I’m no expert on any of this and am just learning what the Lord has to teach me as I go, but if you’re interested in bumbling along with me, you can read all of the posts in this series here.
I’m assuming you’ve heard of this lady named Oprah, yes? And the power of something called “positive self-talk?”
Not that Oprah created the concept or anything. But when I think of personal pep talks, she definitely comes to mind.
I’m honestly not super-great at positive self-talk. I can beat myself up with the best of them. But I can also be disdainful in general of the potency of motivational quotes and rah-rah speeches. Probably because, deep down, I’m a bit of a cynic (I prefer “realist,” but when the Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances, semantics are pretty moot).
And yet, I can’t ignore Ephesians 4:29: “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.”
And I would assume that includes the things we tell ourselves.
It definitely includes the things we say about our husbands.
Which is why–in many ways–positive husband talk is one of the best things we (I, me…preaching to myself) can do for our marriages.
I am blessed to be surrounded by women, who, in general, speak positively about their husbands. I have several close Christian friends who have never “husband-bashed” in my presence. And unless I have a serious case of marriage amnesia, I think I can claim the same.
I mean, honestly, Shaun is pretty easy to praise. He’s kind. He’s witty. He works hard. He’s a great daddy. He loves the Lord. He’s genuinely my best friend. And he’s super hot too, so there’s that. 😉
I have few (if any) legitimate complaints.
And any I do have are usually brief and certainly don’t bear airing to anyone else but him (or the Lord).
STILL! This does not mean that I’m always perfect in the way that I speak to him. (Or about him, although this is not my main struggle).
Recently, two incidents came to my attention that made me analyze more closely how I communicate my regard for my husband to him and to others.
In one case, the claim was legitimate. I was tired/hormonal (not an excuse, but it was the context), and I responded shortly/dismissively/disrespectfully to one of his requests in front of someone else. And that person noticed! I have since apologized to Shaun, but that incident is lodged in my mind as an example of a time when I failed to present a godly snapshot of marriage.
In the other example, my “rudeness” was completely misunderstood as I was only pretending as part of an inside joke between me and Shaun–one that he finds hilarious and one that it never occurred to me could be misconstrued. But still. It affected this person’s opinion of my treatment of my husband.
What we say about and to our spouses matters (duh) but, especially (for women), in the context of how we display respect to our husbands. (Because I don’t know a single man who values “lovey dovey” over words of acknowledgement, affirmation, and praise).
I have an acquaintance who has mentioned several times that she becomes frustrated with the way her husband goes about certain tasks and that she would just rather do them herself. She’s not negative, per se. Simply dismissive. And yet, I can’t help but have a different view of her husband (and their relationship) than I would otherwise have.
I overheard another conversation recently (because I was in close vicinity and incapable of moving) about a wife’s refusing to even consider her husband’s wishes on a certain subject that I can’t unhear, and it has–whether it should or not–created an image of their marriage in my mind.
I’m not saying we should lie. Or that we should present a rosy picture when there is genuine conflict at home. I’m just saying that proclaiming it to the world–like a stranger in a restaurant the other day was doing too loudly for me to ignore–is doing no one (least of all, us) any good.
Yesterday, with at least mild fear and trembling, I asked Shaun if he felt like I used kind, respectful words with him in general (because I know the answer to “all the time” is no).
His response? “In general? Yeah! I mean, sometimes, you can be short. But for the most part, yeah.”
Phew. I passed (although you could argue that what else is a guy going to say to his seven-month-pregnant wife if he values his life? ;)).
I knew what he meant, though. Especially in the last several months, there have been certain days when I’ve felt like I could crawl out of my skin with irritation for no good reason. (Thank you, pregnancy hormones). So, even though, for the reasons I listed at the beginning of this post, I generally find it easy to be nice to my husband, that’s not necessarily what actually comes out of my mouth if I’m especially tired. Or emotional. Or fed-up with kid drama. Or…
If I tried hard enough, I could probably find a justification for speaking snippily to my husband all day every day.
None of them would cover my sin, though.
And none of them would change the fact that–even when he takes it well or says he understands–I am not “building him up according to his needs.”
The Lord has been impressing this on my heart in pretty much every area of my speech lately, if I’m honest. But it might as well start with how I speak to and about the man God has given me to respect, love, and serve for a lifetime (because if I can’t speak words of life to him, how am I ever going to hack it with everybody else?).
But, Abbie. What if I struggle to find even one nice thing to think or say about my husband? I get this. Completely. Not about my husband. But about a different relationship in my life in which I fail miserably in this area more often than not.
And I have a challenge for both of us: let’s pray for the Lord to reveal one tiny thing for which we can praise this person. For at least one word that we can genuinely speak that will be “life” and not “death” to this person’s soul. No matter how much we think they don’t deserve it. (Because what do we deserve except eternal punishment and separation from God in hell? Thank you, Jesus, for the cross!) And for strength to keep our mouths shut until we hear from the Lord what that word might be.
And if you find your husband easy to praise, ask yourself: when was the last time I said out loud–either to him or to someone else–at least one of those good things I know to be true of him? I’ll be asking myself the same thing.
I’m not naive enough to think that every (or any?) marriage makes it so very easy to focus on spouse-thankfulness. But neither am I cynical enough to dismiss the benefits (to our husbands, to ourselves, and to those who hear us and are encouraged) when we choose praise over criticism. Not to mention that, when we do right, it brings glory to God!
