He’s the head of the household (even if there’s only 2 in it), wants to be shown respect and love as much as he gives out, and is your partner in life. Your husband is the man that you’re proud to have in your life, or at least that’s how my mom feels about my dad, and how I feel about mine. And no matter how strong these men are, it has been proven that one horribly mean word can tear them from the inside out. So to be on our toes and keep him encouraged more then discouraged, here are a few things to avoid ever saying (even if it just causes him to be aggravated or annoyed):
1. “Surprise! I got us a facelift!”
Ok, it may not be specifically this, statement, but a surprise is a surprise. Yes, you may enjoy making yourself feel pretty with new make-up or clothes. And yet… change is difficult for just about everyone, especially for the ones closest to us! You want to feel great. Odds are, he wants you to feel great. Giving him a heads up before you change your hair or anything is the kind of courtesy a marriage depends on.
Some words belong only on sitcoms (where flippancy is funny) or in small-stakes emails (where brevity is appreciated).
3. “You look so nice in that blue button-down.”
To everybody else at the dinner table, of course, this sounds like a compliment. There you are, appreciating how the color of your husband’s eyes matches the color of his shirt. Except that… he normally wears shirts with big flying swordfish soaring from shoulder to shoulder. Except that… you know and he knows that his mother made him wear blue button-downs. This maneuver goes beyond a backhanded compliment. It’s a bomb-trigger criticism, made in public and worded in such a way that he’ll look like a meanie if he gets mad and you’ll look like a nice-ie, no matter what. There are other ways to talk about shirts or anything else, including a private, pre-meal conversation: “I know your mom made you wear shirts like that and that they’re not your first choice, but you should know… you look really good.”
4. “Maybe now is the time to think about going back to marketing.”
Okay, his organic dry cleaning business bombed (it was three years and one price point ahead of its time!). Suggesting he return to his former career is a stab at support. You mean well. But frosting over your partner’s defeats by suggesting things from the past that he used to be good at, or things he doesn’t want to do but might be good at, or things you want him to do that he is not just good at but great at, doesn’t really help him with his current agony and embarrassment. He failed, and a dream died. It must be grieved over, and it must be recognized — not replaced with a warmed-over dream.
5. “Ear hair.”
You can’t say, “Cut your ear hair.” You can’t say, “I’ll cut your ear hair for you.” You can’t even say the two words by themselves randomly as you walk into the kitchen while talking on the phone to a friend from work. To do so would imply that ear hair exists. And that he is aging. He has a mirror. If he’s still struggling with denial and needs a quick nudge, bring up the guy next door with the eyebrows-gone-wild or the disconcerting hair sprouting from, oh dear, HIS ears.
6. “Honey, you pick the restaurant.”
Or the new car. Or the new electric toothbrush. Yes, there are many, many things that it’s just simpler and easier to hand off to your partner — either because one of you is very good at doing them or because one of you loathes them. But then there are all those other, more mysterious things about which both of you have an opinion, but that one of you wants to delegate because you don’t want to have a tussle about: the restaurant, the car, the electric toothbrush. If you have an opinion, you must discuss it with your spouse. This is what marriage is about: sharing your understanding of the world, being open to his, and coming to a new joint conclusion.
Any other words advised NOT to use toward your husband? Comment below if you’d like! ~Nikki 🙂
Thanks to Leigh Newman for the article above!