Why Speaking Well of Your Spouse Is So Important

As a leader, the health of your marriage directly affects the impact of your leadership. (Click here to tweet that.) I have witnessed this time and time again. Being effective at work or in ministry begins by being effective at home.

A Couple in Love  Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/courtneyk, Image #10563305

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/courtneyk

Early in our marriage, Gail and I attended a church led by a dynamic, thirty-something pastor. He was an extraordinary communicator. He was a wise and empathetic counselor. As a result, the church grew rapidly.

But as we got better acquainted with him and his wife, we started noticing a disturbing trend in the way they related to one another. They would often make disparaging remarks about the other in public.

At first, it seemed cute. Their comments seemed playful and humorous. Everyone laughed. But over time, they became more and more pointed, thinly masking their frustration with one another.

We ultimately left that church. But several years later we learned they suffered an ugly divorce, both admitting to multiple affairs. They lost their family, and, of course, their ministry. To this day, it grieves me to think about it.

Conversely, I noticed that Sam Moore, my predecessor at Thomas Nelson, always spoke highly of his wife. He would often say, “I hate to leave her in the morning, and I can’t wait to see her in the evening.” They have been married now for nearly 60 years. Last time Gail and I were with them, they were holding hands. It was obvious they were still in love.

In reflecting on these two experiences, I am convinced that praising your spouse in public is one of the most important investments you can make—in your family and in your leadership. (Click here to tweet that.)

This is important for at least five reasons:

  1. You get more of what you affirm. Have you ever noticed that when someone praises you, you want to repeat the behavior that caused it? This is just human nature. It can be a form of manipulation if it isn’t genuine. But it can be a powerful way to motivate others when it is authentic.
  2. Affirmation shifts your attitude toward your spouse. Words are powerful tools. They can create, or they can destroy. They can build up, or they can tear down. I believe most people have a drive to align their actions—and their attitudes—with their words. If you start speaking well of someone, you start believing what you say.
  3. Affirmation helps strengthen your spouse’s best qualities. Encouragement is also a powerful force for good. All of us need positive reinforcement. This is why when we are losing weight and people notice, it gives us the strength to stick with the program. This is true in every area of life.
  4. Affirmation wards off the temptation of adultery. When others see you are happily married, they are less likely to proposition you. It’s like a hedge that protects your marriage from would-be predators. You simply stop being a target.
  5. Affirmation provides a model to those you lead. To be a truly effective leader, you must lead yourself, and then you must lead your family. Your marriage is a powerful visual of how you treat the people you value the most. (Click here to tweet that.) When you speak highly of your spouse, your followers are more likely to trust you. It takes your leadership to another level.

Affirming your spouse in public is an investment that pays big leadership dividends. (Click here to tweet that.) In a world where fewer and fewer marriages last, it can be a difference-maker.

Question: How have you seen this play out in the lives of those who have led you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • msnell

    To make uncomplimentary remarks about your spouse says that you have poor judgment BECAUSE YOU chose to marry that person. If you are not happy with your choices then examine your own life before tearing down your spouse.

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  • http://twitter.com/Jess_Out_Loud Jess MacCallum

    Well said!

  • http://twitter.com/Jess_Out_Loud Jess MacCallum

    Speaking about your spouse to others creates a two-sided billboard, the front with a picture you create of your wife, and the back with a picture people create of you. If you disparage your wife, characterize her as stupid or a hinderance, then any thinking person will see you as foolish, ugly, and without character. We reap what we sow with our words.

  • http://www.ricardoequips.com/ Ricardo Butler

    Amen again, I do all these things. But I’ve never been able to structure it as points. These were just things in my opionion common sense. I mean I have learned a little from The Five Love Languages with Gary Chapman and Love & Respect from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, but generally I picked up these principles from Jesus and how He treats the church according to the Scriptures.

  • Fred Yeakey

    As a young minister, I truly enjoyed reading this article. I desire to be the best husband, father and minister however the reality is that it can be difficult. #Confirmation

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  • Paula

    This is so interesting, I had never really thought about this as a leadership principle before, but it makes so much sense!!! I’ve thought a lot about the way I speak about my spouse to my kids, always trying to make sure I’m ‘talking him up’ to them, and I guess it’s just a smaller scale version of what you are sharing here!!! Thanks for the encouragement Michael!

    I shared about how I try to speak about my spouse when I’m talking to our kids here: if you are interested to read it :) http://www.beautythroughimperfection.com/2012/06/04/speaking-good-about-your-spouse-to-your-children/

  • Dan

    Excellent post! I’ll be referring many people to this post.

