Marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman instituted by God. As Christians, we are called to honor and uphold the sanctity of marriage. Part of honoring marriage is being careful with the words we speak about our spouse, especially when talking to others. The Bible has strong warnings against slandering or speaking critically of our spouse. As believers, our words should build up, not tear down. In this comprehensive post, we will explore what the Bible teaches about talking negatively about your spouse.
- Speaking critically of your spouse is a form of slander and tears down your marriage.
- Gossiping about marital issues breaks trust and harms intimacy.
- Venting frustration through negative words can lead to bitterness and resentment.
- Christ calls spouses to edify one another through words of affirmation and encouragement.
- Seeking wise counsel requires discretion and an aim to reconcile.
- Humility and forgiveness are needed to overcome hurtful words.
- Restoration of the relationship should be the goal when addressing grievances.
- Marriage is a reflection of Christ’s love for the church; our words should reflect that.
- Praying for your spouse and your marriage invites God’s healing and help.
Slander Destroys Intimacy and Trust
One of the strongest warnings in Scripture against speaking critically of our spouse is where it crosses into slander or false accusations. Slander is making a false spoken statement that damages the reputation of someone. The book of Proverbs says:
“Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; Whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure.” (Proverbs 101:5 NKJV)
Slander often thrives in secrecy. The Bible warns that God hears every word and will hold us accountable for words spoken in secret to put down others. Slandering a spouse breaks trust and intimacy. Slander or false accusations can deeply wound a marriage.
The Bible calls slander a serious sin. Leviticus 19:16 says, “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people…” (NKJV). Slander is speaking evil of someone and is listed along very severe sins like hate and oppression of others.
As believers, we are called to speak the truth in love and build others up (Ephesians 4:15, 25). So beware of making unfair critiques or accusations about your spouse to others. Do not exaggerate small weaknesses into huge flaws. Do not assume bad motives without evidence. Make sure any complaint is valid before voicing it. Bring it directly to your spouse first.
Gossip Destroys Oneness
Gossiping with others about things your spouse does that annoy you or airing your “dirty laundry” tears down oneness in marriage. The Bible instructs:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 NKJV)
Marriage creates a profound one-flesh union. Gossiping about your spouse to others splinters that holy union. It often violates trust and creates distance. Sometimes simply talking critically about a spouse starts innocently enough by venting frustrations to feel supported. But it can quickly descend into gossip that breeds contempt.
The book of Proverbs warns against the strife caused by gossip:
“A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends.” (Proverbs 16:28 NKJV)
When we whisper and gossip to others about our spouse’s flaws and irritations, it separates us from our spouse. If you need guidance about marital issues, be selective who you talk to about it in the spirit of seeking reconciliation. The right counsel can help, but general gossip almost always tears down.
Venting Leads to Bitterness
Venting frustration through negative words about a spouse fails to resolve issues and often breeds bitterness. The Bible warns:
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;” (Hebrews 12:14-15 NKJV)
Unresolved hurts can create a root of bitterness in our hearts. This bitterness then defiles us and causes trouble. Venting our spouse’s faults and failures to others does little good.
1 Peter 4:8 says we should “above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” Love covers; it does not blast out faults. Go to the source to work through issues.
Colossians 3:19 instructs husbands: “do not be bitter against them” (NKJV). So, bitterness often flows from harsh words against a spouse. But we reap what we sow. Bitter words breed more bitterness.
Build Up Your Spouse With Words
The Bible encourages us to build up those we love with our words. Ephesians 4:29 instructs:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Our mouth can be a fountain of life or of death (Proverbs 18:21). Marriages thrive when spouses affirm and encourage one another daily. Husbands and wives are also called to lovingly correct each other at times. But focus daily words on honoring your spouse. Compliment character strengths and progress made in growing areas. Express appreciation for all they do. Look for the good; do not just nitpick weaknesses. Allow love to cover over annoyances that do not matter in the big picture.
The Bible says, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” (Proverbs 31:10 NASB). So praise your wife’s worth. Call out the ways she adds value to your life and family. The Bible also instructs to honor the marriage bed in Hebrews 13:4. So compliment your spouse’s attractiveness to you. Affirmation goes a long way!
