Marriage, Words, and Staying Together for the Long Haul

love-167044_640One of the biggest blessings I have experienced during my 2 years as a small town pastor has happened during my visits to the local nursing home. While there, I have met several married couples who have been together for decades longer than I have been alive. I have enjoyed watching couples eat together and spend time visiting. I am inspired by these folks and aspire to be together with my wife decades after we both said “I do.” To this end, I have been reading about the difference between couples who divorce and those who remain married for years. One of the interesting tidbits I came across in my reading was related to a decades-long study observing married couples. This study produced an interesting revelation regarding communication between spouses. Couples who exchanged insults or harsh words 5 out of every 100 verbal exchange tended to not divorce. If you increase the number of disparaging remarks to 10 out of every 100 exchanges, the likelihood of divorce increased dramatically. It hardly seems like a big deal, but careless words can take a toll on any relationship. Perhaps this is more so the case with marriage because husbands and wives make themselves vulnerable to each other as a part of their intimate relationship. In that setting, it doesn’t take much to wound each other significantly. The book of Proverbs makes a great comment on this matter: “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Poorly chosen words can injure us. For a spouse, this injury can result in a closing off of intimacy, and often more unpleasant words spoken in retaliation. In turn, this results in more injury, more closing off emotionally, and more harsh words. The snowball effect of a few careless words will have a dramatic impact. One of the biggest differences between married for life and divorced is how much insulting takes place, and the difference isn’t vast. One of the truly challenging issues related to harsh words is that these wounds are not always easily discerned. Hurt feelings related to careless words are often hidden from plain view. They are hidden in the heart and can continue to cause pain well after they have been spoken because they are remembered and replayed.

There are several basic steps that can be taken to overcome this sort of injury in a relationship. First, a real effort must be taken toward carefully choosing the words spoken in marriage. It doesn’t take a large reduction in unpleasant words as statistics bear out. Any effort will make an impact. Second, repairing the damage caused by previous negative exchanges begins with figuring out what injuries took place and apologizing. This isn’t easy because partners aren’t always willing to talk about injuries caused by words. It takes persistence and perseverance to brings these wounds into the open and repair them. This work may seem tedious, but a long and happy marriage is a more than adequate payoff for the effort.

I originally wrote this piece for the Mountaineer. It was originally published in 4/14.

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20 thoughts on “Marriage, Words, and Staying Together for the Long Haul

  1. After 55 years of marriage, I can attest to the wisdom of your article. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kahlers12 says:

    Reblogged this on thewaythetruthandthelife and commented:
    From this post: Couples who exchanged insults or harsh words 5 out of every 100 verbal exchange tended to not divorce. If you increase the number of disparaging remarks to 10 out of every 100 exchanges, the likelihood of divorce increased dramatically.

    Like

  3. Trevor says:

    I process internally before I speak, my wife is a verbal processor. Being at polar opposites, we have had to learn to reach a happy medium. It’s a lot of fun! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • patchingcracks says:

      It sounds like a lot of communication has taken place in your relationship. Y’all have reached a solid understanding… That’s huge. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is good! I shared it on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It helped my wife and I when we realized our main question is different. I concentrate on “what” while she wants to know “how”. Our communication seemed to go in circles before that. “Here is what I want to do”
    “Ok but how are we going to do that?”
    “I don’t know, but this is what I want to do. . .”
    and the volume would increase while frustration would mount.
    Putting myself in her shoes and trying to listen as well as communicate has been good.

    Liked by 2 people

    • patchingcracks says:

      That’s a good bit of input! Communication is the foundation of all marital harmony. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision and fail to see things from her perspective. Awesome collect. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  6. Randall Moore says:

    Your words ring true and I’ve practiced it daily in my marriage, 17 yrs last September. It reminds me of James chapter 3. It paints a powerful picture of the power of the tongue. Your blog is great

    Liked by 1 person

    • patchingcracks says:

      Thanks for the kind words. Agreed about James 3. Just finishing up preaching through the book verse by verse.

      Like

  7. Patti says:

    After 35 years of marriage, I know you are spot on here. I think what is happening in the cycle of harsh words, injury and closing off emotionally is that each spouse is not being respected or loved. I think a husband’s greatest emotional need is respect and a wife’s is love. Of course we both need respect and love but if the husband doesn’t feel respected, he is likely to treat his wife in a way that she doesn’t feel loved and vice versa. I think it is the very reason Paul says to the husband to love his wife and to the wife to respect her husband. Pretty amazing that the whole answer to a fulfilling marriage is right there in scripture in just a few words! If couples would be kind to one another and apologize when they are not, what a different world we would live in.
    Love is…kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • patchingcracks says:

      You are completely right. The husband’s need for respect and the wife’s need for love. I also agree about Paul’s words about marriage. Insightful comment. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  8. kariuki says:

    Words express what is in our hearts. The contradictions of a loving relationship with harsh words blows the fuse and causes serious drain to trust. Your partner is expected to be your best friend and it should be.Spoken Words can not be retrieved and to avoid the damage, careful thought is necessary

    Like

    • patchingcracks says:

      I agree that words reflect what’s in our hearts. Unfortunately, that includes the fallen nature, which winds up coming out in our words far too often. Marriage requires so much grace that it’s hard to be married without offering it constantly.

      Like

  9. vw1212 says:

    great advice. vw

    Like

  10. Good day! I wanted to let you know that I included a link to your blog in my post “How Long is Too Long to Date? Part 2” You have great recommendations for married couples on how to keep things fresh. 🙂

    Like

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