Twisted Words Lead to Marital Tension

Twisted Words AdobeStock_465083536Twisted words—have you ever had to deal with them in your marriage?

“Have you ever said something to your spouse and the reaction they gave was unexpected? You realize that they didn’t hear what you said in the way you meant it.” (Debi Walter)

We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that probably all of us have had this happen to us in our marriage relationships (countless times). We say one thing and then realize shortly thereafter that our spouse heard something completely different. And then you start wondering how they ever heard what they did! Or your spouse says something and it’s not hard to guess by their reaction that your interpretation of what they thought they said is totally flipped around. It can be a maddening situation, no doubt.

Just today this happened to us twice. One time Steve didn’t hear all the words I said, and just assumed he knew the rest. But he wasn’t even close! And the other time SOMETHING happened and I’m not sure what it was! What I said and what he thought he heard was nothing alike. I’m still puzzled on how he could have heard such twisted words coming out of my mouth. But we got through it.

As difficult as it is, we’re learning is to give more grace and try to clarify the situation. And if there’s no rhyme or reason to the twisted words or thoughts, we’re working to be gentler and kinder to each other through the clarification process (even if clarification remains fuzzy). Sometimes we just need to let it go. In the whole scheme of things it’s not that important. Giving grace is more important!

Twisted Words

We realize that there are a LOT of different reasons why our words can get twisted in non-abusive marital situations. Sometimes it is one spouse’s fault, sometimes it’s the fault of the other. But then there are times when it’s the fault of both spouses, or neither of them; it just happens. Whatever the situation, it’s important what we do next.

Here’s what Debi Walter, of The Romantic Vineyard says about this:

A miscommunication is hanging in the air, and you have a choice to make. EITHER snap back and let the conflict escalate OR take a deep breath and ask them what they heard you say. We call this ‘Twisted Words’.

Some conflicts can’t be avoided and must be discussed at length in order to discover what caused the rift in your relationship. What I’ve described above, however, can be avoided. But how?

First of all, it takes a resolve to not follow your instincts.

Instinct means an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior. If this happens regularly in your home, are you willing to commit to change your pattern of behavior? Maybe you’re thinking your spouse does this all the time and won’t change. But doesn’t someone have to go first? Why not be the mature one and take the steps needed for change? Purpose to pay attention the next time this happens and not follow your instincts. Instead, pray for God to help you with step two.

Secondly, in dealing with twisted words, it takes patience.

I heard someone recently say, “God doesn’t give you patience, He teaches it.” People often joke that they’ll never ask God to give them patience because of what usually follows — an opportunity to practice it. But don’t we want to grow in our interactions with our spouse? What if we were to stay the same year after year? Sadly, we don’t stay the same. We are either moving forward or drifting backward. The choice lies at our disposal. We need patience in order to help each other stop doing an old, sinful practice and begin doing it with kindness and love.

Finally, it takes humility.

Humility is the opposite of pride, and pride is what keeps us from admitting wrongs. If your spouse reacts to something you’ve said, humble yourself and apologize when needed. Or patiently ask what they heard you say. It helps to talk about doing this before your next ‘Twisted Word’ opportunity arises. This way you can help each other grow and change.

A good way to see how you’re doing in the area of humility is to consider when was the last time you sincerely apologized to your spouse for something you said, or did that hurt them? Asking forgiveness is an often-neglected key in letting go of an offense. Don’t skip the opportunity to humble yourself in this way. Why? Because God promises to give grace to the humble…

Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for… God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.(1 Peter 5:5)

Twisted Words and Miscommunication

We must remember that marriages are being attacked from all sides. We have an enemy that wants nothing more than to see our marriage fail. He devises schemes in order to cause conflicts between us and can even twist the words we say as they come out of our mouth. Your spouse isn’t your enemy. You are on the same team.

[Here’s something to ask yourself and prayerfully consider on this matter:

“Are your words controlled by a desire to seek peace and unity, or are they driven by your fleshly desire to sting, aggravate, retaliate, control, alienate, shame, and manipulate through sarcasm? The enemy is camping out at the gate of your marriage. He is lurking about, seeking to find that one open crevice where he can enter. If he has been entering in and camping out in your home through the use of sarcasm [or any other verbal barb], it is time to cast this verbal enemy out and lock the gate behind him. Die to yourself. Fill your heart and mind with the words of Christ, and allow His love, peace, and compassion to be the source of every word that proceeds from your mouth.” (Dale & Jena Forehand)]

Debi Walter continues on this issue by saying:

Make an effort to get past the instinct of miscommunication for the good of your marriage and the glory of God. He will help you. All we must do is humbly ask.

Here’s a Date Night Prompt: To help you use words to draw closer together, play a game of Romantic Scrabble. These words will help you focus on the good you’ve built together in your years as husband and wife. Instead of focusing on the words that would twist and pull you apart.

In closing,

Below are a few additional thoughts on this issue from some “experienced” marriage bloggers and then we will end with a prayer that Debi Walter wrote that we hope you will join us in praying:

“With our words we either beat the life out of our marriage or we cultivate, feed, and water it to ensure happy years ahead.” (Jim Daly)

“The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the importance of words. Proverbs 18:21 says, ‘The tongue has the power of life and death’ (NIV). Proverbs 12:18 talks about words bringing healing. And Proverbs 15:4 calls gentle words ‘a tree of life.’ You can give your marriage new life when you replace condemnation and criticism with compliments and words of affirmation.” (Gary Chapman)

There’s no doubt:

“The vast majority of marriages could be greatly improved if couples would follow this simple advice: BE NICE. Oddly enough, many people believe that because they are married, they do not have to be nice. It is as if they think that their marriage license is a license to be mean and nasty. Oh, they would never say that. But that is certainly how they act. …They bark, yell, and throw insults at each other. It’s as if they believe a marriage license grants them permission to be however mean they deem necessary.

“They can be as short and impatient as the moment calls for. They think that somehow a marriage license allows them not to live out their Christian faith. ‘I don’t have to be nice—I’m married!’” (Mark Gungor)

Oh, yes you do! God doesn’t expect us to empty our kindness out once we say our marriage vows. We still need to be kind.

Also, in dealing with twisted words:

“Think about the word responsibility. …Response. Ability. You have the ability to respond with patience and kindness. The key is to be aware of your triggers and to understand the difference between a perceived attack and an actual one. Let that awareness inform your response ability.” (Gottman Institute)Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.(James 1:19-20)

In all humility we pray:

Dear Father,

Thank you for the way you lead us into deeper understanding in our marriage. Would You help us change our behavior? We need your help to patiently practice understanding and believing the best of our spouse. We don’t want to let twisted words have an influence in our relationship.

Above all, we know You hear us when we pray and that You desire us to grow closer together and to You. We trust that You will do this for Your great glory.

In Jesus’ name,


We pray this has been helpful.

Cindy and Steve Wright


To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:

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