I’ve heard it so many times—my words have great power in marriage. I have the ability to rip my man down or build him up, to embarrass him or encourage him, to laugh at him in front of others or stand up for him. I’ve watched too many women use their tongues to always speak such harsh words that I made a pledge to do the opposite: Only loving and encouraging things will pour out of this mouth when I’m talking to Caleb!
A few weeks ago I had the honor of sitting down to coffee with Dr. Juli Slattery and Karen Ehman to talk about Karen’s book, Keep It Shut. I walked into the conversation pretty confident because I had already worked so hard to refine the words I use. We were talking about gossip (not me), slander (not me), and then all of a sudden Karen mentioned flattery. “While gossiping is saying something behind someone’s back you would never say to their face, flattery is saying something to someone’s face you would never say behind their back,” she said. Karen went on to talk about how sometimes we don’t use truthful words but just happy and nice things to make people around us feel good, and that isn’t Christlike either. If you listened to this conversation on Java with Juli, you’ll hear I was pretty quiet during that part. Remember in Looney Toons when cartoons figured something out and their brain starts spinning and they just lay back in their chair and let their mind explode? Yeah, that was me.
As I’ve been praying about how I use my words, God has showed me I’m too nice to my husband. Instead of sharing truth, I just share things to make him feel good, and that isn’t my job as his partner and helper.
Sometimes I Don’t Tell Him When He Is Wrong
Go to any wedding and you’ll probably hear Bible verses that talk about the beauty of two coming together. One of my favorites is in Ecclesiastes 4:9–12.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
As this passage says, my husband will fall down, and most of the time I will be the one to pick him up. For the first five years of our marriage, when Caleb has fallen down, I have looked around for anything else to blame it on but him. “Oh, that ground was uneven! Someone must have tripped you. The sun was so bright it was impossible to see that rock on the ground!” I would look at what Caleb was going through and find any reason to assure him that he didn’t make a mistake. Recently, I've realized that isn’t very helpful. If I don’t help Caleb see why he fell and what mistakes he made, he will keep falling. Next time I think I need to look at him and say, “Dude, you just stepped in a giant hole. You have to watch where you’re going!”
When I’m talking about showing my husband his faults, it doesn’t mean nagging him or showing him I’m right, but it means truly being a partner who will help him improve. As I look at major times I have grown, it’s because someone was brave enough to have a tough conversation with me, show me my blind spots, and the correct mistakes I'm making. However, I’ve been so afraid to use harmful words with Caleb that I've completely shied away from any constructive conversations where I can help him see his mistakes and become a stronger man. I wonder if I had been brave enough to have these conversation earlier in our marriage if my husband would be an even wiser follow of Christ?
Sometimes I Don’t Tell Him My True Opinion
I consider myself a pretty strong and opinionated woman. Ironically, I don’t know if I show that to my husband very often. Again, in an effort to be an easygoing and encouraging wife, I sometimes hold back what I really desire and let Caleb figure it out on his own. I’ve seen so many wives plow over their husbands with their opinions, so instead I have become almost silent.
My husband said it so eloquently the other day. “Hannah, when you try and make everything about me you steal any opportunity I have to serve you," he said. "Instead of always doing what I want, can you please tell me what you really want? I don’t want to hear an edited version. If you have an opinion, let me hear it! I married you because I like your thoughts and preferences; don’t hide them from me!” While I thought being nice to my husband was letting him always decide, he is showing me he likes hearing my crazy opinions too.
Sometimes I Don’t Tell Him What I’m Really Feeling
One of my friends is going through a really hard time in her marriage, and it’s been affecting me in some pretty strong ways. The past few weeks I have felt distant, tired, sad, and just a little unplugged from real life. Whenever I’m in a quiet spot, I find myself thinking about my sweet friend and begging the Lord for wisdom. A few nights ago I was praying about it, and I felt the Lord say, “Tell your husband how you feel.” I said back, “No! He has enough stress going on. I don’t need to tell him all of the things that are bothering me.” The more I prayed for my friend, the more God told me to talk to Caleb.
I finally listened to the Lord's prompting and sat down with Caleb to talk through this situation. He gave me wisdom, encouraged me in what I was doing, and even called my friend’s husband so he could help from his end. I was trying to protect my husband from this stress, and I took away his opportunity to love me and bare this burden with me.
I’m learning that being a strong wife doesn’t mean always showering my husband with love and encouragement but being willing to voice my opinion when we disagree, being brave enough to challenge him with God’s truth, and even warning him before he falls into holes.