FrHenrySiew.jpgBeing mindful of what you saw and how you say it can help enhance your spousal relationship, writes Father Henry Siew.

HONEYMOON PERIODS ARE blissful as spouses are oblivious to each other's imperfections. After that, spouses try to hide their shortcomings and pretend not to notice them in the other. But soon they no longer bother to conceal their shortcomings and each becomes acutely aware of the other's faults. Failure to accept each other's frailties and weaknesses will generate irritation and resentment, and the couple many end up criticizing and hurting each other.

Vicious cycle of accusations

Here's an example:

After some weeks of pestering from his wife to fix the broken tap in the bathroom, Mr Lee felt inspired one weekend to fix it. He spent an entire morning working on it but his efforts did not pay off; instead it created a mess. Mrs Lee became upset and accused him of being "good for nothing", and said that she "cannot trust him for any important thing". This angered Mr Lee as he felt his good intentions and hard work were not appreciated. The couple had a harsh verbal exchange and refused to talk to each other for days.

Here's another:

Mr and Mrs Lee checked into a hotel during a vacation. Mrs Lee decided to take a shower after Mr Lee had taken his. She screamed as soon as she turned on the tap. "Whoa!!! The water is so hot, why did you not tell me?"

Defensively, Mr Lee responded, "Why are you screaming like a child. Can you not check the water temperature yourself?"

"Idiot, you almost burned me to death!" she replied. A heated argument followed. Their holiday was ruined.

Now, if Mr Lee had responded with a caring tone, their interaction pattern would have been quite different. One can easily fall into the trap of using harsh and belittling words to attack a spouse, to question each other's goodness and competency.

The consequence is that the spouse under attack will feel he/she has no choice but to hit back, and both end up wounded.

(continued on page 2)

The immense power of words

Words are powerful and they can make or break a relationship.

If you cherish your spousal relationship, be watchful of what you say. As Scripture says, "To watch over mouth and tongue is to keep out of trouble." (Proverbs 21:23)

The following are examples of how negative remarks can hurt and be detrimental to good spousal relationship:

- "Forget it! There's nothing to be upset or annoyed about!"

By saying this, you deprive your spouse the ownership of her feelings, that she is not entitled to them. How then do you expect her to share her inner self trustingly with you? Or that you will grow in mutual understanding?

- "What lousy taste you've got… this outfit looks terrible!"

You are questioning his competency, even on "small things" such as selecting his clothing. You run him down and make him feel inadequate. How can you expect him to confidently perform his role as a husband and father?

- "Stop dreaming about having your own floral shop!"

You are saying that she cannot hope for better and be successful, that she is not good enough. Then how can you expect her to progress as a person and bring "added value" to your relationship?

- "Take a look at yourself before you dare join the Neighbourhood Vigilante Corps!"

You are questioning his good will and ability, and discouraging him from being of service to others. Do you want him to be closed in and isolated? Then how can you expect your relationship with him to be open and mutually enriching?

- "You are like your mother, vain and superficial!"

You are casting her in a mould, labelling her and fixing her with various undesirable characteristics. Then how do you expect her to be otherwise in her relationship with you?

Insensitive and critical remarks often result in a tense situation. The responding person can choose to react with "an eye for an eye"; or to choose avoiding counter-criticism, acknowledge the other person's unhappy feelings hidden in those remarks, and work towards reconciliation.

When responding, it is wise to say "I feel", "I hope", "I need", etc. Avoid using accusing or interrogating phrases like "You are so…", "Why did you…", "Who do you think you are…" Retaliatory responses beget more ill feelings; whereas an understanding approach calms storms.

Being mindful of what you say and how you say it can help enhance your spousal relationship.

Father Henry Siew, parish priest of St. Anne's Church, is the spiritual director to Mandarin Marriage Encounter Weekend.

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter