Everyone knows cheating, lying, and abuse will wreck a marriage. Those are at the top of anyone’s “no-no” list for a healthy relationship. There's one thing you shouldn't do in marriage that’s rarely talked about: Gossip.
When you discuss the negative attributes of anyone in an unkind way — no matter who that person is — you're gossiping. Today, badmouthing your husband seems to be an acceptable practice, almost a rite of passage in marriage. Some would say, if you don’t talk about your man, you ain’t really married.
Instead of badmouthing your spouse, learn to defend him instead.
I learned this the hard way as a young wife.
I drove around for about an hour pouring out my frustration about my husband to a friend who went to my church. I told her about how wrong he was and how angry and mistreated I felt. She asked questions. Even appeared sympathetic. Without saying it, she agreed he was the bad guy, which emboldened me in my comments.
I felt so much better when I hung up and soon forgot about our conversation.
Badmouthing your spouse isn’t a good idea
Sunday morning in church, my pastor's wife approached me. After saying her hellos, she asked about my husband and began freely sharing her opinion about him and my marriage.
“Something's got to give. He can't keep behaving this way,” she said. Her comments surprised me, and I immediately began defending my husband, explaining his actions and thoughts around the issue.
I also instantly realized the damage I'd done to my husband by freely airing my frustration to others.
It may feel good to vent about your spouse in the short term but guarding what you say about him to others is important. Family and friends won't forgive or forget as quickly as you do.
I didn't consider talking to my friends or family about my husband as gossip. Everyone did it. But invariably, when someone starts dogging out their husband, other women join in. Before you know it, you’re trying to outdo one other by sharing the dumbest thing your husband’s ever done.
Talking to your girlfriends about your marriage may seem harmless, but it’s harmful to your marriage. When you speak poorly of your husband, you give others a green light to badmouth him, too. And you reinforce your own negative thoughts and feelings.
But wait a minute. Shouldn’t you be free to share your thoughts and feelings with others? And, the Bible doesn’t say anything about gossiping about your spouse.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29-30: “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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
If he’s not talking about gossip, I don’t know what is.
When you complain about your spouse, you may feel better in the short term, but you do long-term damage to your relationship with him and your relationship with God. Marriage serves as an example of God’s love to our children and to those around us.
How would your spouse feel if he knew what you shared? How would you feel if he shared similar details with his friends or family about you?
It's easy to focus on the negative aspects of your marriage.
Here are six good reasons you shouldn’t badmouth your spouse:
- You might not be able to repair the damage you do to your spouse’s reputation.
- You fuel your feelings of resentment.
- Your friends may give you bad advice.
- Your friends may share what you say with their friends.
- You may have kissed and made up, but their opinions of your spouse may not change.
- Sharing information about your marriage erodes trust.
Instead of gossiping about your spouse, learn to defend him:
1. Refuse to badmouth him
Focus on the negative, you're going to feel more negative. When your spouse does something that bugs you, chances are you'll become more irritated if you tell your friends about it. When he's not bugging you anymore, your friends and family won't forgive or forget as quickly as you do. No matter how tempting it is when you're angry, refrain from speaking ill of your spouse to others.
2. Shut down people who speak poorly of him
Defending your spouse is a sign of respect. If he witnesses it, he'll feel like he's important to you. If someone says something bad about him, let them know you're not okay with it. It might be necessary to set boundaries with people who consistently disrespect your spouse. This includes children, family members and friends. You may have to sever relationships with people who won't respect your boundaries.
3. Build him up to others
Get in the habit of talking positively about your spouse. Let others know what you appreciate about him. Brag about the nice things he does for you or how great he is with your kids. When you speak kindly of him, others will, too.
If you must talk about him, tell others how well he treats you and how lucky you are to have him. Speaking kindly of him also shifts your focus to what you love about him.
Protect your marriage by refusing to gossip about your spouse and by defending him against others who do.
Sheila Qualls is the Executive Director of TakeCharge, a nonprofit organization that seeks to restore the two-parent black family and unite Americans towards shared values regardless of skin color or station in life. She is a former national speaker and Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com. She and her husband, Kendall, a former gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, have been married for 36 years and they have five children.