Trash Talk. Wikipedia says it is a form of insult often used to intimidate the opposition in sports. The Urban Dictionary says it is a way of putting down your opponent verbally or saying how good you think you are. Merriam-Webster says trash talk is disparaging, taunting, or boastful comments. We would add that it is a form of contempt; a show of lack of respect. Sometimes it’s used in good fun in sports. It doesn’t work that way in marriage.
Do you trash talk your spouse?
I don’t mean to do it, but sometimes I do it anyway. I have seen others angrily berate their spouse—either to their face or behind their back—even in a small group with their spouse present. I have even seen a wordless type of trash talk that consists of a sigh accompanied by an eye roll. For me, it comes in the form of what appears to be a casual remark. The words are not angry on their face, but there’s anger underneath. It’s a passive-aggressive type of anger. Have you been there?
Why would we trash talk someone we love?
Why would we “insult” or “intimidate the opposition” when our spouse is not even supposed to be “the opposition” but our teammate? If you went to a sporting event, you would never see one member of the team trash talking his own teammate. It shouldn’t be that way in a marriage either. Rather, like teammates, we should be rooting each other on—asking how we can give an assist, patting each other on the back, encouraging each other to “shake off” a play that didn’t go as planned.
Along the same lines, why would you put your spouse down while boasting to make yourself look good? Are you and your spouse teammates? Have you ever seen one player on a sport team say how much better he is than his fellow players? Teammates don’t do that.
I think trash talk originates in frustration or anger. We try to get our point across and our spouse doesn’t seem to be paying attention. It makes us angry, so we tell them to “let us know when they get back to planet Earth.” Our spouse doesn’t comply with our expectations, so we tell our friends how they have fallen short. Our husband or wife hurts our feelings and we retaliate by announcing in a disgusted tone of voice, “There he goes again.”
How do you stop yourself from trash talking?
Would you trash talk your mate if Jesus were present? I don’t think so. Deep down, we know it’s wrong and that it’s not helping anything. What would help is an attitude of thanksgiving—positive words—positive deeds. So how do you get past the frustration and past the trash talking?
First, take the log out of your own eye. None of us is perfect. Ask God to show you how you may be contributing to the unhappiness. Ask God’s forgiveness for your part. Offer a sincere apology to your spouse.
Second, forgive your partner. Anger, resentment, trash talking, can be remedied by letting go of the underlying bitterness that is causing the problem in the first place.
Third, if there is a frustration that needs to be stated, have an honest conversation with your spouse. Tell them they’ve hurt your feelings. Let them know your desire and see if, together, you can figure out a way to accomplish it. Get to the real issue. If you can’t say anything, you’ll never get past the problem.
Fourth, ask your spouse to point out your trash talking if it occurs again. Let them know you don’t want to hurt them. You need to know how you may be causing hurt, and we tend to be oblivious to our own faults.
If you have a long-term, recurring problem and talking to your spouse doesn’t help, get a marriage coach—a trusted, older, godly “Titus woman” if you are a woman (or man if you are a man)—someone who will give you wise advice and keep your situation in confidence. You may want to seek out a biblical Christian counselor.
The goal in marriage is to move together as one. It is to function together as a team—building each other up—cheering each other on. That will never happen while you are trash talking your spouse.
This post first appeared on The Marriage Dance blog on July 18, 2018.