"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I learned that on the playground in kindergarten, but I think it isn't true. In fact, words can hit like a fist and leave scars less visible, but no less lasting. Sad, but true that we will say harsher things to our spouse than we would ever say to a coworker, acquaintance or even the stranger we meet at the grocery store. Why do we so carefully guard our words with those we hardly know, but just "let fly" with our partner? Of course, intimacy allows us to be our "real self" and we all need that. It's good, unless dropping our guard means taking the filter off and verbally slashing and burning the one we love most. In the book of Psalms, David prayed, "Set a guard, Oh Lord, over my mouth. Keep watch over the door of my lips." Apparently, he understood how much trouble our tongues can cause.
My wife, Debbie, has a beautiful southern accent. People need only to hear her speak a few words to know where she is from. A southern accent is distinctive, as is a New England accent, or a British accent. We can tell a lot about a person just by hearing their words--where they are from, who raised them. Our accent often gives us away. Last Sunday in church, one of the hymns admonished us to "speak with an accent of love."
What a great goal for all of us. Speak with an accent of love, as if you've been around Jesus; have the accent of Christ. It's invaluable in marriage. In any conversation, the first words matter the most. The first few minutes of any conversation really determine how that conversation will go. Even (especially) when dealing with conflict or problems, start gently, with an accent of the love you have for your spouse. A harsh startup--blaming, accusing, criticism almost invariably starts a downward cascade that is very hard to interrupt. Speak with an accent of love; be positive. Focus on what you love about and have in common with your partner. Own your emotions and avoid opinions about your spouse, then ask for what you want. In any negative emotion is a positive desire, a wish or a need. It's a recipe for making things better.
But, it all starts with speaking in love. Let your accent give you away. Speak with an accent of love.