8 Mistakes I’ve Made in Marriage

8 mistakes i've made in marriage_thumb


I am so grateful for my 25 years of marriage to my wife, Susan.  My love for her has grown immensely over the years. I’ve been faithful to her. I’m very attracted to her. But I can tell you that it’s not because of me. It’s only because of God’s loving hand of undeserved favor. You see, I’m just one decision away from doing something really stupid that could really damage or, perhaps even destroy our relationship. And, I can tell you that I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my marriage. Here are 8 mistakes I’ve made in marriage.

1.    Thinking that Susan was responsible for my happiness.

In my early years of marriage, I felt like an important part of Susan’s “duty” as my wife was to make me happy. I was a bit more focused on me, than us. I didn’t think so at the time, but now looking back, I relied on Susan to lift me up when I was down; to help me upon command; and, to meet my physical needs when called upon, just to name a few.

2.    Wishing Susan would be more like me.

 Unfortunately, in my younger years, I thought pretty highly of myself. So much so that I thought Susan should be more like me. Oh, I wouldn’t say that out loud, but I thought things like, “If Susan was more organized and disciplined like me, she would be able to keep the house cleaner.” Or, “I wish Susan just got things done that I want done when I want them done. I mean, when I commit to do something for her, I’m on it and check it off the list.”  Since I thought Susan should think and act more like me, I didn’t think about the incredible gifts of creativity and relational skills that Susan had. I didn’t celebrate her unique strengths that make Susan, Susan.

3.    Trying to control Susan.

 “Where are you going? Who are you going with? And what time will you be home?” Or, “Did you make sure the kids did their homework? Did they get that project done? Those are the kind of questions I’d ask Susan as a father would ask his child. Rather than just encouraging her to go out and enjoy the night with friends, I made her feel like she had a curfew. Rather than me making sure our kids got certain things done, I asked Susan to take on that responsibility.

4.    Reflecting Susan’s emotions instead of regulating my own.

 Many times in our marriage, I’ve acted like a thermometer instead of a thermostat. I reflected the temperature in our relationship and home instead regulating it. When Susan got mad at me about something, I got mad because she was mad. If Susan was down and didn’t feel well, that frustrated me and I let her know it. I failed to show leadership in our home by regulating my emotions and attitude. As a result, instead of cooling down our emotions, I heated them up causing some very uncomfortable disagreements.

5.    Being obsessive about things that don’t matter.

 It took over a year to restore our home that had been flooded in a big storm. We just moved back in a couple of months ago. As I inspected the work of our painters, I noticed some areas that the painters should touch up. I also noticed some very tiny areas that were inside storage closets that nobody except me would ever see that could use a bit of paint. I made a big deal out of it with our painters, and with Susan, initially insisting that the places nobody would ever see be painted. Yes, I was obsessive about it and admittedly went overboard. That kind of intense behavior can really put Susan on edge.

6.    Being critical.

When I look at a new design for a website at work, my eye often first goes to what’s wrong with it.  When I look at that dresser that Susan just personally refurbished into a beautiful new piece of furniture for our home, I find that spot she missed and let her know about it. While my critical eye can be a benefit, it can also be a curse. My tongue has been a wild animal in our marriage. It’s gotten loose and pounced upon Susan on a number of occasions with critical words and condescending tones.

7.    Acting like we are not on the same team.

Susan has said to me on more than one occasion, “I just don’t feel like we’re on the same team.” And she’s right. There have been times when she was dealing with one of our kids’ behavior and I didn’t back her up. Instead, I questioned how she was handling it in front of them. That’s just one example. There have been many other times when I’ve treated her like my opponent, not my teammate,  in our relationship.

8.    Having an “if, then” mentality.

“If you would just meet my physical desires, then I wouldn’t be so critical of you.” My “If you would _______, then I would _________” mentality is an example of me not unconditionally loving my wife well.