  • Stan Stinson

    I never really thought of this as a leadership trait but now that you mention it, it does make sense. The way a leader, or a follower for that matter, treats other people, especially their spouse, is an indication of their character and you (at least I do) look for character in your leaders. I wish more of them leading our country had more character today. I try to speak well of my wife in public and in private and we just celebrated our 29th anniversary yesterday so I guess we are doing something right.

    In addition to having an impact on your leadership effectiveness it is also just the right thing to do.

  • InkBlotAuthor

    I am not always sure about others, though I have noticed in good marriages – this is definitely a building plus all the way around. Conversely, if the relationship isn’t good inside the home, it doesn’t seem to matter what you say in public – negative or otherwise. Both have to go together. I have seen relationships where a spouse was badly mistreated in the home, but that spouse would never speak a negative word in public against the other – it’s called ‘denial’. Now, I’m not saying the injured spouse should speak negatively in public – I really don’t think that helps the situation at all, of course. I’ve just learned that there is sometimes more than what can be seen.

  • Shekia

    I think this is good advice and a good practice to adopt if you do not already do so… but it is not a catch all…there is no “recipe” for success but speaking highly of your spouse will at least make things sweeter. :o) That said, we as a body of believer also need to acknowledge and address the inner man/woman that causes one to speak negatively about their spouse. Is it insecurity? Did they really “wrong you” or are you resentful because of sinful lusts and desires on your own part (no, this is not just a description of sexual sin)? We also need to define “speaking negatively” to make sure we are not “pretending” and “covering up” sin without addressing it….left alone these things fester and lead to affairs and other betrayals as well. So much that can be said…nice article….

  • Myla

    what if one spouse is just acting and do not really have good qualities? and what praise you give him for what is not really his quality, just gives him the idea to trample upon you? would you still continue with the praising?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You can find some good in anyone. Find it, focus on it, and watch it grow from there.

  • Val

    I would only add that affirming your spouse when your only audience is your children is also very important part. Kids need to hear that their parents adore/respect each other. Kids will be more apt to respect their parents and their future spouse.

  • Janice Ryan Young

    When my husband and I were preparing for marriage and going through pre-marital counseling, this was something we learned then, as well as witnessed in the pastor and his wife who were doing our premarital counseling. After 30 years, we still practice it and have had a wonderful marriage.

  • Anonymous, please

    I so wish that my wife had seen this or something similar many years sgo. It started out with small pointed comments as in the original story. Then to what Mandi@LiveYourWay described, husband-bashing with her sisters and friends. Through this and multiple infidelities, I forgave. But now I am simply used up and can’t take any more. Our almost 32 year marriage will end in a courtroom in 9 days. Please pray for us both, and for our children and grandchildren.

  • Be Forgiven

    Although I agree with the premise of the article, the older I get the more I am starting to wonder if people really know what they are talking about. I’ve known couples that were very affectionate and pleasant with one another and still divorced after many years of marriage. I’m currently living with my inlaws and they speak nasty of each other all the time and it really makes me sick to my stomach and I’m not happy here at all. But they have been married for over 30 years and counting. I’m beginning to believe that the trick to a happy marriage is holiness, godliness, and submissiveness. I man cannot lead I wife who has little to know respect for men in general and only tacit approval for her husband. It’s like the old question, which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Which needs to come first, a godly strong leader, or a godly submissive wife? I’m not perfect by any stretch, but do feel like my wife, and women in general have an aversion to male leadership and they are not even conscience of it. They question every decision their spouse makes. Why did you where this? Why are you eating that? When are we going to do this? We don’t need to do that? Please get me this? Please go do that? It’s all about what women want which is a fallacy in itself. Is it about what one’s boss wants, or what the employee wants. Yes a good employee’s idea’s can be heard, respected, and advanced or even followed, but it’s still not about the employee. An employee can help, or hinder, but it’s not about the employee. The truth is, women desperately need a captain of the ship but have been told that they don’t need a captain and fight against it. I love my wife and think she has such sweet and delicate and lovable qualities. I’ve never felt so loved in my life. The way she looks at me and holds me, I could just melt. But even my wife has been raised in a world that tells her, she’s the boss, and unfortunately, she was raised in a household where her mom was the boss and treats her husband like (fill in the blank). I’m 32 years old and learning, but I feel like we are dealt the hand we’re dealt and until God straightens things out, well, the rest is history. Thy Kingdom Come…

  • Be Forgiven

    Sorry for my bad grammar, I think whatever point I was making got lost.

