The following are some reflections on behaviors which I have seen dampen, harm, and even destroy a marriage. Charlotte and I both have had a front row seat in watching many marriages through the years. We also know what it is to live together for many years as two human beings who need one another’s love and forgiveness.
By listing these 13 behaviors, I am not suggesting that one particular behavior will destroy a marriage. Rather, I am saying that these are the behaviors which do harm to a marriage. They can quickly become a part of a destructive lifestyle which only hurts the relationship.
To hurt your marriage, do the following:
1. Be unsafe. If she is particularly sensitive about her weight or some other aspect of her body, use this against her when you are angry. During an emotional explosion, come back at her with some name calling that highlights her vulnerabilities. Use a few expletives for an added punch. When marriage is unsafe, spouses will build their own cocoon or they will find someone else who is safe.
2. Be passive in your relationship. Have no opinion, preference, or desire. Take no initiative. Just sit back and wait for life to happen (or for her to get it done). This passivity can bring on the slow death of a marriage.
3. Use your children against their dad or mom. Do you think your husband is stupid? Talk to your children about him and the many ways that he has proven that he is a stupid. Create these emotional triangles within your family. He will eventually see that he has lost the respect of his family and is alone emotionally.
4. Use porn. The women are perfect. They are alluring, seductive, and plentiful. And–you don’t have to relate to them as an adult. You don’t have to love, give, serve, or make love with someone with whom you are sharing life. No, porn allows you to remain just the way you are. You can be selfish, lustful, and you can have power. Just touch the keyboard and the images appear. Touch the keyboard again and they disappear. The dirty little secret? Porn is EXTREMELY addictive and will lock you in the prison of your own immaturity for years. For many, many people this has been a marriage killer.
5. Be critical. Focus on his/her shortcomings and keep bringing them up. Provide an atmosphere at home where the evenings are spent cutting one another down. Soon you will each dread coming home.
6. Let yourself go. Don’t worry about your weight, your appearance, your hygiene, etc. Just let yourself go. As one person said, “We just got real comfortable with one another and we no longer took care of ourselves.” Quite often it is one spouse or the other who no longer takes care of themselves. Meanwhile, the other spouse may become critical, resentful, and angry.
7. Harbor secret affections and connections. Now maybe you have never been unfaithful to your wife (or husband). You tell yourself this. Yet, at the same time, you have developed a special relationship with a person at work. You look for any reason you can to be in her presence. You find that when you are with her, your heart races and you feel alive. You have a connection with her that is deep. Nothing physical–yet. However, this intimate bond has the makings of a emotional bomb just waiting to explode and do untold damage.
8. Demonstrate little co-operation in financial matters. Spend money and don’t let your spouse know where it is going. You don’t want to explain those expensive green fees at the golf course. You don’t want to explain the cost of those shoes. So, you work hard to not let him/her know where the money is going. Or perhaps you run up a huge Visa bill due to your impulsive spending. Maybe you are in the habit of making making major purchases that are not in the budget or haven’t even been agreed upon by your spouse. This has a way of eating away at the trust in your relationship.
9. Never say “thank you.” Just take her for granted. Take him for granted. I have heard it too many times. “Why should I thank her/him? I don’t get any thanks.” So, each person just takes one another for granted. Any sense of graciousness toward the other is no more. This gets compounded as a spouse never hears any gratitude but only complaints.
10. Surround yourself with friends who do not value marriage. Listen as these friends speak of cheating on their spouses. Quietly envy the life and thrill they describe. Listen as they talk to you about how much fun you are missing. Compare their stories with the boredom you feel. Instead of re-investing in your marriage, spend your energy fantasizing about living as these friends live.
11. Don’t forgive. Continue to remind your spouse of his/her faults. It is sort of like putting your garbage in large container but never emptying it. The smelly, nasty garbage from the past remains in the container until you need to refer to it again. Then, in the middle of a heated argument, you open the can, pour the old garbage onto the floor and remind your spouse of ways that he/she failed in the past. Of course, holding on to this garbage has a way of poisoning the atmosphere of your relationship.
12. Stop having fun with one another. After awhile, fun will become something that you experience with someone else but not your spouse. Healthy, joyful laughter will become less and less frequent in your home.
13. Stop investing in your relationship with one another. Your relationship will often dry up and become stale. Yes, your sexual relationship will often become boring, predictable, and lifeless. Or, it may become non-existent.
What other behaviors would you add to this list?