Throughout decades of counseling anne+i cannot count the number of times we’ve watched a spouse look into their husband or wife’s eyes and—usually in a BIG-voice—confidently declare: “You ALWAYS” and “You NEVER”
These statements are generally followed with a fairly typical list of a spouse’s marriage perceptions, frustrations, and complaints. Including:
You ALWAYS (… fill in the blank)
You always need to have things your way
You always believe the worst in people
You always have to win
You always find a way to make things my fault
You always raise your voice
You’re always on the phone, Facebook, computer, screen-time …
You NEVER (… fill in the blank)
You never really listen to me
You never ask me what I think or how I feel
You never want to do what I like to do
You never stop to consider our agreed on budget when you want to buy something
You never initiate in our sexual intimacy
You never want to have friends over
Growing up, my dad often said “a person is only as good as their word”. In counseling, anne+i encourage couples to try to eliminate from their vocabulary words we describe as “universal quantifiers”. These include always and never. The truth is a person rarely always or never does or doesn’t do the things they are being accused of doing or not doing.
Of course, as is the case in most always and never declarations—there are always exceptions. For example, the Bible says; “rejoice always” (Phil.4:4). And Jesus said; “I will never fail nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
Words are powerful, and the fact is people—a spouse, parents, friends, leaders—will disappoint you with their words. That’s why eliminating universal quantifiers from conversations is such a good idea.
Furthermore, everyone can benefit from choosing words wisely. For example, parents who teach their children to eliminate always and never statements help their kids to understand the importance of words. For example, our grandson recently declared to his mom in his BIG-voice; “you always make me take a shower!” Our daughter calmly replied, “That’s not true, I didn’t make you take a shower yesterday”.
REAL LIFE applications:
Take some time to review your words. What universal quantifiers—always and never—do you use? How might you re-frame these words to make them more life-giving rather than opening the door to judging and potentially shaming your spouse (or others)?
Invite the Holy Spirit to lead you to help make things right with your spouse. This may include asking for forgiveness for things you’ve done—and for things you’ve failed to do. You may also want to review and change any negative or judgmental patterns of communication.
Next spend some time reflecting on universal quantifiers in the Bible. Review always /never passages like “rejoice always” and “I will never fail nor forsake you”. What do these statements mean to you? Journal your thoughts—then plan a date with your spouse and share your heart. My experience is this will always open the door to increased intimacy in your marriage.