Avoiding the words ALWAYS and NEVER has been key advice for us in our marriage. Which started 15 years ago today!
It is something we now use in our parenting as well.
The principle is that when we use these words in our conversations they are rarely ever true (note the use of rarely as opposed to NEVER!) and they are normally accusatory. Sentences starting “You always…” or “I never get to…” wakes up the inner defence lawyer (a Paul Tripp phrase that I find so helpful, see his book on marriage: What did you Expect?) in the other person who immediately feels the need to defend themselves and point out occasions that disprove the accusation, excuse themselves and/or come up with a return shot in the same vein. “Well, you NEVER… or “Yes, but I ALWAYS…”
To steal from The Marriage Book (Nicky and Sila Lee) this time – the issue/problem is firmly placed between you, being batted back and forth in a combative manner instead of out in front of you where you can look at it together.
On a practical note the very act of taking back a “You ALWAYS… statement generally resulted in laughter and tension melting in our case. It was normally me – “You ALWAYS ….., well usually, ok sometimes, well that one time…”
Often the sorts of issues that produce these kind of statements are actually great chances to express things that we need to say and that the other person needs to hear, but we go about it the wrong way. Try starting with “I find it hard when…” or “I miss you when….” “I used to really enjoy it when we….” These emotions are usually what we are really trying to express. This sort of vulnerable opening up builds intimacy rather than setting up a net between us that only encourages point scoring.
So why am I bringing it up now? Well we were chatting about it with another married couple so it has been on my mind and as I was reflecting on our conversation it dawned on me that there could be a link to our grumbling vs lamenting thoughts. Are we taking God to court over things with our lawyer in tow or are we coming to our Father and telling him that it hurts? The end of the book of Job would, I think, warn us from the former as it reveals the otherness, the perfection and the might of God, while encouraging the latter because it also reveals a generous, merciful, listening, communicating God.
So ALWAYS keep on praying and do not give up. Luke 18:1