Are You Destroying Your Own Marriage?

Learn-How-to-Heal-Your-Broken-Marriage1Many men and women have sabotaged their own marriages.

Of course you may say, like many, “This will never happen to me.”

Perhaps.

Yet, there are ways that destructive seeds can be planted in one’s marriage.

1.  Whisper words of criticism and insults in your spouse’s ear.  Doing this will eventually destroy his or her confidence.  If you whisper these words, then you can save face with your friends.  After all, you know that if they were to hear what you just whispered in your partner’s ear they would think you were rude and childish.  Consequently, you can quietly tear down your spouse while pretending you are supportive before friends and family.

2.  Let your eyes wander toward another person of the opposite sex.  If you are caught gazing at another, be sure to blame your spouse.  “Well, what am I supposed to do?  It’s nice to get some attention!   Maybe if you would be a better husband (or wife), I wouldn’t find this person so attractive.”

3.  Look for every opportunity to speak a rude, barbed word toward your spouse.  You can always claim that you were just joking.  Do you know someone like this?  Perhaps this person uses every occasion to put down his wife.  If she objects, then her husband says, “I was just joking.”  The idea seems to be that if one claims to be joking, responsibility for any hurt can be denied.

Such behavior is beneath a Christ follower   After all, marriage is for grown-ups.  Furthermore, when married people are Christ followers, we follow an even higher standard.

Unfortunately, some people have spouses who refuse to grow up.  The behavior of the immature spouse is not just a nuisance.  This behavior can chip away at the marriage.

Does it make any sense to get married and then participate in the very destruction of your marriage?  I don’t think so.

I think this is worth some thought – and prayer.

 

 

Are These Enemies of Marriage in Your House?

apathyThe following are enemies of marriage.  They have a way of chipping away and even poisoning a marriage.  Run from these enemies.

Bitterness

Bitterness has a way of souring most any situation and most any day.  A bitter person can take seemingly innocent remarks and find something devious and sinister.  Bitterness is a poison that can be fatal to a marriage.

Deception.

Withholding information can become a pattern that ultimately destroys a marriage.  Some people put great energy into withholding information about those they are texting, what they are saying in private messages on Facebook, and whom they are calling on the phone.

Passivity.

Some husbands and wives will not take the initiative in their marriage.  Children cry while he sits in his recliner wondering why she doesn’t deal with them.  Meanwhile, she puts more energy into Facebook and commenting on blogs than she does her marriage.  Passivity breeds neglect.  Consequently, this marriage may suffer from a lack of intention, time, and energy.

Absence of Adoration.

A husband or wife may go to great lengths to do what they want while ignoring their spouse.  For example, a husband makes a lot of effort getting tickets to the big game; however, when his wife says that she would like to see a play or musical, he makes little or no effort to respond to her desire.  These spouses communicate that they do not value one another enough to make the effort to give what the other might enjoy.

Constant Criticism.

There are people who constantly complain, whine, and gripe about their spouse.  They are silent about what their spouse does that is right while they harp on his/her shortcomings.  A critical spirit has a way of emerging no matter what the occasion might be.

Repeating Destructive Patterns.

A husband declares that he doesn’t want to be like his own dad, either in his marriage or as a dad to his own children.  Perhaps a young mother says that she doesn’t want to be like her faultfinding, complaining mother.  Yet, if a person is not intentional about becoming a different kind of spouse or parent, they will often resort to their default in their family of origin.  This person repeats the same immature and obnoxious behaviors disliked in his/her father or mother.

These are six deadly enemies of marriage.  Anyone who is married and follows Jesus has been called to something higher.  Genuine self-giving love will cause us to avoid these enemies and not go near them.

Question:

Is there a particular enemy that you have had to be especially attentive to?

 

Five Ways a Marriage Can Become Stuck

Man Sitting In ValleyFar too many of us are stuck. Far too many marriages become and remain stagnant.

