The Right Words for Improving Your Relationship
Just knowing the meaning of a word like “love” can help you not be manipulated and help you Love better
In today’s podcast, Coach Jack will demonstrate how knowing the meanings of words such as integrity, love, and respect can help you to: 1) avoid being manipulated by your spouse’s words, and 2) can help you to truly love your spouse better.
After listening to today’s podcast you may want to:
- Get a free download to teach you how to help your spouse enjoy talking with you more.
- Learn how to talk about relationship problems in a way that your spouse will like.
- Get a book to help you eliminate argument from your marriage.
The Right Words for Improving Your Relationship
[Introduction to the podcast]
Announcer: On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.
Jack Ito PhD: Did you know that the definitions that you have for words might not be the same definitions that your spouse has? And that that can cause problems in your relationship? Just take for example the meanings of the words trust, love, honesty, integrity. Your spouse might accuse you of not being honest when you think you are very honest. Or your spouse might say something like, “well, if you really loved me, you would do such and such.” Or your spouse might say, “I just can’t trust you.” How do you know what these words mean to your spouse? How do you know if you are really being honest or loving? How do you know you have developed the characteristics for trust? Well, the only way to know these things is to have some very clear definitions of these words.
If I ask you if you are a person of integrity who earns other people’s respect, you might have a tendency to tell me “yes.” But, if I ask you what does it mean, “person of integrity”? Can you tell me? The fact is that words have meaning and words have power. When people change the definition of words, when people change the meaning of words, they can use them to control you. Sometimes just a slip of a little word here or a little word there can make the difference between starting off to reconcile or not reconcile. When I start working with someone and their spouse is not in love with them, I will have them say something to their spouse that will immediately help their spouse to relax with them so that they can begin the reconnection process. If after that, my client goes and just changes a couple of the words—adding their own thoughts, they can get a very different reaction from their spouse. For this reason, when we work together, it is really important that my client practice exactly what they’re going to say at this critical point when their relationship is hanging on the edge.
Now if your relationship is still pretty strong, you can say things the wrong way and it’s not going to make much of ad difference. Your actions over period of time are going to demonstrate very well to your spouse what you actually mean, what you actually feel. But if your relationship is on the edge, you might not have that time. Your spouse might be moving out today or preparing to file divorce or perhaps your spouse already has. Knowing the rights words can make the difference between that actually happening, knowing the right words can make a difference for starting things going in the right direction again. If you want to have good relationships, you are going to have to pay attention to the words you use, when you use them, and how you use them.
Some people think that if they just are open and express the thoughts and feelings of their heart, that that is going to do some kind of magic to make people reconcile. Well that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact I teach my clients not to be open. I teach them to be honest but openness often isn’t good. The only time we really want to be open is when it’s going to help our relationship or it’s going to benefit the other person in some way even if it’s something that they don’t like. To be open when it’s not necessary and when it’s hurtful, there is no value in that. And it actually harms a relationship. In addition to knowing which words you use, your also going to need to be clear on the meaning of those words. So today I want to talk to you about a few word definitions that are important to relationships. I wish that I could cover them all, but I can’t. If you are reading my books, you will find that for most of my books, I have a glossary in the back of my books with word definitions. Just knowing, for example, what it means to be “needy” or what it means to be “secure” can already start you on the path of making good changes in yourself so that you can become a more attractive partner.
As of this podcast I’ve written five self-help books. As an author it’s really hard to know what parts of my books help people the most or not at all. I have to be very careful what I say and how I say it so that people can learn this from it and to make sure that I say things in a way that they can understand. And I need to make my words clear enough that people can benefit from them. To read a bunch of vague words is not really going to help you, even if they sound good. Some people say that they decided to work with me especially because I’m very clear and how I use words and very detailed in how I give directions. I think that if you are going to pay somebody to help you that those people should be able to say that in a very clear way. And, if they can’t, that really makes me wonder if they really know how to help. Unclear messages or unclear teaching in coaching or counseling can also make people have conflict and have self-doubts and also contributes to their making further mistakes in their relationships.
Let’s take for example this phrase, “if you loved me you would…(followed by something).” “If you loved me, you would….” This is a powerful phrase that can control people who really don’t know what it means to love someone. So for them, if they want to prove their love and they’re not sure what love is, then they may go ahead and do whatever it is the other’s person says, will prove their love even if it’s not very a very good thing to do. For example, if somebody saying, “if you loved me then you would have an open relationship.” Well if you don’t really know what love is and you think you need to have an open relationship in order to prove your love, that’s actually going to be a bad thing to do because having an open relationship, while it may bring some diversity to your relationship, some new excitement that you may not have had for a while, it also undermines connection in a relationship and leads to people losing the feeling of love for each other which is important for maintaining a relationship. We certainly couldn’t prove our love to someone by us doing something which is going to end up with us not loving each other anymore. But, if you really don’t know that, you might go ahead and do whatever the other person wants.
