Honest couple communication – especially between husband & wife – is essential for creating connection and lasting joy. But should you be able to say whatever you want to your mate?
I’ve always tried to be careful what I say to My Beloved. But many folks – mostly women, it seems; but some men, too – believe you should be able to say whatever you want to your mate. They call it “just being honest.”
On the other hand, some are too careful about what they say because they’re trying to get a particular response from their partner. Actually, that’s manipulation, and I’ve never seen it work to create true connection in any relationship.
The Psychology of Better Couple Communication
As a Couples Psychologist, I’ve seen both extremes.
“letting it all out” or
The saddest thing about those who’d like better couple communication is that most don’t even realize what they’re actually doing!
So here are my 5 Reasons for being careful what you say.
1. Words can hurt.
Think before you speak: Could what you are about to say be experienced as attacking, blaming, or criticizing? Just because your feelings are hurt does not give you the right to hurt someone in return.
Two “wrongs” never make a “right.”
A counterattack will not get you the response you’re hoping for when you are hurt, but will instead elicit a defensive response from the one who hurt you. Consider these two options and you would respond to each:
What you just said really hurt.
You’re such a jerk!
2. Words can heal.
Be kind and gracious toward one another. You may have heard that “hurt people hurt people.” Consider what might be behind the other person’s behavior. Chances are he is acting defensively by being offensive … like I just warned you against doing (see above).
If you’re partnered with someone you love, it’s probably because you really like the person he normally is. So if he is behaving in a way that is “out of character,” it makes more sense to assume he has a good reason for that. Not an excuse, but a reason. Why not find out what it could be?
You seem really tense today. What’s happening?
If you don’t get an answer that makes sense, you can follow up with …
Ok. I’m sorry I burned the toast, but it seems like it’s more than that. I care about you, and I’m here if you want to talk about whatever else seems to be going on.
Then stop talking. Go on about whatever you would be doing under less stressful circumstances, remaining open to hear what’s troubling him when he’s ready to talk about it. (See also When You Love a Broken Man.)
NOTE: Please know that I am not talking here about anyone who is in an abusive relationship, which requires a different strategy. Here is a quick way to evaluate your situation, and if you are in an abusive relationship, please seek the help of a local mental health professional or Christian Care Connect for additional types of care providers.
3. Words can curse.
Assuming the worst about your mate and saying it aloud is essentially the same as pronouncing a curse upon him. Trust me. You don’t want to speak out that kind of potentially self-fulfilling prophecy! (James 3:10)
You know you’re cursing if you begin with “you always …” or “you never …”
It’s also wise to be aware that saying those things to your friends or relatives – with earshot of your spouse or when he’s not around – still register as curses.
The wise woman builds her house,
But with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. (Proverbs 14:1)
4. Words can bless.
Paul’s admonition to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:5) does not give you permission to tell your mate everything you think is wrong with him.
I believe what Paul means is that you should speak the Truth about how God him: as His Dearly Beloved Child.
The most important thing you can do for your mate is to learn to see him as God sees him. Jesus loves him as the man he is, as well as the man he is becoming. Let’s partner with that!
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3
5. Words can create.
What we think – and especially what we say – impacts the world around us. And that includes the people you love – as well as the people you don’t.
We all believe the world is in more trouble than it’s ever been. So use the creative power of your words to make the world a better place.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
Here are a few more words from the Word about words … and reasons to be careful what you say.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God! (Deuteronomy 32:3)
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:9)