5 Toxins of the Tongue That Can Poison Your Marriage

toxins of the tongue_thumb


Toxic words poison, and sometimes even kill, relationships. Words like, “I hate you” or “I wish I never met you” can cause irreparable damage.  I confess there have been too many times when harsh, harmful words have come out of my mouth toward my wife, Susan, my kids, and others. It grieves me. I’m continually working hard to choose my words wisely.

Here are five toxins of the tongue that we must work to avoid:

1. Sarcastic Words: Comments like, “The lawn isn’t going to mow itself,” or “Do I look like your maid?” seem like no big deal on the surface, right? But sarcastic words are sometimes just symptoms of an underlying unmet expectation that has frustrated a spouse for quite some time.  They can be used as a cowardly way to “dig” at your husband and wife…poisoning slowly.

2. Unsupportive Words: Every husband and wife wants to know that they have their spouse in their corner cheering them on. When a spouse says things like, “That’s a crazy idea,” or “Do you really think you can do that?”…what they may really be saying is “I don’t believe in you,” or “I’m not on your team.” Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t tell your spouse when you think they have a truly bad idea. But, instead of saying, “That’s the worst idea ever,” you could say, “That’s a great idea, but I feel like you would be better at this…” Supporting one another’s aspirations is essential to a happy and productive marriage. We should be our spouses #1 fan, not their biggest critic.

3. Disrespectful Words: Respect is not something that has to be earned. It should be given unconditionally in marriage. Disrespectful comments like, “Can’t you find a real job?”, “I don’t care what you say; I’m going to do it anyway”, and “You’ve really been putting on weight” are insulting, offensive, and can undermine a spouses sense of worth.

4. Comparing words: When saying things like, “Jonathan would do that for his wife” or “Why can’t you be more like Karen?” what you’re really communicating is “You don’t make the grade…you’re not good enough” as a husband or wife.

5. Selfish Words: “I don’t care how you feel, just get it done.”  “I want that new dress.” “I need someone who really meets my needs.” Spouses who care more about themselves than their spouses often start their sentences with “I.” It’s all about their wants and their needs, rather than their mates.

Have any, or many, of these toxins of the tongue been injected into your marriage? If so, here are several antidotes you can use to counteract their effects.

  • Apologize to your spouse for all the poisonous things you’ve said to them over the years.  Healing can only begin when toxins are removed.  And in the case of verbal toxins, relationships begin to mend when couples ask for forgiveness from each other.
  • Be slow to speak.  There’s an old adage that states you never regret what you never say.  It’s okay to be quiet, reserved, and thoughtful about what comes out of your mouth…especially when you are upset.
  • Make a personal vow that toxic words will no longer come out of your mouth. Putting a post-it note by your bed or on your mirror can serve to remind you of your commitment.  Give your spouse the freedom to inform you when toxicity starts to stream from your tongue.
  • These 10 Things Husbands Want to Hear from their Wives and 10 Things Wives Want to Hear from their Husbands can give you some ideas on how you can breathe live-giving words into your spouse.  You were created to build each other up, not tear each other down.


Which of these 5 toxins do you struggle with most? And how do you work to keep from speaking those words to your spouse? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.pesto Sarah Pesto

    I highly love this article. Not only does it apply to marriage but also applies to everyone we speak with daily at work or friends. Thank you, Mark Merrill for your intuitiveness.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Sarah, glad to hear it. Grateful for your kind words.

  • http://twitter.com/d36zy Weston Austin

    Plenty thanks for this article it explains what I have been trying convey to my wife for awhile. I will be forwarding this.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Hope it helps, Weston.

  • CG

    What if your spouse sees nothing wrong with their behavior, nor do they recognize the irrepairable harm they are doing to the relationship? When it seems controlling the other person becomes more important than everything else…and they find fault in all you do, everything about you…day in and day out? You cannot make someone change, and you cannot force them to go to therapy.

  • God Said

    I hear & agree totally. I wasted 27 years of my life on such a woman. The answer is divorce. Women have destroyed the possibility of anything that I would call marriage. My suggestion for men is to join the current boycott & enjoy your own efforts. Only 12% of marriages lasting past 15 years are self-professed as happy. Do not waste time or money on women, get a dog & a hooker.

  • JasonEC

    This is a great post, Mark. I totally agree with each of these 5 points. They all play a part in hurt relationships. People forget that when we get married it should be our every desire to avoid doing anything to hurt the other person in the relationship.

    The note on sarcasm is especially noteworthy. Sarcasm is rampant in our society now. And I’ve never seen a case of sarcasm that had a positive effect on either individual involved in the conversation. When you watch TV, you see it all the time on Sonic commercials and sitcoms.

    Sarcasm is simply a way to be intentionally hurtful with a built in excuse: “I was just kidding.” It’s never just kidding.

  • Relationship Confused

    We are not married but weve lived together for 4 years and i help him raise his 3 children!

    Sarcasm, unsupportive words and disrespect are a huge problem in my relationship! Both of us are very much “you” did this wrong or “it’s your fault” or you don’t know how to talk to me”! Our arguments can come out of now where and according to him it’s always me getting mad at him for something he said and I took it out of context! We are very nit picky at each other, there’s almost no communication and if we’re arguing and it’s going no where, he just wants to drop it and then not talk about it, “it’ll go away if we don’t talk about it” we love each other but there are times when I wonder why we even bother!! There’s a lot of other stuff that goes on ex: tonight he goes to bed without saying a word to me!

  • Pingback: 5 Ways to Filter What You Say. | Rivers of Hope

  • Pingback: 12 Things That Can Cause Marriage Failure. | Rivers of Hope

  • Pingback: Toxic Words That Can Damage Relationships | Daily With HQ