Those are just a sampling of mistakes I’ve made in marriage. Although I still struggle in some of these areas, I’ve made some good progress in others. You can find out more about Susan’s take on life, specifically parenting and marriage here.

Have you made any of these same mistakes? If so, what have you done to address them? Maybe you’d also be so bold as to share other failures that you’ve had in your relationship and what you’ve done about them.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Mtcwell

    My God…..1 through 8 are my EXACT same failings. Almost to the word. Like looking in a mirror. And unfortunately I continue to do some of these things. My wife is my greatest blessing ever but instead of reaffirming that daily I muddy our marriage with the crap above. Pray for me and us as a unit. Thank you Mark for being so open and willing to share about you and your marriage. This email and your website are great blessings in my life.

  • Wade Davis

    As I read, 1-8, I kept saying “That’s me” I couldn’t believe you were writing about me or is it the way of many men. Now that I recognize my traits, the hard part comes… living to correct them. I’m calling my wife right now and to say I love her.

  • Guest

    Mtcwell and Wade, I applaud your willingness to acknowlegde your short comings in your relationship. Being married to my husband for 5 years, he should “acknowledge” these traits as behaviors he exhibits himself. I wish my husband would actually LISTEN and UNDERSTAND when I mention these traits as relationship leeches instead of going straight into critical defense mode. 

  • Staceymsamuel

    I’m forwarding this to my husband but eagerly waiting for the Wife’s 8 biggest mistakes as well, because we make mistakes too, well maybe sometimes. LOL! Thank you again Mark you hit another homerun my friend!

  • Nancy

    My husband and I have only been married 9 months but the things you have listed here are faults I posess, not my husband. He is the one who has to keep me in check when I make these mistakes. Through prayer and petition I am confident I will come around and realize my husband is such a blessing that God himself gave to me and I need to bury the past that makes me this way! Those generational curses can be so annoying! Thankyou Mark for your encouraging words, as always I look forward to reading your dailies…

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Nancy, you are so welcome! It is good to know ourselves, to work toward change, and to deeply love our spouses. 

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Hey Stacey, hmmm…..maybe I’ll ask Susan to write one!

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Guest, maybe you can share this post with him…

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Way to go, Wade!

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Mtcwell, I’m learning every day how to be a better husband and father. I still sometimes do the things I don’t want to do and don’t do the things I do want to do!

  • Umesh Yadav

    Dear Mark, I think these are the universal mistakes husbands and wives commit at some point of time in their lives. If you just replace ‘Susan’ with ‘my spouse’ things will resonate with many spouses. Yes, most will agree that they are or were like that, and that acceptance is the first step. Consciously making effort to avoid those mistakes will be next big step forward towards ‘happy relationship’. Just need Gods blessings to stay the course! Thank you Mark!
    Umesh Yadav 

  • Boilerjad

    Wow – A very accurate description of things I have done and continue to work on… Thanks Mark for being honest and owning your pieces.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Umesh, good idea to personalize it. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Boilerjad, my pleasure. And thanks for commenting.

  • Natalie

    WOW! #5 and #6 is totally me and it causes a lot of issues in my marriage. It is so difficult for me to control my obsessive behaviors. However, after reading this article, I feel more compelled to really start working on this issue.

  • Susan Nations

    Hey Mark, thanks so much for your transparency.  We are all fellow strugglers in this journey called marriage.  But we press on.  And the more you exchange your life for His, the better husband you will be and the better wives we will be.  It is my life’s mission.  One verse keeps me in focus.  “Be ye kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.”  Mastering those components is tough–impossible really in our own efforts.  But praise be to God who gives us His sweet Holy Spirit to do in us what we cannot do for ourselves.  Thanks for all you and Susan do to encourage and cheer us all on!

