“Words are free, it’s how you use them that may cost you.” —Anonymous

When a couple is first dating both gals and guys tend to be hyper-aware of their communication — analyzing word choice, pauses and body language. Perhaps reading too far between the lines, we attempt to decipher intention and underlying emotions behind the words.

And then after some amount of time into marriage, the tables are turned and we forget to consider our spouse’s perspective when we speak. Especially during tension we speak from a selfish place, and rather than seeking to build up our spouse we cut them down.

Messages like “You need to shape up”, “You’re not carrying your weight”, and “Your desires aren’t important to me” are destructive to your whole marriage, not just the next 15 minutes. While you may think that these words will elicit a certain response from your spouse, sending these messages erodes the fabric of a healthy marriage.

Alert: Most of the time these messages are sent, you aren’t actually saying those words, and that’s where most people get into trouble.

A wife doesn’t say, “I don’t have time for you”, she constantly reminds her husband of all the high priorities on her plate. A husband doesn’t say, “You’re not good enough”, but he praises another woman’s gifts or traits that his wife doesn’t posses.

To guard against harmful messages tearing down your marriage, it takes more than just “watching your words”. Start by understanding yourself before you speak. If you can identify your own mixture of emotion and perspective you will be able to temper your communication accordingly.

Next, stop and think about how similar situations have gone in the past. If a similar occurrence ended in tears, stonewalling or discouragement, choose an alternate approach that might yield a better outcome.

Assess where your spouse is physically, emotionally, and mentally. Have they been under a lot of pressure at work? Are they sleep deprived? Has their mood been out of the ordinary?

Most importantly, with all situations of conflict large or small, make sure that your attitude and language reflects a person who is seeking a solution. Would an outsider watching the conversation characterize you as someone who is looking to “beat” their spouse, or someone who desires a stronger marriage, united to their spouse?

Take a Break… Take a Coffee Break

169: Is This Abuse?

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