If you’ve been married for a while, you might have heard your partner say something like: “well, you always ____” or “you never _____.”
You may also know that the fight that comes after those words is usually not worth it and is often regretted by one or both of you. Words like always and never cause a disagreement to escalate quickly and can have a long-lasting impact on your marriage.
So, why do we negatively use these words to motivate our spouse to change their behavior when we know it is hurtful, divisive, and untrue? Nobody is always anything, right? Well, because, at the heart of it all, we are human and unfortunately it is human nature (and instinct) to survive… even if that means placing the blame on someone else.
IF YOU’RE FINDING YOURSELF BEING QUICK TO PLACE THE BLAME ON YOUR SPOUSE FOR WHATEVER NEGATIVE “STUFF “ THERE IS BETWEEN YOU, HERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU CAN DO AND SAY.
Self-control is a really important skill. If you feel yourself starting with the words “you never” or “you always”, take a moment to slow down, take a deep breath, and try to remember the humanness of your spouse- they aren’t perfect and neither are you.
SAY: “I love you and I need a few minutes to calm down before we continue.”
My husband, who I consider a very wise man, reminds me often the importance of seeking to understand before being understood. When you catch yourself expecting perfection from your spouse and in turn being frustrated that they aren’t perfect, try to ask some clarifying questions.
SAY: “So, what I hear you saying is _______. Is that right?”
By doing so, you are giving your spouse a chance to make sure they are communicating their heart and feelings to you to the best of their ability. This will also give you an opportunity to act with insight, wisdom, and grace moving forward.
This is an area where I fall short more often than I would like to admit and it causes quite a bit of grief for my husband. We will set a goal for our marriage (i.e. working on communication, or always asking each other before we make plans), and no matter how much effort he puts into it over the next few weeks, at the first sign of slip up I am all too quick to say, “See, you never ….”. Instead, I should…
SAY: “I see you’ve been working really hard at _____ and I really appreciate it!”
One empowers my husband to love me even better and the other takes away all of his motivation to try at all. Which one do you want for your marriage?
Just like my Middle School P.E. teacher, Mr. O., used to tell me: “Practice makes permanence, not perfection”. So, ask yourself: are you practicing good listening skills, patience, understanding, and tenderness in your marriage? Or are you practicing defensiveness, belittling and anger? Whichever your answer, remember that practice makes permanence and only you can decide if that behavior is the “permanence” you want for your marriage.
Written by Anna Collins
Anna Collins lives in sunny Southern California with her husband and two children. She is passionate about her marriage, staying at home with her kids, writing, coffee, good conversation, and game night. Her life dream is to someday write a book and see it published.