speaking well of your spouse

After years of counseling many couples, my wife and I have developed a handful of anecdotal analytics based on the answers to simple questions that help assess the health of a marriage.  In no particular order they are:

  1. Do you assume the best in your spouse during times of conflict?
  2. Do you consistently affirm what is true to your partner?
  3. Do you leave the past in the past?
  4. Do you trust that your spouse speaks well of you to others?

In a future post I’ll peal back the intent and impact of each of these questions.  For today though I want to focus on question four.  How you and your spouse speak of each other reveals loads about your character and care for one another.  In “Christianese” it is the loudest witness your marriage makes in the world.  James 3:5-6 has this to say of the power of our words,

5So also, the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  NLT

Therefore we stand an enormous amount to gain when we “tame our tongues” and speak well of our spouses.  I recently read a great article by Michael Hyatt that speaks wonderfully to this very issue.  Allow his words to both inform and transform the way you speak about your wife to others. 

Joel Thomas


As a leader, the health of your marriage directly affects the impact of your leadership. I have witnessed this time and time again. Being effective at work or in ministry begins by being effective at home.

Early in our marriage, Gail and I attended a church led by a dynamic, thirty-something pastor. He was an extraordinary communicator. He was a wise and empathetic counselor. As a result, the church grew rapidly.

But as we got better acquainted with him and his wife, we started noticing a disturbing trend in the way they related to one another. They would often make disparaging remarks about the other in public.

At first, it seemed cute. Their comments seemed playful and humorous. Everyone laughed. But over time, they became more and more pointed, thinly masking their frustration with one another.

We ultimately left that church. But several years later we learned they suffered an ugly divorce, both admitting to multiple affairs. They lost their family, and, of course, their ministry. To this day, it grieves me to think about it.

Conversely, I noticed that Sam Moore, my predecessor at Thomas Nelson, always spoke highly of his wife. He would often say, “I hate to leave her in the morning, and I can’t wait to see her in the evening.” They have been married now for nearly 60 years. Last time Gail and I were with them, they were holding hands. It was obvious they were still in love.

In reflecting on these two experiences, I am convinced that praising your spouse in public is one of the most important investments you can make—in your family and in your leadership.

This is important for at least five reasons:

1.You get more of what you affirm. Have you ever noticed that when someone praises you, you want to repeat the behavior that caused it? This is just human nature. It can be a form of manipulation if it isn’t genuine. But it can be a powerful way to motivate others when it is authentic.

  1. Affirmation shifts your attitude toward your spouse. Words are powerful tools. They can create, or they can destroy. They can build up, or they can tear down. I believe most people have a drive to align their actions—and their attitudes—with their words. If you start speaking well of someone, you start believing what you say.
  2. Affirmation helps strengthen your spouse’s best qualities. Encouragement is also a powerful force for good. All of us need positive reinforcement. This is why when we are losing weight and people notice, it gives us the strength to stick with the program. This is true in every area of life.
  3. Affirmation wards off the temptation of adultery. When others see you are happily married, they are less likely to proposition you. It’s like a hedge that protects your marriage from would-be predators. You simply stop being a target.

5.Affirmation provides a model to those you lead. To be a truly effective leader, you must lead yourself, and then you must lead your family. Your marriage is a powerful visual of how you treat the people you value the most. When you speak highly of your spouse, your followers are more likely to trust you. It takes your leadership to another level.

Affirming your spouse in public is an investment that pays big leadership dividends. In a world where fewer and fewer marriages last, it can be a difference-maker.

Question: How have you seen this play out in the lives of those who have led you?

You can read more from Michael Hyatt by clicking the following link: www.michaelhyatt.com




  1. In ‘Mere Christianity’ C.S. Lewis talks about imitating or pretending to be the person that we wish to become. How else can we attain what we are not without practice? Act kind even when you don’t feel charitable, act gracious even when you don’t feel merciful, treat the person with whom you have chosen to spend eternity with respect, affirmation and unconditional love. “Act” this way all the time and it will become who you are. What a great reminder of a few simple yet powerful guidelines that I fail to follow too often. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Good stuff Joel. I have seen how this plays out in my own life with Arlene. It is amazing how many guys will talk down about their wives and then ask why their marriage is in trouble. This is also good advice for anyone who is in a position of authority anywhere.

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