Seek Discreet Counsel to Reconcile
No marriage is perfect because we are imperfect people. Seeking counsel when facing marital difficulties is wise. But be discreet. The Bible cautions:
“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” (Proverbs 11:13 NKJV)
Do not broadcast private marital issues. The goal of counsel should be reconciliation. So be honest but also be kind when sharing with a trusted mentor or counselor. Do not paint your spouse in the worst possible light.
When emotions are raw, we often talk to whoever will listen, which is not usually wise. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Seek counsel selectively from spiritual people committed to restoring marriage relationships by God’s principles. Enter counseling with humility, not just lobbing accusations. Listen without being defensive, aiming to understand your spouse’s perspective.
Most importantly, involve God in reconciliation as the true Counselor of your marriage. Pray together about conflicts. Study Scripture on marriage and allow God to correct and guide you both into greater harmony. With God’s help, hurtful words can be overcome.
Repairing the Damage of Hurtful Words
Because we are imperfect, we will at times say things that hurt our spouse, often unintentionally. If you have spoken critically or falsely accused your spouse, take these steps to repair the breach:
- Confess it as sin. Go before God and acknowledge the wrong. Recommit to honoring your spouse with your words and actions. Ask for forgiveness. Pray for a cleaned heart.
- Ask forgiveness of your spouse. Do not let pride stop you. Swallow any rationalizations. Make no excuses for sinful words. Own it fully without blaming your spouse. Sincerely seek their forgiveness.
- Examine your own heart. Ask God to show you underlying issues He wants to deal with in you that led to the harsh words. For example, insecurity, pride, selfishness and bitterness are often sources.
- Make restitution. If you have slandered or gossiped about your spouse to others, find ways to clear their name and reputation. Counter any false impressions you gave. Give an honest, fair picture of their strengths.
- Change hurtful communication patterns. Verbal abuse and contempt destroy trust. Learn to communicate in respectful ways that build intimacy. Seek counseling if needed.
- Commit to speaking words of honor and encouragement. Replace any bitter or negative speech patterns with conscious efforts to positively affirm your spouse’s value to you. Express appreciation daily.
With sincerity and consistency over time, the damage from hurtful words can be healed. A rare Proverb encourages the offended spouse to forgive and reconcile quickly for this very reason:
“Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” (Proverbs 10:12 NKJV)
Let love cover and make the first moves to restore intimacy when hurtful words have damaged it. God blesses those who pursue peace in marriage.
Reflect Christ’s Self-Sacrificial Love
Marriage is the most sacred human relationship because it reflects Christ’s relationship with the church. Ephesians 5 calls it a “profound mystery.” Just as Christ sacrificially loves imperfect people in the church, husbands are called to love their wives sacrificially:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:25, 28 NKJV)
This agape love modeled by Christ always seeks the highest good of others even at personal cost. It is unconditional and promoting of growth in the loved one. What if we loved our spouse this way? Consider their needs above yours. Encourage their personal growth. Quickly forgive. Honor them in public and private. Speak highly of them to others. By God’s power, choose to reflect Christlike love that covers sins and builds up.
Likewise, wives are instructed to respect their husbands in this same passage. Lift him up with praise and gratitude. Affirm his strengths and accomplishments. Refuse to speak critically of him to others. Value his leadership in the home. Practice mutual submission in the Lord. Your words to and about each other powerfully impact the oneness, intimacy and partnership of marriage.
Healing and Restoration Through Prayer
No matter what stage your marriage is in – whether flowing in harmony or stumbling in disarray – keep your marriage saturated in prayer. Bring your conflicts, hurts and frustrations to God. Ask Him for wisdom and discernment to see issues from your spouse’s perspective. Pray for your spouse by name, asking God to work in their heart and meet their deepest needs. Open your heart to the correction of the Holy Spirit. Be sensitive to listen and obey His promptings.
Prayer invites God into the restoration process to do His mighty work of healing and renewal. As you keep your focus on pursuing oneness and honoring your spouse with your words and actions, God will bless your marriage greatly. He can redeem any hurts and bring reconciliation. He will fight for your marriage when you invite Him into the battle.
In the end, few things can damage a marriage more than a loose tongue speaking harshly of a spouse. Scripture contains strong warnings against slander, gossip, venting and bitter words because these tear down intimacy and trust. They fail to reflect Christ’s self-giving, forgiving love which covers sins and builds up. But healing and restoration are possible through sincere repentance, forgiveness, restitution and prayer. God loves marriage and wants oneness, intimacy and satisfaction for couples. May our words proclaim honor, encouragement and life over our marriages.