I’ve heard that women like to talk to relieve stress, and I believe it. It just makes us feel better to talk things over, and we often figure out what we think by talking. Men, on the other hand, usually know what they think before they start talking. So, we sometimes need a listening ear to figure out what it is we think and feel and know. Although there is nothing wrong with this when it is used wisely, it can be dangerous when we are not guarding our lips.

This is probably why women sometimes badmouth their husbands. They are working through a trouble, and in order to do so, they have to spill the beans on what the trouble is, and in this case, it is a husband. The problem is that spilling the beans to a girlfriend can actually be disloyalty to your husband. You may just be working things out, so you share lots of details about the argument you had and how insensitive and unkind he was, and then you feel better, go home and forgive him, and press on from there, never looking back. But the girlfriend remembers that stupid thing your husband did or said every time she sees him, and she thinks to herself, “There’s that jerk of a husband.” And after some time of speaking this way about a husband, the community may be filled with people who believe the man is a total jerk, and he has never had the opportunity to defend himself or give his side of the story. A wife may so successfully slander her own husband, that his business declines, and she wonders what has happened. She may then blame him for being a poor businessman, when the truth is that she has run him down so much in the community that no one wants to deal with him. Bad press travels fast, and when you can say you heard it straight from his wife, well, who will disbelieve it? You may think I am exaggerating, but it really can happen.

Somehow, women need to find a way to relieve their stress and figure out what they think without speaking in a disrespectful manner, without “saying things they ought not.” I remember many years ago, a woman was spilling to me and another lady about how her husband was being a jerk. I tried to intervene in order to stop her by giving her some advice about her situation. She interrupted me, put her hand out, and said something like, “Stop. I don’t want to hear it.” And so I told her I didn’t want to hear it either unless she was seeking help. Surely there is a way for women to feel better, work through their troubles, and get relief without over-sharing.

My suggestion is this. Do a little self-counseling. Lay out all your troubles, complaints, concerns, and confusions to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to help you sort it all out. Pray for wisdom to know if you are in the grip of a sinful attitude. Deal with your stress by talking to God about it all. You may find that you are reluctant to share some details with God that you might have been too eager to share with your friends. Somehow it seems a little cheap to blame the other person when you are praying. After you have sorted things out this way, you can know if you need more help from a trusted counselor of the human sort. If so, then you can proceed with caution, asking God to guide your tongue to speak wisely. Abigail was wise, and yet she called her husband a fool. There are certainly times when a wife should get outside help. But most of the time when wives chat without discretion, it is not over an issue of such gravity that the church or the civil authorities need to be involved.

Finally, if we could learn to relieve stress by another means, I would say it is by cultivating the habit of being thankful. Gratitude is a great stress reliever! Begin to thank God for as many things as you can think of, and it will take quite a long time before you run out of things to say. And, you won’t have any regrets about an unruly tongue. Of course, unmarried women can fall into the same sorts of troubles. If we see what it is we are about, and we know that we are creatures who love to talk things out, we can direct our talking to a more fruitful end.

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11 thoughts on “Let’s Talk

  1. Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for eloquently describing a reason why I tend to avoid women’s only bible studies or prayer groups these days. I prefer going to couple’s studies or small groups, because things seem to stay balanced when we relate to other marrieds and if we have a problem, everyone knows us both. In women’s studies, it is possible to meet for years and never know the husbands that are being talked about.

    If I start attending a women’s group, I want to make it a request from the very beginning to watch what we say about our loved ones (includes kids–some Moms I’ve known have crossed boundaries in sharing more than they should in a small group setting– like sharing a story they find funny but the kid would be mortifyingly embarrassed that all these ladies heard it).

    I also am grateful to Cary, an older and godly woman who listened to me complain that I was struggling with something and my husband responded without much compassion in telling me to “get over it”. She excused herself from the table, went to the ladies’ room and came back to tell me that if that is what my husband said, then I should “get over it”. She then rebuked me for spiritual cowardice over my desire to pull out of a ministry my husband wanted to be a part of by saying that I was giving up participating in a vital potent work of God in order to “save your hide”. She said this all very kindly and gently of course! She apologized for her bluntness, but actually, I loved her for it.

  2. This is one of those sins that I’ve been taught to avoid and simply need to remember. I’m attempting to cultivate the habit of reversing scenario in my mind before I say something (such as, “What if he said this about me? How would i feel?). Thank you for the reminder.