  • Mimi

    I think this realization comes w/ age. It took me three marriages before I finally reconized what I was doing wrong all along. Thank God, this third one has been the best. I guess it was meant to be. I see my children’s young marriages and I see the things that I made a big deal out of which are not a big deal. In a gentle way I try to give them encouraging ways to change their attitudes.No matter how long you have been married it is a work in progress each and every day. Without God in your life it is an even bigger struggle.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Good to hear, Natalie.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Hey Susan, thank you so much for your encouragement. You are such a dear friend and and so wise!

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Mimi, thanks for taking the time to share.

  • Robin

    So, what do you do if you recognize that both you and your spouse have the exact same issues, which we do!  All 8 of them!  We have been to counseling several times, addressed several of our issues, one of you really tries to make a difference, and the other makes improvements for a little while and then resorts back to the same behavior.  I am feeling hopeless that it will ever be any better and I either have to settle and suck it up, or leave and become another statistic of a failed marriage and a broken home.  But with children watching, are we not teaching them how marriage is not supposed to be?

  • Arthurvos157

    Well.. myself, along with other men have been the same… ARE YOU A MIND READER!!!  1-8 are carbon copies of what is going on with me an my wife as well… I have been marrried for 23 years to the most wonderful woman God could ever have blesssed me with and, while I am not happy I have these 8 things in my life as well.  I feel so much better that I share them with othe men of faith.  Great Post!!

  • http://www.lessonsofadad.com/ Lessons Of A Dad

    My gosh this is a GEM of a post!  Such wisdom!  Fantastic work, Mark, and congrats to your 23 years of marriage.  It pains me to say this, but people being married that many years is a rarity nowadays.  

    I shall retweet and share this post.  

  • Gcoov

    I so appreciate your wisdom and practical approach to being a father and husband.  It has been a tremendous blessing to me.  In addition to your 8 I could add not being nearly open enough in communication about my work, friends, hobbies, etc. because I thought it was not important. I am learning to share whether I think she needs to know or not.  Keep the encouragement coming!

  • khr

    I applaud your efforts to try and be open about things you do not think are important or your wife doesn’t care about. Trust me, she does. My husband is like you in that he is not open about things like that. Like you, he is working on it as well. From my perspective, it seems as though he just doesn’t want me to know things. I know that my perspective is skewed, flawed, and selfish. We are both working on trying to see the other person’s perspective. Keep working at it, it is worth it!

  • Susan Quesenberry

    Please do………I feel bad showing this to my husband.  He will get defensive and say why are you pointing fingers at me……….Kind of like the speck in the eye compared to the log in the eye.

  • Amanda

    My husband just sent me this article. It describes me exactly. However, I don’t know how I feel about him sending me this. His remark was that I have the same personality as Mark. My husband says no one like him ever wrote a self-analyzing article about themselves like Mark has here, because they are all in jail… haha. I hope not. Imagine having this personality as described above and being married to the most opposite person ever! So much prayer needed. 

  • Hilditchcathe

    I read this and thought “thank god he’s trying to change!” As a strong willed female and  very much an equal in my 28 yr marriage…………………I’d have either divorced or murdered you………………LOL (british humour!)

  • Nanette Davis

    I was a little behind on reading my emails and when I came across this article. I was really drawn in by the similarity in my husband and Mark.  I was thinking maybe this is a male gender thing.  As I read the reader post I saw my husbands name.  I called him to computer and asked, “Hey Wade is this you?”  He said, “Yep how about that. You are reading Mark’s article too?”  I can’t remember if he called me yesterday or not, but it’s nice to know that he is getting encouragement and exhortation from transparent, authentic, godly men.  I love this ministry because of that.  Wade has been the organizer for All Pro Dad breakfast for 7 years this year at our daughter’s elementary school.  We even have iMOMs too.  Thank you for what you and Susan do, you both are a blessing.  

  • Nanette Davis

     Oops, I put my name in the box but maybe since Wade had already responded to the article it came up with his name again.  I am Nanette, Wade’s wife.

