What Are The Meanest Spousal Putdowns?

November 5, 2020

FAMILY AND MARRIAGE: Meanest spousal putdowns
By Roger Rollins Columnist
6 hrs ago
Roger Rollins mug
Roger Rollins

Submitted photo
“Pain changes people. It makes them trust less, overthink more, and shut people out.” — Anonymous

“Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” — Bible (Psalms 34:13)

Jack and Jill were arguing again. Jill was complaining about Jack’s failure to help keep the house clean. Jack had a habit of leaving things where they lay, whether it was a dirty shirt or his empty coffee cup. Jack’s come-back was that his mother had always made him keep his room clean and neat – to her standards and not to his. He refused to let his wife treat him the same way. He would pick things up/put them away when he was ready and not before.

It’s easy for us to get into arguments with our spouse. We share large blocks of time and space together and we often get on each other’s nerves. There are certain behaviors during times of adversity that can lead to serious marital problems.

Researchers at the Gottman Institute say that the worst thing you can say to your spouse during a conflict is something we wouldn’t normally think of. In fact, we may do it without realizing it. It is the simple statement “I would never do that to you.” The phrase conveys a subtle form of contempt to the other. It implies that you are better than they are, placing yourself on a higher plane and insinuating that whatever they did is beneath you.

“This comparison immediately sets you up as ‘above’ your partner – more ‘adult,’ more ‘mature,’ and just plain better,” writes Ken Fremont-Smith, MAC, LMHC, for the Gottman Institute. Another version of this, Fremont-Smith says, is, “How would you like it if I did that to you?” This sentiment often coincides with some form of a lecture about whatever behavior your partner took part in that has upset you.

Another similar and even more subtle behavior that is harmful to our marriage is developing a child-parent relationship. There may be no intent to hurt the other person and in fact this behavior may have the best of intentions. But it is telling the child-spouse that the parent-spouse is indeed superior and knows what’s best.

In either of the above cases the best solution is treat each other as equals and as we would want to be treated. (Think the Golden Rule).

According to experts, the number one turn off for women is a lack of initiative. If a woman’s partner never takes the reins or displays personal ambition, it’ll be hard for them to overcome that.


Amber Lee, certified matchmaker and CEO of Select Date Society, says, “Confidence and decisiveness are very attractive qualities to many women, so when a man fails to take the lead, initiate contact, or make simple decisions, women will lose interest.”

Perhaps this sounds strange in a society that has become so egalitarian, promoting the concept that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. I think this desire women have for men to be somewhat assertive reminds us that we are indeed God’s creation with certain preferred modes of behavior (whether or not we want to admit it). Let me emphasize that assertiveness doesn’t mean superiority. It is simply God’s design for our behavior.

According to psychotherapist and men’s health expert Josh Jonas, LCSW-R, the number one turn off for men in relationships “is when their partner is emotionally closed off or ‘hard,’ while simultaneously critical of them and/or their actions.” The spouse is emotionally unavailable and not connected to her husband. She is ignoring her husband. In a sense this takes us back to Gottman’s conclusion that we don’t like to be put down or ignored.

As I consider the conclusions of all these secular experts it takes me back to what the Bible teaches. Husbands and wives are to love and care for one another. The Bible emphasizes that husbands specifically are to love their wives, caring for them even to the point of sacrificing themselves. Wives are to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5).

Roger Rollins is the executive director of The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. Contact him at 803-640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com or www.aikenfamco.com.