A while ago we write a post highlighting 8 things that you should never say to your spouse. The post went viral and was read by over 100,000 people the first two days after publication. And we know why: Because words hurt. And even when we love our spouse, because of our propensity to sin, we still hurt them even when we try not to.
Today we want to talk a little bit more about what to do when your words hurt your marriage. What if you have already said many damaging things? What if you try not to say mean things but they still keep coming out? What if you find yourself actually trying to hurt your spouse (or others) with your words, but don’t know why? These are the hard questions we are going to delve into today. We hope that you will find these words insightful and a bit of hope to cling onto as you fight your way out of hurting and into healing and loving.
PLEASE NOTE: We do not encourage anyone to stay in an abusive relationship (verbal, physical, spiritual, etc). So please know that we are only speaking to people who desperately want to change the words they speak but are having a difficult time doing so.
What to Do When Your Words Hurt Your Marriage
1. Accept it.
One of the best things you can do to try and change the way you speak to your spouse is accept any wrongdoing and hurt your words have caused. We speak from experience when we say that we have both had to accept the fact that our harsh words have hurt each other many, many times. It wasn’t until we accepted this fact that we began to start rebuilding our words and our marriage.
Sometimes the word apologize can be seen as an “easy way out” when it comes to relationships. We aren’t talking about that kind of apologizing. No, we are talking about the gut-wrenching, soul-cleansing apology that can only come from a true position of humility and understanding of the wrong doing that has been done. Harsh words do cause damage and the least we can do when we have hurt our spouse (or any loved ones for that matter) is take a hard look at the ugly inside of us that made those words come out.
3. Don’t blame your spouse.
We know that there are many, many relationship issues in this world that drive people to do many different things – speaking harsh words is one of them. But the truth is, it isn’t your spouse’s fault you spoke the unkind words. The unkind words you spoke came out of your mouth, not their mouth.
A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45 NLT
It’s high time that we take accountability for our actions in every area of our lives and speaking unkind words is no exception. Blaming your spouse for your actions only keeps you in a place of denial and prevents you from healing. Trust us, we know. As hard as it is to take true accountability for these words, if you don’t then you are missing your chance to change your heart and behavior. You are also missing out on the chance to repair damage and rebuild trust with your spouse. Take it from us, you want to do the hard thing and work through this.
4. Consider the source of your pain.
One thing that we’ve learned over the last 15 years of marriage is that when we are hurting one another, there is always something that causes the hurt, and often times it isn’t even one another. But how do we know where our hurt comes from? For us we have discovered this in several different ways:
- counseling (both pastoral and traditional)
- talking to family and friends
While the answers don’t always come right away, we have found that if we work hard and are determined to discover why we are behaving contrary to how we feel about one another – we always find an answer. But be prepared, a lot of what you will unearth is ugly and only God and a lot of hard work will help you come to a place of forgiveness and restoration.
5. Pray together and confess your sin before God and your spouse.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 (NIV)
For those of us with a Christian faith this is a very, very important part of our healing process. Without the confession of our sin we are not in right standing with God, ourselves, nor our spouse. For us, this has singlehandedly given us the ability to forgive one another when harsh words were spoken. There is something so real and refreshing when your spouse is able to pray to their God and admit their wrongdoings. Prayer has given us a bond in our marriage that nothing else could replace. We encourage you to do as James 5:16 says and confess your sin of speaking unkind, idol words to your spouse. We also encourage you to ask your spouse for forgiveness. These two steps will help heal your marriage and restore trust in one another.
6. Make a plan to do better.
We have found that if we don’t make a plan we don’t accomplish much of anything. We encourage you and your spouse to sit down with one another and make a plan to help one another do better when it comes to speaking kind words in your marriage. Here are some examples of things we have done that may help you come up with your own plan:
- find several life-giving Scriptures that address the words you speak
- write out some prayers to pray together and pray over one another every day
- talk often about how you are feeling about the words you speak to one another and listen to one another intently
- if necessary, find some outside help to help you navigate through this – sometimes so much damage has been done that a third party may be necessary for real progress
Here is one of our favorite Scriptures to confess over our lives to help us speak life-giving words:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
We hope that you have found some encouragement and a place to start by what we’ve written in this article. Please keep in mind that what works for one won’t work for everyone. However, we truly believe that the steps above can definitely help you and your spouse get on the right track to speaking love to one another. We pray that God will give you the wisdom you need in your marriage so you can continue to fulfill your marriage vows and enjoy each other until the day you die!