Recently I was at a leadership conference and was struck by how the speakers each spoke about their spouse. Some of them spoke highly of their spouse, while others were disparaging, even taking a passive aggressive tone as they told stories about their spouse.
The truth is: How you speak about your spouse dictates what others think about them.
We don’t often think like this, but it is true. We may vent about our spouse, tell a story that makes them look silly or stupid, or even talk down about them. We think, “I love this person,” and our story stems from there. But the person we’re telling the story to doesn’t love our spouse; they may not even know them.
Consequently, all they know about your spouse is what you say about them.
Two things happen when we talk negatively about our spouse:
- We don’t realize the full damage our words are doing.
- We know full well the damage our words are creating.
If you have kids, they will look at your spouse and speak to your spouse based on what you say about them. If you put your husband down, talk about how he doesn’t come through, your kids will treat him as such. If you talk about how your wife always nags, is never grateful, your kids will treat her that way and believe that about her.
Where do these words come from?
Often when we speak passive aggressively about anyone, there is truth in it. We are masking our hurt and pain with humor. What this does is keep you from experiencing a truly great relationship with your spouse. When you make fun of your spouse, you miss out on trust, oneness and affection. You will each walk on eggshells around each other, just waiting for the ball to drop on you and to be made fun of, to be cut down.
One of the rules Katie and I have for our marriage is that we will never talk down to each other in public, we won’t make fun of each other in public. I want people who hear a story about Katie to hold her in high regard. I want them to think highly of her like I do. This doesn’t mean that we don’t do things that drive the other person nuts or hurt their feelings. We do. We just deal with them in our marriage.
Whenever I hear a pastor or someone make a snide comment about their spouse in a sermon or a conversation, I think, “Why don’t you just tell your spouse?” It is uncomfortable for everyone else.
Remember: No one will think more highly of your spouse than you do.
You are the lid for that. If you have a respect level for your spouse at a five, no one else is passing four.
While this might seem like a small thing, and the idea of not picking on each other may seem like a silly rule, the reality of how many arguments stem from snide comments, passive aggressive comments, mean jokes and stories that make people look stupid has an enduring effect on a relationship.
Here’s how I know.
The next time you are with a couple, and one of them tells a story that makes the other look stupid. Now I’m not talking about a silly story like we went camping and got stuck in the rain, and we’ll laugh about this for the next decade; but one that makes everyone think, “This person is an idiot.” Watch the spouse who the story is about while it is being told and everyone is laughing at them. Watch the life go out of their eyes as they are reminded in front of a group of people, “You aren’t good enough. I can’t believe you did this.”
So, why do we do this to our spouse?
For many, passive aggressive comments and making fun of each other is a love language. A very unhealthy, surefire way to kill a relationship, love language. Many people grew up watching their parents make fun of each other. I know one family that when they get together, all they talk about is stupid things people did in the past and make fun of each other. They do this instead of talking about anything new in their lives, which shows a lot of unhealthiness.
Many couples also don’t know how to have an honest conversation about how they feel, what hurts them, things that drive them nuts that their spouse does. So instead of saying, “I wish you would ask for help, I wish you would say thanks for the things I do,” they nitpick and cut down.
In the end it leaves a lot of couples longing for more and wishing a different way were possible.
There is. Start to think: How do I want people to think about my spouse? And then start talking about your spouse in that light. The irony of this is that people have a way of becoming what we expect them to become.