To me, there is nothing that shows me more issues in a marriage than how the spouses speak about each other. It feels like everywhere I turn, I hear a spouse complain about their husband or wife– and when challenged to change they feel unheard.
Why is it that in order to feel heard or seen by others, we must feel supported in our sinfulness and gossip?
Our culture surrounding honoring and respecting our husbands in particular has drastically changed from what God calls us to. I have seen couples with an online platform bashing each other in a way that is meant to be fun and seem sarcastic, but it ultimately leads to issues later.
Wives, we are called to honor our husbands and communicate with them appropriately as is summed up in Ephesians 5:33 (CSB) “To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”
Husband Bashing Starts Simple:
The process is a simple start: you get together with your friends and ask what has been going on. Aggravated with your spouse, you begin to explain all the ways your husband isn’t helping out. He isn’t doing the dishes, he’s a slob, and he forgets to put the seat down or change the laundry.
This leads to a conversation about how your husbands are similar and things you wish were different about them. You begin to start complaining and husband bash.
While it is ok to ask for advice and help if you are struggling in your marriage, it is not ok for you to openly complain about your marriage. Expressing emotions, struggles, and frustration is different than complaining or openly gossiping about your spouse. How does this honor or support your husband or marriage? When we invite complaining, gossip, or displeasure into our thoughts about another person, they can easily take over and change our views on that person.
Ways to resist spousal gossip:
Set a standard for yourself and for your spouse about how you talk about your issues.
Speaking with your spouse about how you speak about each other removes the barrier in your mind that you can just say whatever you want and your partner will never find out. You should pursue honesty and integrity with your partner as good marriages are based on trust.
Tell him or her things you have talked about in the past and how you spoke about it. Find ways together to change the language you use.
Some examples are:
- “Ben is such an idiot. He can’t even remember to put down the toilet seat” to “It’s really frustrating when Ben leaves the seat up. It makes me feel like he does not think of me.”
- “Chase never sees how much work I put into making our home clean. He is such a slob and is so lazy” to “I feel like I put a lot of effort into making our space feel clean and it makes me feel unseen when Chase does not help in that area.”
- “Jake doesn’t know how to keep up with his own hygiene. He can’t even remember to put the toothpaste cap back on and it’s disgusting” to “I can’t stand it when Jake forgets to put the cap back on the toothpaste. It makes me feel like he doesn’t understand the importance of maintaining hygiene.”
If we were to look at any of these examples, it’s important to look at the wording of each scenario.
The last example with Jake sounds accusatory and judgmental. It implies that his hygiene is not up to par by using an example of a toothpaste cap. The second focuses on how you feel when Jake forgets to do a basic task. While the issue is still related to hygiene, you are reflecting on how the issue makes you feel rather than stating a big statement about Jake.
If this looks like something you do or say often, I would recommend speaking with a therapist or counselor together to practice ways to reframe your language.
Pick a group of people with your spouse that you can go to in confidence about your marriage.
It is no secret that every marriage has its problems, but not everyone in the world needs to know about them. Selecting a group of people you and your spouse trust to give sound advice and prioritize your marriage alongside you is important.
When you communicate with that couple, either together or separately, make sure that you are speaking with a heart posture that is asking for help. Your pride may get in the way at times, but tell the person you are talking to that you want to have this be a place where you do not complain but express frustration in hope of being a better partner. This ensures you get help in that conversation rather than hurt
There have been times in my own experience where my husband and I have disagreed on something and I went to my friends sinfully to express my frustration. It lead to me saying things about him I would never vocalize to his face and things I didn’t mean. When I was called out by those friends (thank you!!), I realized what I had done.
I apologized to them and then also my husband. I informed him what was said and had a vulnerable conversation about my feelings. This was hard. My pride wanted me to just say “Well, this is how I am feeling and you should take me where I am at,” but my friends wouldn’t allow me to sit in my pride. I am thankful for that situation because it helps me keep myself in check when I communicate how I am feeling about my spouse now.
Communicate with your spouse when you are feeling annoyed or unhappy.
This seems like the simplest one, but simple does not equate to being easy. Informing your spouse that you are unhappy with them can feel like a big mountain, but keeping how you are feeling to yourself will only lead to bitterness down the road.
When telling your partner how you are feeling, invite them to sit with you. Make sure there are no distractions (turn off your phones or the tv or make sure the kids are in bed) and be present with each other.
Express to them that you are feeling upset with a specific thing. Do not generalize– this makes the problem seem more significant than your marriage and can feel overwhelming or like an attack. Finally, use “I feel” statements. Focus on what YOU are experiencing when your partner does or does not do something.
Before you try this, make sure you establish that this is how you would like to approach things when you are needing help or feel overwhelmed. This makes it so the expectation is that you both are following the same set of “rules.”
An example can look like this:
Sandra put the kids to bed 10 minutes early because she knew she wanted to talk with Todd about the dishes. She had been feeling very overwhelmed by the housework lately and had asked Todd to do dishes twice a week before bed, however, Todd will fall asleep on the couch before getting to them.
Sandra approaches Todd on the couch and says “Would you mind if we talked about something? I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed lately.” Todd turns off the TV and faces Sandra. He asks what is wrong.
Sandra says “I feel really overwhelmed right now. I spoke with you about doing dishes twice a week a couple of weeks ago to help me feel like there is less on my plate, but I see that you usually fall asleep on the couch before getting to them.”
Todd goes on the defensive and says “Well, I am really tired lately. Work has been having me do more morning hours and you know that.”
Sandra expected this, so she starts again. “I understand that, and I am grateful for how hard you work to provide for us. But I feel like it’s impossible for me to have a clean home when the dishes aren’t done and would really appreciate it if we could find a way for me to have less on my plate at night.”
This conversation structure is used for many different issues, but communicating with your partner about things that make life overwhelming, hard, or make you unhappy should be the starting place for you and your spouse.
You should be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader in life.
This is going to be challenging in the hard seasons of life, but finding ways to continuously be optimistic will make both of your lives easier. Attacking our spouse is never ok– if you have tried some of these steps before and find that you or your spouse are continuing to torment you, please reach out for help at your church or local counselor. Psychologytoday offers a service to find a counselor suitable to your health plan or needs.