Have you seen your husband withdraw from you mid-conversation? My husband is nonconfrontational so he reverts to grunting or tuning me out. If you are married to an A-type man he may actually shut down by pivoting the conversation to a topic he knows will start a fight. What makes him shut down like that while we’re talking? In a Marriage counseling session, we learned about toxic words that put us on the defensive and show contempt in marriage. These toxic words destroy communication and we know how important communication is in marriage right!?!?. Today I want to show you how to replace three of these Toxic Words and see ways to improve communication in a Christian Marriage.
What is a toxic word?
If something is toxic it is harmful, it can cause death. As we discuss words that bring life it is critical to identify words that bring death and replace them in our vocabulary. We don’t want to allow anything to come out of our mouth to our husband that will hurt him. I mean, honestly there are times I want to scream at him, knock sense into him, but I didn’t realize I was hurting him inadvertently.
Ephesians 4: 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
There are at least Three Toxic words that create barriers to effective communication in Marriage.
When we are talking (arguing) as a couple, it is tempting to start a sentence with these words.
Really you should…
Those were common phrases in our home until that night in Christian Marriage Counselling. We learned that these Three Toxic words are feeling words. To have effective communication we need words that are true and factual rather than laced with emotion and accusation. Words that begin as through that now have to pass our Philippians 4:8 test right?!
And let’s be very honest, the only ONE who is Always or Never anything is God. My husband is not perfect – so those words do not speak the truth about him.
When you hear any of those three toxic words come out of your mouth they need to become red flags that the conversation is becoming critical, emotional and accusatory rather than factual, loving and constructive.
Toxic Words are a barrier to effective communication in Marriage
Why do we use Toxic Words?
If I hear myself say something like “Bud you Never take the trash out” or “You always leave the laundry on the floor”, I hear a red flag.
Most of the time that red flag is about me not him.
- It reveals an area I have not forgiven him for forgetting or neglecting his responsibility in the past.
- Those words show me where I am not accepting him as he is.
- They remind me I have unrealistic expectations on him that I need to give to God.
- At times they reveal a selfish heart that is angry at the inconvenience he caused me.
That red flag is a warning that I need to address the problem with God, own my part. and accept my husband as he is.
When you ignore the red flag of toxic words your husband hears the accusation and shuts down.
How to stop using Toxic words in a Christian Marriage
Forgive easily and quickly and let the offense stand alone.
To correct this habit (and Y’all for me those words were a habit) I have to be intentional to forgive my husband every day. This is an amazing set of Bible Verses about Marriage!
Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
When I am forgiving my husband the way Jesus teaches us to forgive I can let go of past mistakes and hurts – even when they are regularly repeated.When I am forgiving my husband the way Jesus teaches us to forgive I can let go of past mistakes and hurts - even when they are regularly repeated. Click To Tweet
Note here that I am not talking about abuse of any kind. If there is abuse in your marriage seek help.
When the issue of Forgiveness is taken care of we simply have to correct our words.
Instead of “You Never” I would say…
“Bud, when you forget to take out the trash I get frustrated because it adds one more thing to my list of things to do.”
When I start the conversation with an “I Statement” it opens up communication. We are able to talk about real relationship problems and discuss possible solutions.
When the issue stands alone it takes the bite out of what could have been an argument. You will be less easily offended when you are forgiving your husband instead of sweeping the marriage problems under the rug hoping they go away. They never do. We hear them come up as a situation is repeated and we accuse him. “You always” or “You never” are big red flags to unforgiveness in my life
The Special Issue with “You Should Statements”
“You should” is another statement that needs to raise a red flag for us. Should statements indicate expectations? Some expectations are realistic and some are more than our man can live up to. If you are struggling with this go back to Session Two in this Free Marriage Communication Workshop about how to accept your husband as he is. And if you haven’t registered, be sure to do that below:
When you hear yourself say “You Should” stop and think through what you are saying. Check that expectation against scripture. If it’s biblical, try starting the conversation with an “I Statement” when emotions are cooled off.
“When you do … I see…”
“Sometimes when you … I think…”
An example of a You Should Statement from my marriage.
You should be able to keep a job. You always quit a job with no job lined up in the wings. Why can you never just stay put and put our family first?
Yes, that has come out of my mouth. We are in a season of Hubby trying to find a new career path and he has switched jobs more times these past 4 years than I’ve switched purses.
Let me just say that he shut down, walked away and didn’t talk to me for a while as a way of setting boundaries in marriage. When he did talk to me it was to pick a fight about something else. No one won that day. It left me wondering:
- What does lack of communication do to a relationship?
- Will a lack of communication in marriage lead to divorce?
- How can we fix the communication problem in Marriage?
See how easy those negative thoughts came back?
Are you working on Changing your negative thinking? It’s a process! If you are joining us as we near the end of this Free Marriage Communication Workshop be sure to register below and go back to the beginning.
We have struggled financially. The bible does clearly say the Husband is to provide for his family. So I had to re-frame this conversation – after much prayer. Let me say that again. After. Much. Prayer.
The I statement conversation began like this.
Bud, when you change jobs so often I feel insecure and scared about how we will pay the bills.
He responded with tears and began pouring his heart out about the burden he feels to provide but the struggle he feels to find the right job. It was a great conversation that grew us and let me know how to pray for him more specifically.
Same topic, just a different starting phrase. Using this Marriage Communication tool takes practice but it is absolutely worth it.
Before replacing those Three Toxic Words with I Statements I felt like I had no voice in our conversation. Anytime I brought up a hard topic he shut down did his own thing and I was left wounded. I felt like a doormat, part of a team being left out of the big decisions that affected my very real part of our life.
When I switched my words (and prayed more than I talked) I began to be let back into my husband’s heart. Using I statements helped keep the tension and defensiveness out of conversations and allowed us to really talk.
Now, when I talk he hears me and I understood him better. This Marriage communication exercise will pave the way for intimate conversation even if there has been none for years! There will still be difficult conversations – we will talk about how to approach those tomorrow!
In Conclusion: Use I Statement to replace Toxic words and improve communication in marriage
Today we saw that we can replace toxic words with I statements. Take time to listen to yourself this week and jot down anytime you hear yourself use these Toxic words. Use Session Nine in your Workbook to help you work through it this.
If you used a Should Statement find a verse to be sure it is an expectation that belongs to your husband. Begin thinking about ways to replace those Toxic Words with I Statements. Don’t forget who the real enemy is and stay committed to not speak words of death as we fight a very real battle for a Successful Marriage! This is a powerful communication exercise to diffuse tension and save a marriage.
If this is an area you are working to improve in your marriage be sure to join the Workshop, download the effective communication in Marriage PDF workbook that is filled with even more Marriage Communication exercises! You will also receive Printable Bible Verses about communication.
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