Susan and I have watched, with admiration, friends’ marriages that have lasted for decades, including those that have experienced great trials. We’ve also watched, with heartache, marriages that have died. I’m grateful for my marriage to Susan, but I can tell you that we’ve had our struggles and have had to work hard at having a meaningful, joyful marriage.
There are so many things that can pull a marriage apart these days. Some come from the outside, yet so many of the variables come from within. I’ve determined that these 9 C’s are things that can cripple, even kill, a marriage.
When we start asking our spouses “Why can’t you be more like so-and-so?” or “Why can’t we be more like that couple?” we are setting ourselves up for failure. Many of us have seen that sweet couple we may have envied go through a really nasty divorce later. We all have highlight reels of our lives that we like to show in public; but remember, everyone has issues and challenges in their marriages.
While constructive criticism can be helpful, even healthy, in a marriage, it has to be given sparingly and with great care and love. In our early years of marriage, I had a critical spirit toward Susan. It took me a while to learn just how hurtful that was to Susan and to our relationship. When criticisms are the mainstay of communication in a marriage, it only tears down. It does not build up. What is your compliment-to-criticism ratio?
Careless words can’t be taken back once they are spoken. Careless words to your spouse, or about your spouse to others, can be devastating. And careless attitudes toward relationships with others outside your marriage can lead to all kinds of pain and suffering.
A comic from years ago showed a pollster going door-to-door asking the question, “What do you think about the topic of voter ignorance and apathy?” The person being surveyed replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care!” Complacency in marriage can lead to loneliness, bitterness, and indifference. It can cause the slow and painful death of a relationship.
Cynicism can develop over a long period of time. Sometimes it starts by assuming the best but being repeatedly disappointed by each other. Other times, it creeps up on us until we are finding ourselves constantly assuming the worst. When we grow cynical, we unfairly make it impossible for our spouses to surprise us, delight us, or demonstrate growth that would be healthy for our marriages.
If one spouse is constantly deceiving the other or is manipulating circumstances for personal gain or to get the upper hand in the relationship, the marriage is in trouble. Craftiness can be the manipulation of things big or small.
Are you curt or courteous to your spouse? When we are harsh, abrupt, or rude to our spouses, it can really leave them feeling devalued. And when your spouse sees you being courteous to everyone around you except for him or her, it conveys that you care about your relationship with nearly everyone else more.
When we rely solely on our spouses for our happiness, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Why? Because all people will eventually disappoint us in some way. Also, the spouse being relied on should not feel like he or she has to carry the burden of always making the other happy. Naturally, marriage is designed to provide a great deal of happiness and fulfillment, but it cannot be the only source of happiness. And the only one who can give us ultimate joy in life is God.
Control is an illusion, but it is such an addictive one. A controlling person is often not only disturbing but also selfish. And when one spouse tries to control the other, the life in the relationship can start to fade away. Trust and freedom in marriage are absolutely vital.
Did you notice that there is one big “C” that is NOT on this list? That C is conflict. All the other C’s above are never good. Conflict can be damaging to a marriage as well, but it can also help a marriage grow. Since conflict is unavoidable in marriage, what matters is how we respond to and handle it.
Are any of these C’s present in your marriage? What other marriage killers are missing from this list? Please share your comments with me.