In my first year of marriage, my wife and I got into a disagreement while visiting someone else’s home. We went to the guest room to hash it out privately—but we had no idea how badly we were about to embarrass ourselves.
While in the guest room, our tempers flared. Unfortunately, I became particularly disrespectful until suddenly, my wife’s face dropped, and she said, “Oh my gosh — the baby monitor is right next to you.”
This was significant, because the baby monitor’s speaker was sitting in the living room, and both of our hosts were home. I was unfazed.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “I turned it off right before we came in here.”
Without missing a beat, I continued rehashing my grievance until we got tired of arguing and my wife left the room. But then she immediately returned and said, with icy composure, “I just went to the living room. You didn’t turn the baby monitor to the ‘off’ position —you turned it to voice activation.”
I froze as I realized what a poor impression I had inevitably made on our hosts, who had just gotten a front row seat as I disrespected my wife. I was ashamed — it was out there, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was a jerk, and they knew it.
It makes you wonder how differently we would all speak to our spouses if we knew other people were listening and their opinion of us was at risk. But if the opinion of others is the only thing that keeps us in check, we’ll be disrespectful to our spouses as long as we know nobody’s listening.
The point is that our spouse is listening. And if that doesn’t matter enough to alter our behavior — if he or she doesn’t matter enough — a lot of the issues with disrespect and tension are going to persist.
When we speak to our spouses in ways we would never address a coworker or a friend, we communicate that we value our spouse less than other people. And that undermines trust, because we don’t trust people who don’t value us.
We have to learn to listen to how we sound when we speak to our spouses. And we must do it for their sake and for the sake of the God who made them in His image. Basically, we must choose to love our spouses as we want to be loved.
This originally appeared on Fox News Opinion at FoxNews.com. If you’d like an email with a weekly recap of what I’ve written, click here. You can also keep up with my latest articles (and more) on Facebook or Twitter.