For the month of February, I suggested that my coworkers write about healthy tips for marriage since this month tends to have a love focus. I figured I would take a free pass and skip this particular writing assignment since I primarily specialize in counseling kids and teens. In fact, I am pretty adamant that when it comes to couples/marriage counseling, I do not do it and am happy to provide a referral. So why am I writing a blog about marriage?
I am learning that when it comes to counseling kids marriages are always involved. If there is tension in the marriage, the kids often feel it and are affected by it, and therefore, it shows up in counseling sessions. If the parents have a healthy relationship and are able to provide a supportive environment, that also is evident in the counseling sessions. Even in cases of divorce, the relationship between the parents matters and has a great impact on the child. Your relationship with your spouse is providing your child with the foundation of what to expect in their own future relationships. What is modeled at home speaks volumes in a child’s life. So while I do not specialize in counseling marriages, I find I am often indirectly dealing with marriages when kids are in my office.
So what’s my one tip for having a healthier marriage?
Talk about your spouse in affirming and upbuilding ways. Always.
Have you ever been around someone who bad mouths their spouse? Think about the last time you were around someone who was always venting about what their spouse did wrong and throwing them under the bus. Sometimes the comments might come across lighthearted and humorous, and other times they sound completely unkind. Sometimes the words are spoken out of frustration and other times carelessness. Regardless, what is being communicated is important.
How you speak about your spouse matters. Your words have the power to tear down or build up, to give life or destroy it. Your words can honor, affirm, and encourage, or they can hurt. Scripture includes several verses about the words we say and while these verses are not speaking specifically about marriage, they are still applicable here. Consider the following:
- Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21
- Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24
- Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. Proverbs 13:3
- The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of the evil treasures produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
- Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt. Colossians 4:6
When you speak negatively of your spouse, belittle them in front of others, and do not affirm them in your conversation, essentially you speak death into the marriage. Those words do not communicate respect or honor. Beyond that, they impact the hearers view of your spouse and shape that person’s perceptions.
Speaking life means affirming and encouraging your spouse with the language you use both directly in front of him or her and when he/she is not there. It results in health for your marriage (like Proverbs 16 states). Instead of tearing your spouse down, you have the power to build them up.
Speaking life is important in conversations with extended family members, coworkers, and friends, but it is especially important in front of children. Kids easily pick up on how their parents speak about one another. Hearing their dad or mom talked about in negative ways creates confusion and tension and puts them in the middle of a complex situation where they might feel like they have to choose sides. More than that, the language heard at home teaches them what is acceptable when it comes to the words we use and how we talk about others.
Your words matter. So if you are looking for one way to begin improving the health of your marriage, take an honest assessment of how you speak of your spouse (especially in public). Seek to embody these words from Ephesians 4 and watch as your words build up your marriage instead of tear it down.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. (vs 29-32)