For your reading pleasure and edification, I’ve come up with three lists of phrases, sentences, and concepts that should remain unspoken between husband and wife. Things he could say, you could say, and either of you could say—but shouldn’t. Let’s call them jabs.
Now, because you’re human, you will think some of these things. Mean-spirited and anger-inducing jabs will come to mind, and sentences will even begin to form in your head.
The good news is, a biblical strategy to control your thought life is spelled out in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praise-worthy—think about such things.”
Intentionally taking control of your thought life is an ongoing and worthwhile goal. But there are some instant changes you can make today simply by knowing what a jab is and realizing the damage it can do.
The best way to define the word “jab” is to give you a few real-life examples. See if you recognize any of these lines that might be tossed around in a marriage on the brink.
He might say…
“I’m thinking you wear too much / not enough makeup.”
“Didn’t we just have this same thing for dinner last week?”
“What did you do all day?”
“Did you really need another pair of shoes?”
“My mom did it this way.”
You might say…
“I don’t know how it happens, but the neighbors on both sides have zero dandelions.”
“You loaded the dishwasher wrong.”
“The Browns next door have a new car.”
“You’re just like your father.”
“Forget it. I’ll call someone. Or do it myself.”
Or either of you might say…
“I told you so.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Why can’t you be more like… ”
“You always… ”
“You never… ”
Have any of these jabs been echoing through your kitchen or bedroom in the last week or so? These guaranteed squabble starters seem to come out of nowhere and tend to linger for a while.
But jabs do have a discernible, preventable pattern. Each one begins with an observation. It continues with a brief statement disguised to be helpful or informative. But it’s not received that way and irritates instantly. In a flash, it grows from thought to spoken words to petty argument. Gone unchecked, that petty argument can easily escalate into a barrage of words and accusations that are not even true.
That barrage of words and accusations can easily escalate into several days of silence and cold stares. Those days of silence and cold stares can easily escalate into threats of ripping the family apart. You’ve been warned. And if you think about it, you’re really not surprised.
One final note. The most fascinating thing about jabs is that we know they’re going to sting even before we say them. So why do we?
From 52 Ways to Connect as a Couple by Jay Payleitner