When we were in premarital counseling, our leader told us many wonderfully helpful things. However, this one thing seemed to stick out from all the rest:
Don’t talk bad about your spouse.
It’s one thing that seems so simple, yet something at which so many seem to fail. Because it’s so easy. You see, we forget that gossip is still gossip even if it’s true. It’s slander if it’s false. If your spouse does something that ruffles your feathers, you still don’t have a license to go “vent” or “unload” or “blow off steam” with your friends. It’s just not okay.
I see this happen all the time with men and women.
At some point, it became popular among men to complain about their wives. They paint pictures (no matter how accurate they may be) of nagging wives who only have more chores or tasks for them to do. Who does this help? How does this convey marriage to the next generation?
More importantly, when you joke or complain about your spouse, what image does that convey about them as a person, as your person? What do your co-workers think about the one you’ve sworn to love and serve when you talk bad about your spouse? What about your mutual friends? What about your own kids?
Some studies have concluded that on average women speak 13,000 more words per day than men. The studies do not venture a guess at how many of those “bonus” words are used to speak poorly of their husbands. Sitcoms have set a bad precedent, portraying husbands as little more than bumbling buffoons who want little more than sex and a sandwich.While this may be the reality for some, it is definitely not for all. Many women are married to hard-working, kind-hearted, dedicated men who love and serve their wives well.
Both men and women frequently talk about their spouses to co-workers, friends, and family. These conversations can be harmless: recounting the weekend’s activities, keeping a friend updated, or answering a co-worker’s caring questions about one’s spouse.
Yet words spoken about a spouse can also quickly become harmful. I think this frequently happens accidentally, but it still needs to be fixed. With friends and co-workers, you should never even give them a chance to see your spouse as anything less than the way you see them, or should see them if you don’t currently hold your spouse in high regard.
However, family is different. When Hayley and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor especially stressed the importance of not speaking poorly about your spouse in front of our family. Parents, imagine if your child called you, hurt or frustrated by their spouse. Maybe it was a simple misunderstanding and feelings were unintentionally hurt or maybe it was an intense argument and deep seeds of conflict were sown. Either way, your child has not worked this out with their spouse yet and they’re passionately recounting the events to you over the phone…what’s your reaction? You will probably side with your child, even if they’re wrong. But that can make things really hard for a married couple, especially when newlyweds are trying to establish new relationships with in-laws.
So who can you talk to about with your spouse? You know it’s not good to keep some of those bitter thoughts bottled up. I would recommend two sources:
1.) Marriage counselor. These people are amazing. Super smart and super caring. They’ll sincerely listen and understand your frustration but they will also point out where you are off track and walk you through ways to make things better. Sharing openly and honestly about your spouse to a professional counselor shows you care enough to work at your marriage because you know it doesn’t just happen (See: Nobody Owes Your Happiness)
2.) A trusted marriage mentor couple. Hayley and I have unofficially had these at every stage in our marriage thus far. You’re looking for an older couple who you know cares about both of you and is not afraid to hold you accountable. They’re also not afraid to walk you down the wise path in your marriage. They are right there with you in the trenches. They are not just giving you trite marriage truisms. Instead, they regularly share real life advice born from real life relationships.
No matter the situation, never talk bad about your spouse. You don’t need to vent to your girlfriends or complain about your wife with the guys. When conflict arises in your marriage…
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32