By Enyeribe Ejiogu ([email protected])
When the news broke that successful celebrity couple, Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, had filed for divorce, they joined the long list that stretches round the globe, of couples that have broken up and choked the courts with divorce cases. Respected Nigerian Christian leader, author of many books and Presiding Bishop of Wordbase Assembly, Dr. Humphrey Erumaka, spoke with Sunday Sun in the run up to the International Women’s Day, and shared thoughts on how marital relationships are affected by the spoken word.
Evidence abounds from numerous research studies across the world that the marriage institution is in trouble. What can be attributed to the trend?
I have reflected seriously on this vital issue and discovered that the glue that held my marriage of several decades has not been money or the big gifts but what we say to each other. I took time off my busy schedule to go through the text messages my wife and I have shared together and wondered why I had not deleted them ever since some of them were sent. I discovered that they were great assets to my innermost pleasure and delightful assurance in my love life. I pondered over what my experience and love life would have been if I had gotten married to a dumb lady or an introvert who is covertly and overtly expressionless. If that had happened, I wouldn’t have enjoyed marital bliss. I would rather a blind woman who can talk and laugh with me than marry a dumb woman who cannot speak and express her love for me from the depth of her heart.
Spouses have the capacity to generate and communicate good or bad ideas in their marriage. To a large extent, the impact of such ideas depends on how spouses use the right words to communicate same to each other. The truth is: a good or bad marriage is first a product of the mouth than an act of the hand. More than 80 per cent of all marital problems or marital bliss emanate from what spouses say to each other.
Denhi Chiney once said, “It’s not just words we use, but how we use them.” In that sense, our mouths hold the greatest control in a marriage; we can build up or tear down great walls of trust and affection depending on what we say and how it is said. Controlling our emotions and our words may be the difference between divorce and a happy life together. But, even when we think we are controlling our words, we don’t realise what we are saying or how we are saying it. It is not enough to think only about the words we say, because the way we say them also makes an enormous difference. What we say with our mouths is just as important as what is said with our bodies. Therefore, it is important that we pay close attention to what we say, to make sure our communication style is building, not destroying, our marital relationships. In essence, negative or poor marital communication is definitely a culprit in the rapid increase in divorce.
In a world where money and material things it can buy are given major consideration in managing marriage, why do you hold the view that words are more important in marriage?
Words have power. They can hurt or heal; tear down or build up; undermine or encourage. Negative words can really hurt or even destroy relationships, especially marriages. Many couples have been hurt at one time or another. One would ask: having known the pains which negative words can cause or how bad remarks can hurt, why do couples allow such pain-laden, hateful and hurtful words to come out of their mouths? Why do couples say the most hurtful things to their spouses whom they claim to love the very most? Why do couples ignore how powerful words can be? You see, the Bible calls our attention to the power of words, where it says in James 3:5-8, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Couples should recognise the reality of the power of words and how words can hurt their spouses and determine the health of their marriage. They should learn how to use the right words with a view to fostering peace and love in their marriage, and thereby ensure marital bliss between them.
This question naturally comes up: what should spouses say to each other? And more importantly, what should men say to their wives?
Before I answer your question, let me put what I will say in perspective by taking a scripture from the Bible, in Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 (New International Version, NIV), “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.”
No matter your material possession or outstanding qualifications, it is always important to note that you first won your wife’s love with your mouth and not by what you gave to her. She might have forgotten what you gave her at your first date, but may not forget what you told her. Every girl or boy friend you had, stayed with you based on what you told them and how you made them feel important around you. I want to emphasise that words are important. They are the building blocks of life. A lot of presentable young men wonder why it is difficult for them to sail through in their proposals. They come back asking: am I not handsome or rich enough? The truth is that it is not all about that. It is more of what you say to the girls. Women are made differently. They place value on kind and praise-filled affirming words than the appearance or material display. They believe, like Jesus Christ, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Your gifts will pave an expressway for you if they are accompanied with kind and pleasant words. Also, those gifts could be rejected in your presence thereby making you look like a proud fool if accompanied with unkind, uncivil and uncultured words. The devil knows how important the mouth is in marriage, and that is why he is very busy polluting the tongues of the men and women. He removes the sweet spice in the mouth and brews acrid venom in it.
When your married members come for counselling over family or marital issues, what do they tell you most often?
The major complaints of most couples about their marriages relate to how their spouses speak to them. They are devalued and discounted by the words of their partners. This automatically brews suspicion. Every man loves a woman just like every woman respects a man. So, when you are not getting it from your spouse, your first thinking would be that somebody else is receiving it. No home can be built on harsh, rash and violent words. They are not building blocks of marriage but destructive arrows. Bitter words are not spoken; they are shot like bullets. That is exactly what the Bible implies in Psalms 64:3 (King James Version), “Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words” while the NIV translation puts it this way, “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.”
From the scripture I quoted, you will readily see that it requires preparation to speak bad words. The process involves careful planning aimed at a conscious delivery of such bad words. This is why it is not easily forgiven and forgotten even in the face of apologies. Imagine this clause from the scripture: … They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.
Speaking bitter words takes calculated and conscious efforts. Therefore, bitter or hurtful words do not drop from people’s mouths involuntarily. Oftentimes, they are outcomes of calculated intentions consciously delivered to ensure colossal damage to their spouses.
Everyone should remember that bad and hurtful words cannot be withdrawn. Even when the speaker had been compelled to withdraw the statement, the impact had been made and the intended message communicated. When spouses speak hurtful words, the hearts of the hurting spouses are torn apart and their spirits brutalised. Hateful words coupled with anger can rob your marriage of love, peace and intimacy. The hurtful things that spouses say to each other can slowly erode their relationship and ultimately destroy the fabric of the marriage. Many times, spouses say hurtful things when they are angry. When all that spouses say to each other are bad, hurtful and unedifying words, they energise their marriage to remain bad, hurting and unedifying. In my recent book, Marriage Is In The Mouth, I itemised several catchy and endearing phrases that husbands and wives should regularly use to communicate and express affection for their partners.
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. What do you have to say to men who beat their wives?
I said moments ago that bad words are like swords and arrows. They are weapons that inflict deep, penetrating and cavernous wounds on the victim. Nobody constantly receives wounds without a physical reaction, at least for survival. This accounts for why men fight back with their hands. Every human being, whether man or woman, responds physically to bad words. A fellow that does not want to be beaten should not shoot first from the mouth. The first self-control should start from the mouth before the hands. Every fight starts from the mouth. More people have died from what they said than what they did.
A man that beats his wife is a coward. Sonya Parker said, “A man should use his hands to hold his woman, not hit her.” It is very important to stress that the man who beats his wife is gambling with life imprisonment. Each time you lift your hand against your wife the spirit of murder takes over control and directs the hand to the most vulnerable parts of her body. That’s why men kick their pregnant wives in the stomach and attempt to choke them to death. Taking note of the parts of the body where such women are beaten and the intensity of the force applied, one would simply know that such men are demonised. Even such battered women sound more provocative in their altercations to ensure that the devil’s destructive agenda is carried out to the letter.