I am grateful for the godly example of women who have realistic, yet unfailingly positive things to say to and about their husbands. And I pray the Lord would make me more like them each day.
Feel free to shout out something you love about your husband in the comments! (Just don’t forget to actually say it to him too :)).
I love being around ladies who speak about their husbands with respect and affection. Husbands are the best!
I hear you. It’s been something I’ve been thinking on lately a lot (not just positive husband talk, but general positive talk). I find ppl that complain draining and irritating…. yet I sometimes I feel it’s good to be honest. Where do you find the balance between being authentic and painting an unrealistic picture of your life.
I get what you’re saying, Kahlie. I honestly have zero complaints about my husband that would warrant airing here. And yet, I wrote an entire “I Do Chronicles” post about a time when he made me angry (and how I didn’t handle it well because it was mostly my problem). Obviously, we don’t have a perfect relationship, and sometimes, I feel like it’s appropriate (with his knowledge) to post examples of that for the sake of showing something the Lord taught me through it. It’s not whining or venting in that instance. Same with my kids. I’ve been super-open here with how challenging the twins have been to parent over the last 18 months. But, in general, I am extremely positive about motherhood…not because it’s easy but because it truly is super-rewarding/worth it/good (and, yes, fun, sometimes too! ;)).
The line is going to be different for everyone, but I think, for me, when I find myself RELISHING telling someone else about how something has irritated me, I’m doing wrong. If I look forward to it, there’s something amiss in my perspective. If I only share it with great thought, wisdom, and reluctance with a person to whom it pertains specifically, then I miiiiiight be justified in it?
It’s tricky, for sure.
Excellent reminder. I find that I am not always speaking negatively to/about my husband, but forget to speak positively/encouragingly (is that a word? I had to sound that out like 12 times) to him. You gain no relationship if you just don’t say bad things. And however stoic/non-mushy/non-feeling oriented some men can be, the admiration and respect of their wife is a treasure! Thanks for the post, Abbie!
I challenged myself before I got married to never speak negatively about my husband in public (after all, I was the one who married him, so what does that say about me?), but of course after I got married it’s easy to get caught up in some of the negative conversations women tend to have about their husbands. It seems to be par for the course in so many conversations and it’s too bad. I am convicted to respect him not only in public but behind closed doors (I got a good one, too, so I really do like him), but sometimes the words slip out anyway. Thank God for husbands who have grace for us and for God who never ceases to love us in spite of ourselves.
I love this. It is something I work at every day, and fail at all so often. I believe I am quite good at speaking well of my husband to others, but I think my biggest failure is when I am speaking only with him. I let my guard down so much that I am often my barest self: short, snippy, and discouraging. I hate that. I am working at bringing my discouraged self to the Lord more, and bringing encouragement to my husband. Great post, Abbie. Thank you for the encouragement
I love that way of looking at it, Amy. Bringing our discouragement to the Lord and bringing our encouragement to our husbands. By the way, aren’t you 2 days “overdue” with twins???? You’re a rock star, mama!
YES! 2 days “overdue” if you can believe it! They are holding me hostage at this point 😉
My husband of thirty years was recently asked what the secret of success was for a long marriage. He thought for a while and then answered, ” Marriage is never 50/50. Sometimes one has to “give” more than the other. Sometimes one “takes”, usually without realizing it, more. And never ever go to bed angry with your spouse. Always tell them that you are sorry for the way you spoke or acted.”
He also told the young lady, ” Never keep score of how many times you have to give vs. take. If you score keep then your doomed.”
Your husband sounds very wise, Ann!
Love this so much.Thank you for sharing. Sometimes they need to hear it from a younger woman because they think we older women have amnesia and don’t remember how hard it can be in the trenches.
Thanks for your encouragement! I am definitely grateful for a man who makes the “trenches” so much more enjoyable than they otherwise would be. And I am grateful for the godly example of older women who speak well of their husbands. I actually think that’s the biggest “tell” because they’ve been with them for so long, and if they can still say nice things, years later, that’s testimony to him, them, and God. 🙂
I am writing this in tears. I needed to read this post this morning. Thank you. I’m cringing as I think about an off-hand comment I made in church yesterday to my husband and how that was received by him and perceived by others. I have some forgiveness to seek and some thinking to do!
Praying the Lord brings so much good out of this for your relationship, Sheryl. Your soft heart is encouraging.
I’m definitely not always on board with the opinions you have and voice (I’m probably far too liberal), but you got me thinking and I really want to thank you for that!
I think of myself as a rather positive person, however, I don’t always talk about my husband (or other people in general for that matter) as nicely as I should, so I am going to try and work on that because what you said about the image you get of others and their relationship really got me thinking that it is the same with me and that I really don’t want others to think less of my husband just because I felt I needed to rant (hormonal, too, 24 weeks along). The same goes for my child as well, since, especially with other mums, it’s just so easy to preach into the “complaining about your children-choir”.
So thank you very much for today’s post and for inspiring me to do/be better!
Best from across the ocean (Germany)
Thanks for the comment, Sarah! I’m glad the Lord used the post to speak to you!
it is very important to be sure to surround one’s self with friends who are also positive about their relationships. granted one can need to seek advice or a dose of wisdom from others but it is so easy to have it turn into a whining bashing situation. This was a really wisely written reminder for all your readers. I thank you very much.God bless you.
You’re so right, Brenda. Sometimes, godly counsel is a must, but whining/bashing is never okay!