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10 Things I’ve Learned About the Power of Words in Marriage

10 Things I’ve Learned About the Power of Words in Marriage

From the moment I received an email from Toni Powell expressing how much she’s loved being married for the past 35 years, and how she chooses gratitude daily, I knew we’d quickly become friends.

We scheduled a call on Skype (in which I was a bit embarrassed to turn on the video because I looked an absolute mess) because she lives in Australia and I’m here in the US.

Within seconds, we were chatting like we’d known each other for a lifetime.  

Sisters in arms, dedicated to sharing the sunny side of marriage, daily creating our ‘happily ever after’ and enjoying every minute of it.

I loved getting to know her on that call and I know you’ll love getting to know here through this post.  She’s an absolute gem of a woman (and her hubby adores her to pieces).

Until Monday…make it a great weekend!

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Just like a book, a marriage is full of words. What words are included will determine if it is a book of love.  

It’s not only the words the couple uses that make a difference, friends, family and a good few others will throw theirs into the ring, as well.

When I entered marriage I had what amounted to a well thumbed ‘complaint thesaurus’ tucked firmly under my arm. 

I also brought along: teenage hormones, self-obsession, insecurity, impatience, a good helping of rage, some very broken dreams and a baby in my tummy.  (Not to mention parents -mine, as well as his- who clearly didn’t think I was good enough for him and let me know as often as their heart saw fit).

My husband provided quite a few words of his own: ‘beautiful’, ‘clever’, ‘funny’, ‘amazing’, ‘caring’, ‘honest’ and so many more. 

It was his words that gave me back my self-respect, belief in myself, the support I needed to make crazy leaps of faith, and it was his words that provided the calming balm that restored me when I landed on the ground – which I still do with startling regularity.

With his words he built a true home, a safe place that has grown into a marriage so happy that 35 years later we can still hardly bear to be apart. Through the years he certainly has been writing a book of love. You can hear a TEDx talk I gave about the power of words in our marriage herebe warned there is some colorful language – I am probably never going to be a ‘good girl’! 

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about the power of words:

1.  Life and death are in the power of words.  I can help bring out the best in people or I can help to destroy them, just with my words. A power I don’t want to misuse, though sometimes do.

2.  Words change our behavior.  In the UK documentary series ‘The Young Ones’ researchers exposed one group of university students to words about aging (i.e., old, infirm, hobble, wizened, geriatric), and another group to words around youth (i.e., skip, joy, jump, fun, young, energy) for just 10 minutes.  Those exposed to the aged related words ambled from the room more slowly than when they had arrived, some were stooped and sad.  Meanwhile those exposed to the youth related words walked faster or ran from the room, one even skipped and most were smiling.

3.  Words affect our intelligence.  Science is uncovering some very interesting understandings about words, for instance: exposure to a word can affect our actions, our feelings, our thinking and even our intelligence! Research has shown that concentrating on the word ‘professor’ will make you smarter, while mulling over the words ‘soccer hooligan’ will decrease your intelligence. 

4.  The words I say to my husband will influence who he becomes.  If exposure to one little word influences people then I have to keep in mind constantly just what influence my words have on who my husband becomes. Some days I have to choose my words carefully!

5.  The words I say to others about my husband will influence who he becomes – especially if I say those words in front of him.  What he hears me say about him builds his picture of himself. I was fortunate enough to learn this little gem very early in my marriage and I believe it stopped me from destroying a lovely, lovely man.

6.  Complaint mushes your brain.  According to Trevor Blake, author of 3 Simple Steps - even listening to words of complaint for as little as 30 minutes strips away neurons in the hippocampus area of our brains and turns your brain to ‘mush’. Complaint is a fall back position for me and one I best avoid if I want my husband and friends to have any brain cells left – the fact I have a few remaining ones is nothing short of a miracle.

7.   Every single day I am influencing myself with the words I tell myself about myself.  All those nasty little things I say to myself gain a foothold and bear sour fruit.  Learning to speak nicely to myself grows much tastier fruit and everyone benefits.

8.   Every single day I influence others with my words.  This is often hard for me to remember.  I am quick to point out faults and much slower to find the good in others.  I send myself daily reminders to speak kindly!

9.   Words come with emotions attached.  I, like anyone else, have a stack of oft used words that regularly appear in my speech and reveal my issues. I have struggled with fear and anxiety so my speech tends to be littered with words like “afraid”, “fear”, “Oh no!”, “Oh dear!”, and “That’s terrible”. Most situations don’t call for such emotionally laden words.

10.  I can see a situation very differently just by changing the words I use.  It isn’t what happens to us that matters, it is how we think and speak about what happens that gives it power over us or us over it.

Words are powerful little things, aren’t they?  Our thoughts, actions, emotions, and even our brains can be affected by them. In marriage it is important that we remember the ‘power’ of words, and chose them wisely. We want to write a book of love, remember?


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Toni Powell is a mother of 5, grandmother of 9 and has been happily married to her angel husband, Philip, for 35 years. Her passion is telling life-changing and inspiring stories. She has run seminars, events, businesses, and occasionally (well, ok, often) into trouble, she makes films, writes blogs and enjoys a life where her job is to help others be happier and have happier relationships. You can visit her projects Goodness Gracious Me and her workplace version of the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge. Toni's goal is to inspire the astonishingly powerful practice of gratitude in as many people as possible.

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