I want to ask your advice as to how to solve my problem. I’ve been living with my partner for four years, but it’s been very hard for me to accept how he acts, mostly his bad habit of using vulgar language all the time. It’s as if he doesn’t realize how much he does it or all that he says. He doesn’t stop for even an instant. Those words have become commonplace in his vocabulary.

I’ve tried several different ways to get him to understand how badly this makes me feel, and he’ll do a little better; but the next day he’s back at it again. I don’t know what to do anymore.

I’m appealing to you to help me know how to help him. Thank you in advance.

Dear Friend,

Your case reminds us of the times we are in a public place and hear people speaking loudly and using vulgar words as if everyone wanted to hear them! This is offensive and rude, but the people who do it don’t even seem to realize that it is unacceptable.

The part of your problem that concerns us the most is that your partner doesn’t seem to care much about your feelings. Even though you have expressed yourself various times, he continues his habit. We believe that if he really loved you, he would care enough to control his vocabulary.

We have a question for you. Does your partner control his vocabulary when speaking to a supervisor at work, or when speaking to his young nieces or nephews? Is there any situation in which he controls his mouth? If the answer is yes, then he does have the ability to control himself with you, but it isn’t important enough to him to make the effort.

Have you noticed that your partner is not sensitive to your feelings and wishes in other ways? Probably so. His insensitivity to you about the vulgar language is most likely just one symptom of problems in the relationship. When one partner doesn’t really care about the feelings of the other, what kind of relationship is that? If he says he loves you, but is not willing to show it with his actions, then is that the kind of love you really want? We assure you that as the days go by, his insensitivity to your feelings will only get worse.

If we only consider the bad language and don’t think about the problems in the entire relationship, then the only way for him to improve is if he wants to improve. There is nothing you can say or do to make him change his mind.

For a person who wants to discontinue the use of vulgar language, a reinforcement system is recommended. For example, he could agree that every time he says a vulgar word, he has to put a quantity of money in a jar (whatever amount is reasonable for your financial circumstances.) It must be enough to hurt a little, but not enough to be impossible. Then, when the money adds up in the jar, you get to spend it by going with him to a restaurant that is your favorite but not his, or by purchasing tickets to a cultural event that you would like to attend. If a person sincerely wants to change, this kind of system can be extremely helpful. But remember, it will only work if he wants to do it.

We leave you with words from the Apostle James, who always has practical advice for living. He reminds us not only how difficult it is to control our words and our language, but also how important it is. He says: “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”(1)

You have a lot to think about!

Linda and Charles
1 Jas 3:3‑11