  3. ‘I remember many years ago, a woman was spilling to me and another lady about how her husband was being a jerk. I tried to intervene in order to stop her by giving her some advice about her situation. She interrupted me, put her hand out, and said something like, “Stop. I don’t want to hear it.” And so I told her I didn’t want to hear it either unless she was seeking help.’

    Perhaps, sometime, you could offer some insight on how you are able to say things that need to be said in such situations?

    I have had several single people tell me that their married friends have turned them off of marriage entirely with this kind of girltalk.

  4. “Lay out all your troubles, complaints, concerns, and confusions to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to help you sort it all out.”

    Thank you for always sending this message out, through your books, column and blogs. God has been gracious to me to bring this to my heart more and more. It takes practice, doesn’t it? If we’ve spent years dealing with marriage issues “talking things out” – with friends (bad-mouthing), husbands (nagging and complaining), our minds (in an anxious/worrying way) – pouring out our hearts out to the Lord is something we need to practice. But He is so kind and gracious to us. He gives wisdom without reproach (James 1:5)- another verse He just opened my eyes to and what joy it is to know that!

    Anyway, thank you again!

  5. I read Elizabeth George’s Woman after God’s Own Heart while I was still engaged, and this is the principle that stood out the most. I had already become uncomfortable with all the husband-talk that went on among the women I knew, and I was already committed to avoid that with my own husband. Reading that book and seeing the same advice from so many other godly wise women has been instrumental in helping me keep that commitment. Sometimes I do catch myself even journaling more details than I should about my relationship with my husband, which I try to avoid since hopefully my children will someday read those journals. I agree that the best release for these emotions is through prayer and preaching to ourselves. Thanks for the great exhortations on this site every day!

  6. Wow, thanks for this. Although I’m grateful that Allen and I early on established rough guidelines about what to say and to whom it’s good to hear this reinforced -especially what to do about it in company.

    I do have a rather tangential question though which I’ve been wanting to set before you. I could brag on my husband all day long. I’m just a little confused what to do with that desire (occasionally I’ll give vent to it around his mom) and whether it’s possible to say too many good things about one’s husband in public? I’ve been pondering on that for a while now and when I asked my husband he said, “Sounds like a good question for Nancy Wilson.”

    I should clarify that one reason for my hesitancy is that I know there are women struggling to be content with their husbands, and I don’t want to make myself obnoxious by going on about how wonderful my husband is.

    Anyway, your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Natalie, good question! I eager await the answer! I tend to brag a bit on my husband and have sometimes wondered if I’m overdoing the outward respect and tending toward boastfulness…? And then there’s the question of: since he and I are now one, is bragging on him like unto bragging about myself? And then sometimes I say such great things about my own husband that make me wonder if I’ve just made another woman even more discontent in her own marriage and wish I could just hold my tongue a bit better. Guidelines here would be very helpful! (I can take all the guidelines regarding my tongue you can offer–those “checkpoints” a while back were convicting and wonderful!) Thanks!

  8. Just a thought on “bragging” – has the outward talk been preceded by prayerful thanksgiving? If we’re giving glory to God for His good gifts, we’re on the right track. We’re commanded to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Sometimes I think we have more trouble with the rejoicing part! We can help this along by also offering thanksgiving and praise for the good gifts we see in others in our families and churches.

  9. A thought from me, for what it’s worth as a single person: Just as negative gossip sets a tone both for an isolated conversation and for the discourse of a community at large, so positive “gossip” can do likewise…with much happier results. So go ahead and brag about your husband…and also use kind, bragging words about your church leaders, your friends, their kids, etc. And don’t forget to brag about the person you’re talking to, as well. Psalm 16:3 says, “As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.” Why not delight in them right to their faces as well as behind their backs? The opposite of gossip isn’t silence, it’s edifying speech. I think a wife bragging about her Mr. Wonderful is a splendid place to start!

  10. I can identify with Billie quite well. I learned the lesson of bad mouthing a husband in my youth when I became a friends confident and it totally ruined my view of her husband. Though we learned from it, I still struggle with thinking well of her husband. Now I find myself on the other end and sometimes wonder if I say too many good things about my husband. It can create discontentment in the minds of other women, but it can also encourage Godly speach in them about their own lives. Sometimes I think they must be thinking to themselves, “He’s so wonderful and contributes so much, what do you contribute?!” 🙂 “The tongue is a fire…” I’ll never forget watching a mom bad-mouth her husband to a whole ladies group while holding her toddler in her arms. That is sadness to watch it being seeded into a child’s mind.

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