  • Lee

    I salute your happy marriage.  Your list is excellent.  One word of caution on the above, though.  Encouraging your wife to take on interests outside the home and to be cavalier about knowing her whereabouts (not asking/insisting) can backfire enormously.  A good, loving, hardworking husband can soon find himself in marriage that is far less than ideal because the forbidden fruit has been tasted by his wife, and he enocuraged the very environment to foster the resulting behavior.  Being vigilent about knowing your wife’s whereabouts demonstrates a paternal desire to keep the family together and to have an enviroment suitable for example-setting for children.  Any woman who balks at being asked where she is going and with whom is likely someone with something to hide.

  • Cawfee

    “Being vigilent about knowing your wife’s whereabouts…..”

    If you trust her then you won’t need to be “vigilant”. It’s fine to ask her where she’s going and with who out of curiosity–not as a way of keeping her in check. That’s just wrong. Sounds like you may have been burned in the past.

  • Cawfee

    It’s difficult to hear about negative things you do. Are you telling him in a gentle manner? And do you acknowledge that you, too, have issues that need to be worked on. It’s a two-way street.

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  • NJ

    OMG! That is some what me not my husband. I am so embarrassed:(

  • Matt

    Mark, you might be my long lost twin. :) Thanks for sharing. Sending my wife a text about how much I appreciate her right now.

  • Dustin

    There are several of these that I have done over the years. Currently trying to save my marriage due to these things. Especially the wild tongue and not showin my wife unconditional love. Learning to be patient and change old habits is difficult. I struggle through each day. You don’t realize what you are doing until you end up at a crossroad. Mine is separation from my wife while she gets the space she needs to figure out of she really wants to be in this marriage or not. After nearly sixteen years I pray that she still wants to be with me. I realize time will heal the wounds and also show her the changed man that I am becoming. Never want to go back to the old me.

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  • Sue

    You sound just like me…I am trying to work things out. Feels great to know that I am not alone out there. I am struggling to make things work but I wish he accepts that I am trying. Dont know if its still my problem that things don’t work out. Guess it takes time.

  • Sussy

    I’m currently in a relationship and although dating is different than marriage I see myself doing the same things mentioned in 1-8.. I can guarantee that it isn’t only men who commit these faults. I definitely expect him to make me happy and I now understand that it isn’t right. In a way it feels good to know that I’m not the only creature on this earth that does this.

  • Walter

    My wife and I have been married 25 years and your insight and openness is so appreciated. You were writing about me. Number 5 and 6..Yikes! Still working on them. Thank God my wife helped me grow up and the good Lord gives wisdom and discernment. All 8 points were right on. Striving everyday to be a better husband and Father. By consciously making a disciplined effort slowly helped me break the chain. It is worth the work….team work. Thank you Mark for your honesty and encouragement.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    You’re welcome Walter. Thanks for the positive feedback.

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  • Joe

    I just read your 3 Things to Remember Before You Call It Quits in Marriage and then these 8 mistakes. My wife cheated, 3 times, pretty much because of mistake #8 above. My mistake in our marriage, I didn’t have a priority category for “US” – I had kids, her, me/my work…but no “US.” Although I put her before me, and always considered her input before ever doing anything, the “her” category wasn’t an “US” category. That missing category is where WE should have gone on dates, kidless weekends, etc. As a result of her 3 incidents of adultry, I’m the one filing for divorce simply because I can’t trust her. 1 incident could have been an “accident” or point of weakness, drunk, etc…but the 2nd and 3rd times were intentional, which is why I can’t trust her anymore.

    I enjoy the All Pro Dad posts, and can identify with most of them. Some, however, are a little too late for my situation.

  • Neil

    So you are to expect nothing from marriage, just give and consider that your service and duty. If there is not physical or emotional challenges, one should not expect to have any needs met ? 31 years of serving and duty. Happiness and joy optional.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Good insights Joe. My hope is to help couples before its too late.

  • Linda Meade

    Assistance to one’s spouse should be a freely given gift, not something taken for granted or demanded with arrogant comments such as “You’re supposed to help me.”