What Not to Say to the Newlyweds in Your Life

Wedding season is in full swing, and odds are high that you know of at least one couple who is getting ready to tie the knot. When it comes to weddings, almost everyone knows the proper etiquette: 

  • Submit your RSVP on time. 
  • Respect the seating chart. 
  • Do not wear white.

But have you ever stopped to consider the proper etiquette when it comes to talking about marriage? 

As a newlywed myself, I’ve been taken aback by a pattern I’ve noticed when my husband and I are talking to other married couples. We hear so many married couples tell disparaging jokes, give backhanded comments, and hurl vicious insults (sometimes tempered with a laugh) toward their spouses or marriage in general. These types of comments, we’ve noticed, are almost universal. It makes no difference if we’re standing in the church foyer after a Sunday service or talking to unsaved friends at the soccer pitch. It’s made me ask, what do we as believers really think about marriage? 

I know I’m still a blushing bride, but I can’t help but wonder: if Christians believe that the covenant of marriage carries a lot of weight (and we do), do we truly act like it does? 

Christ on Display

The Bible paints a picture of marriage as a sacred covenant, a treasured gift given by the Lord to reflect the truth of the gospel (Eph. 5:21–33).

Pastor John Piper puts it this way in his book This Momentary Marriage:

Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. . . . [Marriage is] about telling the truth with our lives. It’s about portraying something true about Jesus Christ and the way he relates to his people. It is about showing in real life the glory of the gospel.1

Shouldn’t affirming these truths change the way we talk about marriage and our spouses? If we truly believe that marriage is a sacred covenant ordained by God and given as a blessing, why would we demote it to the butt of a joke or devalue our spouse for a laugh? Why would we speak of our marriages and our spouses the same way that the world does? 

A Broader Reach

Christian, the words that you say about your spouse and about your marriage impact the next generation. You can be a life-giver with your words: encouraging, loving, and building up. Or you can be a life-taker: demeaning, discouraging, and tearing down. There have been times that Collin and I have walked away from conversations with married couples and been incredibly encouraged. Still, there are other times that we’ve come away from the conversation wondering, “Is this all there is? Is this where we’re heading?”

It’s not that these couples were actively trying to discourage us. Many of them were trying to prepare us for the new realities that marriage would bring. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel that many Christians have subconsciously bought into the lie that marriage, while important, isn’t all that enjoyable, leaving me to wonder if I would wind up in the same headspace in a few years.

Five Things You Shouldn’t Say 

The next time you are talking with someone who’s a newlywed or soon-to-be-married, be a life-giver. Here are five kinds of phrases that have crept into the church as a “norm” but should be avoided in order to give life to fledgling marriages.

1. Don’t joke about how much you dislike your spouse. 

Ephesians 4:29 says, “No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.” 

When you are disparaging toward your spouse, your speech is not building him up, nor is it building up confidence in a newlywed. We are called to love and respect our spouses, both in their presence and when we’re apart. 

2. Don’t tell them, “It’s all downhill from here.”

While things will undoubtedly change as your marriage goes on, this doesn’t mean that your best days are behind you.

In his class on Song of Songs, Cedarville University professor Dr. Daniel Estes points out that as Solomon and his bride cultivate intimacy throughout their lives; they are always looking forward to the future with confident anticipation because “the best is always yet to come.” While this is a prominent theme in Song of Songs, it shouldn’t end there. This should be the theme in every Christian marriage. As you grow to know one another more deeply and grow in your love for the Lord, the best days aren’t behind you, they are ahead as you strive to serve the Lord together.

3. Don’t tell them not to get married.

Marriage is a wonderful gift given by the Lord, and we should rejoice with those who rejoice. Consider Proverbs 18:22, “A man who finds a wife finds a good thing.”

If you know the couple well, are close to them, and have genuine concerns about them getting married, prayerfully consider bringing this up to the couple privately, remembering to speak the truth in love. However, if you are not in this position, you must consider if these words are true and if saying them is loving.

4. Don’t tell them that their freedom or fun is gone.

It is true that marriage is hard work, but marriage is also meant for enjoyment. Marriage itself is a means of enjoying God, and enjoying God has inherent freedom in it. Sure, there are limitations and changes in priorities after you become married, but this is God’s design, and it’s worth it. 

5. Don’t joke about getting divorced.

In Scripture, the Lord is clear that He hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). From the beginning, God’s plan for marriage has been that it lasts for a lifetime because it reflects the love that Christ has for the Church. While this is not always the case in our broken world, we should refrain from joking about something that causes so much pain and that the Lord hates. After all, Christ certainly does not joke about abandoning His Bride. 

Keep a High View of Marriage

As you talk with the newlyweds and soon-to-be-marrieds in your life, don’t be afraid to share your experiences with them. There are things that you’ve learned practically in your marriage that they haven’t even thought of yet. But as you do so, keep some marriage talk etiquette in mind by remembering that marriage is a good gift from the Lord, designed to reflect the love of Christ.

If we truly have a high view of marriage, our words and our actions must reflect it. This isn’t only a matter of giving life to new marriages or respecting our spouses, it’s a matter of rightly reflecting the gospel. 

Speaking of marriage, there’s another wedding coming! Join Nancy as she explores what it means to be the Bride of Christ and how we can cultivate an intimate, loving relationship with our heavenly Bridegroom in the series “Here Comes the Bridegroom” on the Revive Our Hearts podcast, now through July 19. 

John Piper, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 24, 26.

About the Author

Ashley Gibson

Ashley Gibson

Ashley Gibson is a native of the mountains of Maryland, lover of flowers, and an ardent believer in writing letters. She always has a song in her heart—and usually one on her lips. Ashley loves encouraging others to know and … read more …

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