Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him … (Ecclesiastes 10:12).

A man was talking to his neighbor. "Guess what! I got a new BMW for my wife." The other man patted his friend on the shoulder. "Awesome," he said, "sounds like you made a pretty good trade!"

Although said in good humor, the neighbor's comment was a very dishonoring thing to say. Imagine how his wife might have felt if she'd overheard the sarcastic joke? What if she had just shared how worthless he makes her feel. Having then heard his cute comment—no matter how harmless its intent—might have seriously weakened their relationship.

When couples talk as friends, they can learn an enormous amount of information about each other. Think back to a time when you had a intimate conversation with your spouse. Perhaps you shared your dreams and life goals. If you felt safe, you might have talked about your insecurities or fears. As these kinds of personal feelings are expressed, couples can move into deeper intimacy. However, if this sensitive knowledge is not treated with care, something destructive can happen. My wife, Erin and I experienced this during a recent conflict.

Several weeks ago, Erin and I were on a date night. As we were eating at our favorite restaurant, Erin began sharing about how exhausted she can get while dealing with our two-year-old daughter all day. "Sometimes during the day," she explained, "I feel like I'm losing my mind." We ended up laughing about how frustrating parenting can be at times, and even referred to her as "crazy mama". However, on the way home, something happened that caused Erin to lose a small amount of trust in me as a friend. We were arguing about a sensitive issue when I tried to make a cute comment. I said the argument was her fault because she was insane. "Remember dinner?" I asked sarcastically, "You've already admitted that you're losing your mind!"

Unfortunately, my comment was not very funny. Instead, it actually weakened our relationship. In the middle of an argument, I used something against Erin that she'd shared during an intimate conversation.

The Harmful Effects of Using Sensitive Information As Ammunition

Through intimate experiences as friends, we are able to learn new things about our mate that, if we are careless, can be used later when we feel more like adversaries. But the harmful effect of using this knowledge as ammunition is significant. Who is going to reveal private and sacred information when it might be used against them during a conflict?

The real tragedy of using sensitive knowledge as ammunition is that it can erode the trust that is necessary for open communication. In the blink of an eye, the security that was the foundation for expression of one's true self can be destroyed. Sadly, it takes dedicated work to rebuild lost trust ripped away by thoughtless sarcasm like I used with Erin. The reason is simple.

After an ice storm, have you ever attempted to walk down a frozen sidewalk? Although it's possible, there's always anxiety that a horrible fall might be right around the corner. What many couples fail to realize is that an absence of security in communication is like condemning a person to live on that ice-covered sidewalk. Your mate is never truly free to relax because she is continually fighting to keep her footing.

To protect intimate communication, we need to make a decision that shared feelings will never be used as ammunition during a conflict. This protection helps to build the trust and security needed for deep intimacy.

© Copyright 2003 Smalley Relationship Center