There’s an old adage that, “Hurt people, hurt people,” and in conflict that can easily be manifested in our words. We can use words to bring comfort when our spouse is sad or discouraged, or we can fling words in their direction as weapons of mass destruction.
Because we are both strong-willed, first-born individuals who are communicators, we have natural and developed skills in using words. In the intimacy and vulnerability of a marriage relationship, we learned through the years how to skillfully aim our words in such a way that they usually found the spot where they would do the most damage.
Perhaps you can relate to this either as a “word-flinger” or as a “target.” In our hurt, frustration, or anger we selfishly tried to make the other hurt like we did. Or we used our words to trump the argument—winning the conflict, but losing the intimacy and security in our marriage. We have long since repented and asked forgiveness for that era in our marriage, and have experienced healing as a result of change.
There are four words that we know have no place in any marital conflict and we want to share them with you. Do all you can, with God’s help, to eliminate them from your conflict vocabulary. They are:
Invoking the word “divorce” in an argument shatters security. It is saying that even God isn’t big enough to guide you to reconciliation, so you’re giving up on His help and the marriage.
Think about this: while God could reconcile us from sin and death through his Son, you are declaring He is unable to reconcile two people who once took vows “till death do us part.” That is a lie that is driven by frustration, anger, hurt and egged on by the Enemy of marriages.
God can bring healing and restoration to any couple that is willing to submit to Him and seek wise counsel. We have seen it in our marriage and countless others. Let God grow your confidence in Him as you work through the conflict and honor your commitment to your spouse and to Jesus.
Throwing “you” statements into a conflict puts your partner on the defensive. Its effect is to assign blame. It’s like is a verbal finger being jabbed into their soul. The focus is no longer about the issue at the core of the conflict, but suddenly the focus becomes personal and accusatory.
Instead, make a conscious effort to zero in on the real reason for the conflict. Put the matter in terms of how you feel, or how you see yourself impacted.
For example, if a husband leaves his dirty dishes in the sink after being asked to regularly put them in the dishwasher, his wife could attack him saying, “You’re so lazy you didn’t rinse and put away your dishes like you said you would.” Statements like that simply escalate quickly into conflict and defensiveness.
Instead, she could say, “I am frustrated and feel taken advantage of when I find dishes in the sink like this. It would help me a lot if you (non-accusatory) could put them in the dishwasher, please.” Over time, this approach maintains the relationship and will bring about the desired response.
Always and Never
Using these words is an attempt to stack the deck in our favor. They put our spouse on the defensive immediately to prove that “always” and “never” don’t apply to them. Frankly, always and never are almost always 😉 gross exaggerations. It may feel true, but their use only heightens conflict.
We’ve had to retrain ourselves to use words like “at times,” “often,” and “on occasion.” It presents an honest assessment and keeps the conversation focused on the issue, verses defending ourselves.
This week, pay attention to the words you use if you face conflict. Work hard to eliminate these four words as you Build Your Marriage!