There is a very common advice given to marital partners that says “Never speak ill of your spouse to anyone”. I tried to find the source of this advice and was unable to, outside of finding numerous articles upholding scripture verses such as:
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! – James 3:5
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Phil 4:8
None of these verses are addressing the need to seek advice about our marriages or our lives. Consider the following scripture:
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. Eph. 4:15-17
There is also Prov 11:1:
A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.
When I Googled Scripture verses about speaking the truth, I got a minimum of 37 responses, so I’ll let you do your own search on it.
When violence has entered a relationship, and the victim is being taught that they are never allowed to speak badly of their spouse, where do they go for help? How can they reach out when the response they get is to not speak negatively about their spouse?
There are 7 Proverbs that speak to seeking counsel from the wise: Prov. 11:14, 12:15, 13:10, 15:31-33, 19:20, 24:6 and 27:9. In addition, there is the very clear advice that older women are to mentor younger women in Titus 2:3-5
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
How can older women “train” young women to be proper wives if those same young women cannot share the difficulties they are facing in their relationship? How can we claim to be a community of believers if we live in a false world? If we are not sharing the struggles and trials that we face, how are we a true community?
When the only representation we show the world is a positive, false one we are not being real. We are lying about our lives. By the same token if all we speak about are the negative aspects of our relationships, if we only ever complain about our spouse, we are also portraying a false perspective. Everyone, even abusers, have positive and negative traits and behaviors. We deceive not only ourselves, but our entire community when we refuse to face all the realities of our lives. We must have the freedom to speak the truth, in love, at all times.
Speaking the truth about our marriages, asking for help from those who have more experience and wisdom is essential. As previously discussed, silence is a strong feeding ground for abuse. If there is no voice, there is no accountability for behavior. Sometimes, hopefully, the truth about our marriage is that things are going well, our spouse is loving and meeting our needs. Sometimes, unfortunately, the truth about our marriage is that there are struggles, that our spouse is not meeting our needs, that we are feeling abandoned, lost and alone in the relationship. Sometimes, sadly, it is not our spouse, but ourselves that is struggling in the relationship, we need guidance on how to be a better spouse, to meet the needs of our partner. Sometimes, horrifyingly, there is abuse in the relationship and we need to feel safe to reach out for advice. If there was a community of support where reaching out for advice was encouraged, abuse would not find fertile ground to grow in.
It is in community that we must live our lives. We must seek the wise counsel of our elders, of those who have walked the path before us. We must choose which fertile ground the seeds of our relationship will grow in. Will we choose one of isolation and silence? Will we tempt the grounds of abuse by sowing seed there? Or will we choose one of community and accountability? When we surround ourselves with Godly, honest people, our relationships will flourish and thrive.
Can abuse grow despite a community of support and wisdom? Absolutely. It will, however, be harder to hide and the victim is more likely to escape sooner and stay out. If you do not have that community, hotlines have been put in place to provide a safe place. Sometimes, we have to change our community in order to find safety and advice.
Let us not be silent. Let us seek counsel from people with wisdom and maturity to help us through the difficult times. Let us use our experiences to be wise counsel for others.