Language shapes our perception, and our perceptionshapes our reality. Words carry weight. They mean something. They impact us. They inform how we feel about our mates. Words factor heavily into the environment that we construct around our marriage relationship, and words build the reality of the relationship that we live within, day-by-day. Words can create life, and encouragement, and hope, or they can bring death, and destruction, and misery. It is no surprise that God’s Word has so much to say about the power of our words to bless others or to create dissension.
So, how carefully do you measure your words in your conversation with your mate? Good, healthy communication is difficult enough in normal circumstances, but careless, unhealthy communication can quickly amplify a bad moment and drive a wedge deeply into the marriage relationship. And, whatever is perceived in that moment will contribute to shaping and solidifying your marriage reality.
In every communication, three things happen. First, there is what is said. What words does your brain tell your mouth to speak? Are they words of hope, encouragement, healing, and goodness, or are they words filled with hate, and anger, and venomous cheap shots? Is the tone loving and soothing, or is it harsh and uncaring? Second, there is what is heard. What message did your ears receive? Have you ever been talking through a wall when your spouse is in another room, and she said, “Can you bring me a drink?” but what you hear is “There are ninja monkeys in the front yard.” Sometimes, we honestly misunderstand what our mate said, so it is important to always clarify before responding. And third, there is what is interpreted. What do you do with the message you received? Do you see it as something good for the marriage relationship, or as a personal attack? If there are two ways to take something your spouse said, do you give him/her the benefit of the doubt and take it as positively as possible, or do you expect it will always be negative? Language shapes our perceptions, and our perceptions always shape the reality of how we view our marriages.
As you take stock of how you and your mate communicate, here are a few things that will help re-shape your marriage environment.
- Say “I love you” regularly. Yes, love is an action and you demonstrate your love in how you live toward your mate, but hearing it regularly helps to build upon and reinforce what your actions should be already saying.
- Get rid of blame and criticism. How much of what you say to your mate is tainted by criticism and blame? Couples caught in cycles of criticism and blame begin to shut down, to withdraw from each other, to isolate, and in some cases to seek affirmation in other places that they shouldn’t. There are ways to address conflict that don’t always start with finger pointing and listing everything the other person does that you aren’t pleased with.
- Express gratitude regularly. Nothing builds a healthy perception of your relationship faster than being appreciated. For big things and small, whether you are happy with your mate at the moment or not, always take the time to say “thank you” and specify what you are thankful for.
- Pray out loud, with and for each other, together regularly. Let God’s Spirit shape your perceptions of your relationship with your partner through the words of your mutual prayers. If God’s presence flows freely through your covenant union, then your perception and your marriage reality will reflect his love and care, forgiveness and grace.
It’s not much. And honestly, it’s not hard. But it takes intentionality, dedication, and possibly retraining your mind to respond in a new way. If you’re willing to make the effort and do these four things, you will be amazed at how quickly your marriage will begin to change for the better.
Language shapes your perception, and your perception shapes your reality. There is no escaping it.