly breaks your heart. If you do, the abuse will probably get worse.
Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was only trying to cope with the fact that someone’s words did hurt. No matter how thick your skin, eventually words cause emotions. And, sometimes those who have a thick skin have it because they have turned callous.
No matter how justified we feel in our anger, we do not have the right to rip someone’s flesh emotionally. It is better to end a dating relationship than to kill someone’s spirit.
Silly words cause trills because they’re ludicrous and funny.
Happy words paint endless smiles and swallow troubles whole.
Thoughtful words are thus because they make the day feel sunny.
But hurtful words are such that pierce the heart and weigh the soul.
– Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway
What grade do you give your significant other? What grade do you give yourself?