That’s Not Really The Point… Ummm Really.

Ed Stetzer recently put a Tweet on the

Just a suggestion for husbands: If you’re mentioning your wife, refer to her by name, and generally do that first. So, for example, “Donna is…” or “Donna, my wife is…” rather than, “My wife is…” It acknowledges her as a person, in addition to your marriage connection.

I rarely read comments, but I was interested in the comments on this one. Some comments were were positive, and some were thoughtful, and some were humorous, and some were just basic trollery. But some took a different tack. I won’t quote any one response. I will just take some of the responses I read, boil them down and add a bit of snarkiness to them for good measure. Such a response would look something like this…

Ed, you PCSJW, my wife and I are not such snowflakes as to need to have our personhoods affirmed by using our names.

Snarkiness aside, that was essentially the take made by many.

But as the title above states, “That is Really Not the Point… Ummm Really.” Why?

Because I believe it to be a fairly safe assumption that the terms used by spouses in referencing each other are mutually agreed upon. Ed Stetzer, I assume, started from that fairly reasonable assumption. The assumption then is that the couple do not have a dysfunctional marriage… and thus do not use terms that are unsettling or viewed as demeaning.

So if that is not the reason for his advice, then the reason would be how it would be looked at by others. My wife (Celia) and I use terms of endearment between each other that work for us… but we would not use them around other people because it would creep those other people out (we have proof of this from our children).

In “the real world” when we say something complimentary about someone we use their name. When we say something a bit uncomplimentary we tend to defuse (and diffuse) it by using non-personal language.

If you are saying something nice about your spouse, it is good to underline the compliment with a personal name. Otherwise, it comes off strange to others.

This may not be universal… but is common. Depersonalizing your spouse through language may not be a problem in itself… but will make others question you and your relationship after awhile. It is kind of like the Seinfeld episode of a friend the the main cast who got engaged and then kept “role-dropping” by saying “My fiancee'” this and “My fiancee'” that… in just about every sentence. It was funny, but it also led to a real question as to the thought processes of the woman. (I guess I could have mentioned the Seinfeld episode with the dentist who converts to Judaism. The way he spoke led Jerry to wonder if his conversion was so that he could tell Jewish jokes without being consider an Anti-Semite. This example works… but it is getting a bit further afield.)

Anyway, if you disagree then use whatever terms work for your and your spouse. I read a Tweet that argued that calling your father “the old man” is very insulting. My father used that term commonly about his father. He never exuded the least bit of disrespect for his father as far as I could see. But if he used the term in broader society, perhaps that would have been a mistake.

In the end, I think Stetzer’s advice works. And more generally, one should consider how others will interpret what you say, not simply focus on how you want them to interpret it.

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