People also use the words loyalty and trust in this same manipulative way. “If you are loyal, then you will (something).” “If you trust me you will (something).” So, it’s really important to know the meaning of the word “loyal” and “trust,” as well. Otherwise you may do something which is actually not very loyal or not a good thing to do, even if you are the you loyal. You might trust your spouse, but that doesn’t mean that you would just allow your spouse to do anything that might potentially be harmful. The fact is that compliance is not the same thing as love, trust, loyalty, or respect. So when someone says, “if you love me” or “if you trust me,” “if you want to show respect to me,” or these kind of things, then you will do X, make sure that you are not being led to do something bad. And the way that you can make sure that is to have a very clear definition in your mind of what these things are. We can love and not comply, we can be loyal and not comply, we can trust and not comply, we can respect and not comply, and so forth.
Let’s take some specific words and take a look at their meanings. Take the word “integrity.” I don’t know if you could define that when I asked you at the beginning of this podcast. Now is your chance to learn what integrity means or to verify what you think it means. Integrity simply means “unbroken” or “whole.” And whole in terms w-h-o-l-e. So for example, an egg as it comes out of a chicken has integrity. If you drop that same egg on the floor, it’s gonna break and then it will no longer have integrity. It will be broken—it won’t be whole. A person of integrity also is not broken. All of their parts fit together, match each other. That means that his values are going to match his thinking. His thinking is going to match his behavior. And his words are going to match his thinking. There is consistency between those three things. When you find someone is behaving differently from the values that they’re expressing, then you can know that person does not have integrity. And by the way, integrity is one of those things that we need in order to earn someone’s respect.
Sometimes people will use fancy explanations to try to show how their thinking, how their behavior, how their words, how their values, actually match when they don’t seem to. And sometimes they can actually explain it in a way that we can see how that really does fit together. Other times though, it just won’t make any sense. When it doesn’t make sense, especially if you see that happening repeatedly, then you can know this is a person that’s not so much to be respected. This is a person you probably have very good boundaries with. We respect people who live according to their values even if we don’t like their values, which means that respect and liking are not the same thing. So if someone says, “if you like me you will respect me,” it really doesn’t make sense. It’s the same way if they said, “if you respect me, then you will like me.” No, that’s not true either. We can both like someone and respect them, but they’re not necessarily the same thing.
The same is true for trust. We can trust a person that we don’t like if they consistently behave in a trustworthy way. On the other hand, we might like someone who really doesn’t behave in a trustworthy way. I often encounter this with many of my more needy clients. They really like their spouse who is not a very trustworthy person. In that case, it’s really important for them to learn that liking is not enough to make the relationship work. They also need to learn how to deal with this person who repeatedly breaks their trust. The more a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors don’t match, the less integrity they will have, the less we can respect them, the less trustworthy they will be. One good source of definitions is the Bible and that’s because the Bible hasn’t changed for thousands of years. It doesn’t change. It’s the word of God and God does not change his definitions for what it means to love someone or any of the other words that are used in the Bible. Society may change those words, but being Christians, we have an advantage that we can know very clearly, for example, what love is. If we go to the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians, we get a very long definition of what it means to love someone and we also are shown examples of love. Jesus death on the cross for us is the best example of love that we have. Just as the Bible tells us that no one has any greater love than they lay down their life for another person. From this we learn that love includes sacrifice, although it’s not always sacrifice that we are doing when we are loving someone. We don’t go around sacrificing all the time, but sometimes we have to because of our love. What we can know from seeing that kind of biblical definition is that loving someone doesn’t mean you only do things when we feel like or when there is an advantage for us.
If we only did things when we felt like it, then what we could know is that we really don’t love the other person even though we might feel like we do. Let’s consider another example of love. What it means to love. Consider for example a wife who told her husband that if her husband really loved her he would allow her to have an intimate relationship with another man. You can substitute any behavior you like in here. Maybe he would allow her to spend all the money that they have on the lottery or whatever other kind of destructive thing that you can think of. If we know from reading the Bible that love is sacrifice, then we might think, “well, if I really love her then I will let her do that, even though that’s a sacrifice for us to lose all of our money,” or “it’s a sacrifice for me to lose her fidelity and her loyalty only to me because I love her I will allow her to do that. But, if we also read from other parts the Bible, we can know that loving someone never includes doing something which is against God’s Word. Because doing so actually would result in a bad thing happening for that person or for our relationship with them or for their relationship with God. We can’t support such behavior and it wouldn’t be a loving thing to do that.
