Words have the power to encourage, enrich, and enhance. They also have the power to destroy, discourage, and drain a relationship. We can save a marriage by weighing our words carefully before they are out in the open.

How many times have you said something to your spouse, only to realize the moment you said it that it would hurt your spouse deeply, but there was nothing you could do to take those words back? Even if you assure your spouse that you didn’t mean what you said, the damage is done. Apologizing can only go so far in healing the pain…the wound remains and will remain for years. Is it any wonder that marriages fail, when spouses say hurtful things to each other, criticize each other, belittle each other, and speak negatively to others about the other?

In Ephesians 4:29 Paul tell us to keep a lid on our words and to be careful to use them only to build others up: “Let no filthy talk be heard from your mouths, but only what is good for building up people and meeting the need of the moment. This way you will administer grace to those who hear you” (International Standard Version).

What would your marriage look like if you only spoke words that affirmed your spouse? How would the dynamics change between you and your spouse if you only built them up? I recently saw the movie “The One I Love” on Netflix, and although I won’t go into the entire plot of the movie, I will say that I was struck by something significant. The couple is at a vacation home to work on their marriage. On the property there is a guest cottage and when the husband goes into the guest cottage, he finds his wife there, and she is pleasant and affirming. He is surprised by her change in attitude, and her changes bring about positive changes in his behavior and words.

Later in the movie the wife goes to the guest cottage, where she finds her husband already there. He is loving and romantic, which brings out a very different reaction from her. She responds to his love and affirmation by admiring and loving him back.

Later the couple realizes that it is not really their spouses in the cottage, but doubles of their spouse, who act in the most loving way possible. Their “spouse’s” loving words brought out very different reactions and responses from their usual behaviors.

Although the movie goes on in a strange direction, what caught my attention was that when one spouse chooses to do the right thing and say things that affirm and build up the other, the dynamics change completely.

What do you need to do to stop your hurtful words and instead affirm your spouse? Try it over and over, and see what happens.


Deborah Pinkston, Ph.D.