My six-year-old recently got in trouble for mouthing off to her teacher. Great. The teacher's concern wasn't so much about the behavior itself (although she certainly wasn't thrilled about it), but that the conduct was so out of character for my daughter, who generally has a sweet disposition.
When I talked to my little darling about it, her response was, "I just didn't know it would sound so bad until it came out."
Most adults are still learning that difficult lesson—particularly in regard to our spouses. Many of us (who generally have sweet dispositions) often say things that are hurtful to our partners and damaging to the relationship because we let the first thing that comes into our minds exit by way of our mouths.
Though there can be no exhaustive list of what not to say, here are five statements to bite back the next time they threaten to break the boundary of your lips and breach the ears of your beloved.
What you say: "We can't afford it"
What your spouse hears: I don't care about the things that are important to you
Let's face it. Aside from a house in Barbados or our own Lear Jet, mostly we afford what we want to afford. When your spouse expresses a wish for a vacation, a different job, or even just a new something-or-other for the house, an attempt to kibosh the conversation with a "we can't afford it" can be deflating to your spouse's spirits.
Instead of being dismissive, take the time to discuss. Perhaps you think what your spouse wants to buy would be a poor investment or simply a bad idea. Explore the depth of the desire. Was the remark just idle "someday" dreaminess, as in "I'd love a bigger kitchen" or "Wouldn't it be great to sail around the world?" If so, engage together in planning your dream kitchen for whenever someday comes. Get out the globe and map your route. The sky is the limit. Go for the double oven and be sure to stop by Tahiti. A few minutes or an afternoon of dreaming together is a much better marriage builder than an off-the-cuff dismissive remark.
The wish may be about a deeper desire such as, "I've always wanted to see if I could make it in the catering business" or "I'd like to go back to school." Do you want to be a dream-crusher in this partnership with an immediate response of "We can't afford it"? Or do you want to be one who helps your partner become the person he or she feels called to be?