“Love at first sight…”, “Opposites attract”…. There’s a lot of relationship advice out there. In an effort to avoid the heartbreak, you’ve probably called up your closest girlfriends to ask their opinion too. I know I have! But more often than not, their well intended “words of wisdom” lead to more problems down the road.
So we are breaking down the common tropes and misleading phrases to get down to the Truth, God’s Truth. In this series “Worst Relationship Advice Ever”, we are looking to God’s Word as our guide to find out what He has to say about relationships.
“If you’ve got something to say, say it!” Every heard that advice before?
When Joseph and I first got married, I thought that I needed to say everything and anything that came to my mind. What I wanted to do that weekend. Where I wanted to go for dinner. How I really felt about all of his annoying habits. I honestly thought that in order to be as close and intimate as possible, Joseph needed to know my every thought. I mean, what’s the problem with speaking your mind and communicating your needs?
The expectation that your needs will be met.
Ask, but Don’t Expect
When you speak your mind, when you communicate your “needs”, you are expecting your significant other to do something about it. Notice I put “needs” in quotation marks because more often than not, these “needs” are simply selfish desires, common annoyances, or personal preferences. When you tell someone “I want that” or “let’s do this”, more often than not, you have an unmet expectation.
What happens if your spouse is too busy trying to meet a work deadline or doesn’t have the skills required to renovate the house like you so desire? Do you hold that against them? Do you bemoan your predicament, wishing you would have married a handyman instead? No. Because it’s not their job to meet your needs. Instead of telling them what’s on your mind and expecting them to fall in line, try asking “Will you help me with this?” or “Are you free this evening?”. A successful relationship recognizes that how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. In other words, ask them. Don’t expect them to meet your needs.
Some Things Don’t Need to be Said
But even when our tone of voice is appropriate and we’ve worded the request accordingly, could it be true that some things just don’t need to be said at all? I think so. Words are quickly spoken but not quickly forgotten. How often do we say something hurtful in a heated argument? I can remember a time or two when my husband and I have strongly disagreed, and in an effort to keep his composure, Joseph has simply walked away. It drives me crazy every time. I need to know what he’s thinking! The last thing I want to do is give him space.
As embarrassing as it is to admit, I have followed him around the house, exasperated, begging him to just say it already. But he knew his words would be foolish and hurtful. So rather than express his opinion, he kept his mouth shut until he was calm, cool, and collected. It’s infuriating but insightful. And I’m thankful one of us has taken the Proverbs to heart because I still have much to learn about keeping my mouth shut.
Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
Proverbs 13:3, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
The hard truth is that some things just don’t need to be said at all. While my husband and I wholeheartedly believe in open communication and zero secrets, I’ve learned that every sigh of discontentment and passing annoyance doesn’t need to be shared, even with my husband. It’s difficult and nuanced. But sometimes our needs, suggestions, or opinions are excuses for selfishness.
So when should we speak up? Ephesians says every word that comes from our mouth should build others up. Every word. I shouldn’t just say whatever comes to mind because everything needs to be evaluated by the Spirit before I ever say a word. What if the filter for evaluating our words was not what we wanted to get off our chest but whether or not it would be beneficial for the one whom we love?
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
What about our rights?
The world tells us we have the right to speak our mind. Online magazines and psychology articles say that “the first step in communicating your needs is to get in touch with what you really want.” The modern day woman can’t be too agreeable or she’ll be accused of being a doormat. She needs to live for what she wants. We are told to be loud. Be proud. Let your voice be heard.
Don’t believe me? In the promotion for her wildly popular new book Untamed, Glennon Doyle writes “We do not need any more selfless women. What we need right now is more women who are full of themselves. A woman who is full of only herself no longer internalizes the world’s memos and expectations. A woman who is full of herself knows and trusts herself enough to say and do what must be done, and lets the rest burn.”
Wow! I hope the red flags were going off as you read that excerpt! Be full of yourself and let the rest burn? Really?! Want what you want no matter the cost? That’s selfishness at its core. And this is where the bad advice “If you’ve got something to say, say it” lives. Out of a place of self-centered pursuit, no matter who you crush on your way to the top.
James 4:1-2, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet. But you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
James tells us that we fight and we quarrel, not because of external circumstances, but because of the selfish desires that come from within. That’s exactly where the problem lies – within each one of us. When we live for ourselves, we will never be satisfied. When we live to please others, we will always be trying to measure up. Ultimately, as women of God, we know this life isn’t about pleasing ourselves or pleasing others. It’s about living for God. And when you and your significant other are both focused on that, your deepest needs will be satisfied in Him.
So next time you want to say what’s on your mind, think before you speak:
- Do I have an unmet expectation I’m trying to satisfy?
- Is this going to hurtful or kind?
- Does it really need to be said?
- Or is this coming from a place of selfishness?
These principles aren’t just true of romantic relationships. This is true of family and friends and co-workers. What we want, what we think we “need” is not our top priority. Loving others and honoring God should be our first concern. If what you want to say meets those requirements, then go ahead. Say it.