Earlier this year, I threw myself a pity party for one. Feeling lonely and neglected, I wondered, Why does my husband feel so far away? What’s up with his short fuse and constant eye-rolling? Why doesn’t he show affection or seem interested in our weekly dates anymore? Doesn’t he even notice when I put on lipstick or wear his favorite sweater? When did he turn into such a cold, distant husband? A broken record of negativity played in my thoughts all day long.
The next thing I knew, God crashed my party. His showed his tough love and told me what I needed to hear: “Joanna, you brought this on yourself. Turn that finger around and pay attention to how you’ve been talking to your husband.” Suddenly, I knew. Rob wasn’t the problem. I’d built the wall between us brick by brick with my thoughtless, disrespectful words.
Since the Spirit convicted my heart, he’s helping me to change. He’s teaching me to be quiet when I’m tempted to argue, “help” with constant advice and opinions, or correct his every move. Instead, God is putting affirming and beneficial words in my mouth. This single shift has brought our marriage back to a place of closeness, warmth, and happiness together.
Words are powerful. That’s why today, I’m so excited to share a word of encouragement from our guest, Sharon Jaynes. I know if you and I put her wisdom into practice, we’ll build the strong, loving marriage we’re longing for.
Make Sure Your Broken Record is a Good One
I was going through a drawer at my mom’s house, looking for a scratch pad, when I came across a small vinyl record. It was in a cardboard sleeve dated 1950. My dad made the record for my mom when he was in the Korean War—the first year they were married.
He talked about how much he loved her, couldn’t wait to be with her again, and how he missed her. There was so much emotion in his voice, I could hear it crack.
I listened to the scratchy recording slack jawed. How in the world did this happen? I wondered. How did this couple who obviously loved each other in the beginning, end up having such a terrible relationship filled with physical abuse, violent arguing and months of silent passive aggression?
From my earliest remembrance, I didn’t think my parents liked each other, much less loved each other. I spent many nights hiding in a closet with my hands over my ears to shut out the yelling. But apparently, they didn’t start out that way.
How did that happen? How does that happen?
In the Song of Solomon, Solomon prayed that he and his Shulammite would watch out for the “little foxes” that could sneak in and sabotage the blooming vineyard of their love. (Song 2:15). And one of the most malicious foxes are caustic words that destroy, dishearten, and devalue a relationship. Just as those little foxes can sneak in and ruin a blooming relationship, they can also sneak in and wreck a mature marriage.
Little foxes are anything or anyone that can creep in and weaken a marriage. If they aren’t dealt with, little foxes become big foxes with fangs of disappoint and claws of resentment. After a few years of marriage, we can forget why we married that incredible person in the first place. What was I thinking? This isn’t what I signed up for. This is not who I thought my spouse was.
You can blot out the sun with your thumb if you bring it close enough to your eye. And we can blot out our spouse’s admirable qualities if we hold up the thumb of disapproval close enough to our heart.
It’s not only what we say to our spouses, but also what we say to ourselves about our spouses that affect the atmosphere of our homes and relationships. Whether you tell yourself that your spouse is selfish or lazy, you will begin to look for actions and attitudes to back that up. If you tell yourself your spouse is useless around the house, you’ll look for confirmation and overlook all the ways he or she does contribute to running the family.
Say encouraging words about your spouse to yourself, and you’ll begin to think and act positively.
When you are feeling irritated, ask yourself, “What have I been telling myself about my husband or wife? Am I telling myself that he or she is irresponsible, clueless, lazy, or prideful? Or am I telling myself that he or she is a gift from God, hard worker, and caring friend?” Whatever you tell yourself, you’ll believe it.
We need to avoid focusing on the 5 percent negative and concentrate on the 95 percent positive. Cheer your spouse on the good stuff and give the rest to God. I suggest making a list of all your spouse’s admirable qualities. Not just the outward appearance, but also the inner strengths. Keep the list handy and add to it as qualities come to mind. Then, if you’re smart, one day you will give him or her the list.
The Bible tells us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21 NASB). Oftentimes, the death or life of a marriage is in the power of the tongue as well.
You likely don’t have a scratchy old record of your spouse declaring his or her undying love, but we can all make sure that our spouse has a mental broken record that plays and replays words of love that last a lifetime.
Sharon Jaynes is the author of over 20 books including The Power of a Woman’s Words: How the Words We Speak Shape the Lives of Others and Lovestruck: God’s Design for Romance, Marriage, and Sexual Intimacy from the Song of Solomon.