  • Amy

    This is so true. My husband and I celebrate today our 31st wedding anniversary today. We are as true to one another in our time alone as well as our time in public.

  • guymonvalvedude

    My wife and I were talking with our 10yo son about RESPECT. The people I work with, especially my boss respects me BECAUSE I show nothing but respect and love for my wife at work all the time. It is frustrating to hear other guys complain about their wives, but makes me happy to share my respect for my wife and then listen how they respect theirs. Give respect and you get respect!

  • Susan Axtell

    I have been married for 28 years. My mother was always such a negative, toxic dwelling person, that I decided very early upon dating my now husband to never voice negative attitudes toward my then boyfriend David. I chose to refuse to treat my boyfriend the way my mother treated my father my entire life. This “attitude” of not saying nothing negative and dwelling on my husbands positive attributes became a habit. Even my best, dearest friend never heard a negative word about him. 28 years later that has proven to be such a huge blessing. Friends marriages all around us are failing and wavering, yet with God’s help, we are as much in love as we were when we dated as teenagers. I taught our four children this lesson and pray continuously they seek Godly spouses that do the same. I pray my three daughters seek good, God fearing men like their father! Susan Axtell DeMotte Indiana

  • Brett Parry

    This is a great post. I actually related an experience with a past business associate in my own blog today, where I mentioned the fact that his lack of trust and affirmation shown to our employees extended to his relationship with his wife. I think this had a lot to do with the lack of encouragement he afforded to our team, and why ultimately it contributed to the demise of the business.

  • Azra Tahir

    My inspiration in personal and professional life is Margrate Thatcher. After reading her biography and watching movie Iron Lady, I am strongly convinced with the philosophy that you are preaching. Her husband was very supportive and was the main strength behind her to fight with all the odds of political leadership. She was happy and contented in her personal life that reflected in her dynamic leadership.

  • http://fathertobe.info/ Qarau

    Praise God! I am truly blessed to have read this. Thank you Michael for sharing wisdom. I also make a point to use social media and my blog to boast about the beautiful woman I am married to. It is imperative that we yell it out on the rooftops and of course the result is as you have so stated above. Especially in warding off predators :)

  • Splendorseeker

    Wholeheartedly agree, but could use some pointers as a female leader with a husband who has chosen a path of victim-hood in life, which has significantly impacted our family and our finances. What I hope to communicate to those I lead, including my grown children, is commitment, faith and hope, but I’m concerned about my ability to be an effective leader when my marriage does not have the testimony I want it to. I do not disparage my husband, but it’s a challenge to find ways to affirm him.

  • Joan

    I read this in a book and have tried to live it,..”Tell the good stuff to everyone and the bad stuff to God.” My husband has told me more than once that it’s great knowing that I’ve got his back.

  • angela

    My name is Angela and am from USA, I want to use this opportunity to thank my great Doctor who really made my life a pleasurable one today. This great man Dr Osorba brought my husband back to me, i had two lovely kids for my husband, about four years ago i and my husband has been into one quarrel or the other until he finally left me for one lady. I felt my life was over and my kids thought they would never see their father again. I tried to be strong just for the kids but i could not control the pains that torments my heart, my heart was filled with sorrows and pains because i was really in love with my husband. Every day and night i think of him and always wish he would come back to me, until one day i met a good friend of mine that was also in a situation like me but her problem was her ex-boyfriend who she had an unwanted pregnancy for and he refused to take responsibility and dumped her. she told me that mine was a small case and that i should not worry about it at all, so i asked her what was the solution to my problems and she gave me this great man’s email address. I was doubting if this man was the solution, so i contacted this great man and he told me what to do and i deed them all, he told me to wait for just 48 hours and that my husband will come crawling on his kneels just for forgiveness so i faithfully did what this great man asked me to do and for sure after 48 hours i heard a knock on the door, in a great surprise i saw him on his kneels and i was speechless, when he saw me, all he did was crying and asking me for forgiveness, from that day, all the pains and sorrows in my heart flew away, since then i and my husband and our lovely kids are happy, that’s why i want to say a big thank you to Dr Osorba Spiritual Temple. This great man made me to understand that there is no problem on earth that has no solution so please if you know that you have this same problem or any problem that is similar, i will advise you to come straight to this great man. You can email him at: osorbaspiritualspelltemple@gmail.com you can also visit his blog on http://osorba.blog.co.uk and websites websites http://osorbaspiritualspelltemple.webs.com/