The word “submission” also trips people up. Although the Bible says that wives are to submit to their husbands and husbands are to submit to their wives, that never includes submitting when doing so would be disobedient to God’s commands. It’s very dangerous just to take a word out of the Bible and make a meaning out of it. That’s why we need to be in God’s Word every day. Jesus even gave an example that if a child asked their father for a poisonous snake, would their father give it to them? No. Why not? Well, because the father lovers the child. Even though the child wants it, it wouldn’t be a loving thing to do because it would be a damaging thing for the child. The same thing is also true when we ask God for things. We can’t pull this on God, “God, if you loved me you would do such and such.” God does love us, but for sure he doesn’t do everything that we want. His primary goal is not to please us, although he really desires a relationship with us. We need to learn that from our relationship with God and and from God’s examples.
When we are loving our spouse, we need to do what really would be in their best interest from God’s perspective and God’s principles. even if it’s going to make our spouse upset. if we need to initiate a separation, for example, in order to get our spouse to end an affair ,then we’re going to do that even though it’s going to make our spouse very upset. Because in the long run that is the most loving thing for our spouse. I have worked with many people who thought that loving means pleasing and so they tried really hard to please their spouse, over and over and over again, discovering that not only did and that please their spouse in the long run, it actually made their spouses less attached to them and damaged their relationships. It’s not a bad thing to please our spouses at least once in a while, but it’s a very different thing from loving our spouse.
You have probably heard about Mr. Nice Guy. Mr. Nice Guy can be a man or a woman. So, it’s just a term, alright? Mr. Nice Guy is a man or woman who believes that the way to get love is to do whatever the other person wants and to also do for the other person whatever they don’t want to do for themselves. Do you know what kind of relationships Mr. Nice Guy creates? He or she creates superficial friendships. Not only do they get friended, but they don’t even get to be close friends. And they don’t get attraction, they don’t get respect, and they certainly don’t get love. At the most, all they get is appreciation and that only for as long as they continue to do what the other person wants. If you are a Mr. Nice Guy, you probably have seen this yourself. People like you most when you’re doing something for them but when you’re not, they’re nowhere to be found. They’re off with someone else. If you want to have better relationships, work on getting better with words but make sure those words match your values and your behaviors. Be honest, but don’t be abusive, and don’t say more than is good for the other person to hear. And, if you want to get good at loving, make sure your words and actions and thinking are consistent with how God wants you to treat the other person. Even if they want you to do it differently.
You will never be loved by someone who does not prioritize your well-being and you will never be able to truly love until you learn how to prioritize the other person’s well-being over the other person’s happiness. The idea that you have to love yourself before you can love others is also a false idea. It doesn’t come from the Bible. it comes from society that working on twisting values and meanings. What do we learn from the Bible? It’s we learn that we must love God first, and then others. We can learn from the Bible that we are to love others and love God and that this is the summation of the Commandments. All the commands that God gives us has to do with loving Him, putting Him first, and also loving others—even loving our enemies. When we do that—when we love God and others first, that will help us to feel good about ourselves. When we put ourselves before what God wants and before others, it only damages our relationship with God and other people and we end up feeling bad about ourselves. It doesn’t mean, as I said, that we go around trying to please others, although it’s fine to work to please God. God is never going to be pleased by something bad so it’s safe to do that with God. With other people we got to be darn careful.
Let me give you an example of how I love others. So I have a reputation for being a tough coach and that means mostly that I will tell people how it is and I won’t validate them for anything that is harmful for their relationship. I’m not going to verbally abuse them, but I will say many things that they don’t want to hear—if they need to hear them. And that’s because people need to learn real things in order to have real world results. You might think this would make my clients really not like working with me, but this is the main reason that people want to work with me. They’re not wanting someone to hold their hand and tell them they’re doing a great job and their life must be tough. They’re wanting someone to tell them what they are doing wrong what they can do better and how they can fix their relationship. Tell you a little secret—it’s not actually my character to go around being tough. I actually learned to be that way because my clients have benefited so much from it. If you know me personally, I think you would find that I’m not really a very tough guy. On the other hand, when I do let my clients know that they’ve done a good job—which I do when they done a good job—it means so much more to them because I haven’t just been saying how great they are all along. They know that when I tell them they’re doing a good job, it’s true. And because of that, it feels much more important, much more special.
I’m going to share something else with you too, since we are talking about love in this podcast. It’s that when I was young I really didn’t know how to love others. I was clueless about that. I was raised in a family that didn’t know how to show love or express love very well. So I would pray every day that God would show me how to love other people. And he did. And I learned how to love other people and not only that but I learned how to help people to love each other, and I learned how to help people to even make their spouses fall in love with them again, once they didn’t. That is more, much more than I prayed for, but often that’s the way God works. If you want to learn something, ask God to teach you. Sometimes the lessons can be really, really difficult. God is tough. God is so much tougher than I am. That because you know what He’s doing is in your best interest you can still feel that He loves you even when he lets you learn things in a difficult way. There are lots more things to learn about words. As I said, the Bible is the best source. I’ve got some additional help for you at my website coachjackito.com. Really happy if you want to visit and to get more help for your relationship
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack. Visit coachjackito.com to learn more skills for reconnecting with your spouse and restoring your marriage.