The words hung in the air. The kind of words that you regret as soon as they leave your mouth.
“Why? Why? Why did I just say that?”
Next to me sat the person who received the cut from the careless utterances, my husband. I (Megan) know the great power of words yet I still mess up, I still get it wrong. I know the sting of causing my husband, whom I love, pain. Everyone who is married can relate. Words have a way of getting away from us and those same words have an incredible power to affect our spouse deeply.
Assuming that you are as much a work in progress as I am, I wanted to share a few ideas about how to consider the power of the words we use in our marriages.
1. Become aware of the word culture in your marriage.
How much time do you spend speaking encouraging words to or about your spouse? So many times there are things we find endearing and enjoyable about our spouse but do we take time to share those things with our life partner? Never take for granted that your spouse “knows how you feel.” Give them assurances about how much you love them. There is a time and a place to talk to your spouse about changes that may be necessary, but building up your spouse on a regular basis will make those difficult conversations easier. Don’t underestimate the importance of complimenting and reminding your spouse of specific things you love, admire and enjoy about them.
What about the way you speak of relationships outside your marriage? Awareness is just one step towards understanding the word culture in your marriage. It is possible that you and your spouse speak well of each other yet maintain a negative attitude and speech pattern about other people in your life. While there is a time for “venting” and being vulnerable about frustrations and difficulties we face in life, trying to maintain a positive attitude about others will increase the positive affect in your own marriage.
2. Increase positivity in the speech patterns you uncover.
If you uncovered a pattern of speaking negatively about your spouse or others on a regular basis come up with concrete ways to change the bad habit. When you catch yourself becoming negative, complaining or being overly critical about your spouse or someone else, take a time out. What other factors are adding to the negativity? Are you tired, stressed out, feeling rejected or overwhelmed? These factors impact the way you speak and are often the root cause of what comes hurtling out of your mouth. The more in touch you become with why you are saying things the better able you are to make changes in your speech patterns.
3. Accept imperfect progress.(because after all, it is progress!)
Don’t be surprised by the internal resistance to changing speech patterns. Learning to be encouraging, affirming and positive with the words we speak is no easy task. There will be setbacks and missteps. Remembering that imperfect progress is better than no progress is important. When mistakes are made, taking responsibility and making mental notes to work on it benefit and build unity in marriage.
Learning to accept and offer grace continually is the backbone of a great marriage. Words become the vehicle through which grace can navigate into the unreached areas of our lives. Speak life into your marriage and keep working on it even when setbacks come your way.
How about you? What are ways you have found that help you keep positive speech patterns in your marriage?