The following are five ways marriages sometimes become unable to move.

1.  We can become stuck in our habits.  For example, some couples are so predictable in the way they disagree, they really don’t expect to resolve any issue.  Yet, they continue year after year with the same unproductive way of disagreeing.

2.  We can become stuck in our ruts.  Such couples are on autopilot.  The ruts are deep and any talk of change is typically directed at one’s spouse.

3.  We can become stuck in our own dysfunction.  Consequently, husbands and wives will sometimes resort to telling the other, “That’s just the way I am!”  (Don’t expect anything else or anything more out of me.)

4.  We can become stuck in the past.  We can spend much of our energy rehearsing our spouse’s past failings.  Over and over again, we allow this person’s sins and failures to occupy the stage of our minds.

5.  We can become stuck in the wrong story.  We can focus on hopelessness and despair and only see the ways that our marriage reflects this.

As Christian people, our story is that God created the world.  It became broken due to our sin. God, however, never gave up on us.  In Christ, God is putting things right again.  This is a story of hope.

As married people who walk with Christ, we have resources that will help us as we share our lives together.  God deeply loves us and can give us a new love for one another.  The Holy Spirit gives us power, energy, and renewal.  This is good news for anyone who is overwhelmed by the weight of marital issues.  Finally, the resurrected Jesus gives us hope for the resurrection of our own marriages.

Life is too short and our marriages are too important to settle for wherever we might be stuck.

God is for us.

 Question:

What would you add to these five?

Your Marriage Can Be Better Than This

unhappy-couple-computer-325I once read the story of a man who spent his childhood living through the Great Depression.  He told that one of his chores as a young boy was to ride his bike to the local fire station where he would receive government-issue milk in the bucket he carried with him.  He spoke of the humiliation of riding home carrying the bucket of milk because all the other kids from school could see that his family was poor and had to receive government assistance.

He decided that he would one day have money and that no one would ever look down on him again.

He spent much of his adult life protecting his image and surrounding himself with symbols of success to ensure that others would see him as successful.

Yet, is this really living?

Sometimes, married people become lazy.

They focus more on how they appear than what they are.  They become more concerned about their image than their character.

Sometimes, married people become obsessed.

She is determined that he is going to be a spiritual leader in their home.  He is determined that she is going to become more outgoing and sociable with people from his work.

Sometimes, married people settle.

She sits in her recliner.  He sits in his recliner.  Night after night the television blares.  These people have settled for a passive existence instead of a life.

Sometimes, married people disconnect.

He goes his way.  She goes her way.  Perhaps their lives are centered on their children or grandchildren.  Sex, intimacy, and tenderness are all but gone.  There is little or no conflict.  They are actually at a point at which they don’t care enough about one another to have conflict.

Is this really living?

Is this really marriage?

Maybe the first step is to decide that you want something very different and that you are willing to do what it takes to stop this dead-end street.

Question:

Why do some married people seem to get into destructive ruts?

When Your Marriage is Hard

MarriageSometimes, marriage is very hard.

Yet, it can become especially difficult when we take on responsibilities that are not ours.

For example:

You are not responsible for your spouse’s moods.

Some men and women are very immature. Some are moody and emotionally manipulative. They demand that their spouse do what they want them to do or else. They may say to their husbands/wives: “I was in a great mood until you spoiled it.” Yet, you are responsible for your own mood and your own attitude, not that of your spouse.

You are not responsible for keeping your spouse from getting upset.

Some people punish their spouses when they are upset. For example, a husband and wife are selling their car. She makes a comment to a prospective buyer that they have had some trouble with the air-conditioning. She does so as a matter of integrity and a desire to be honest. Her husband is angry at her now and expresses this through passive aggressive behaviors for the rest of the day. Later she says, “I have to be so careful about what I say to my husband. He will get angry, and I will be in trouble.” Furthermore, some people may shortchange their children by tiptoeing around a spouse’s feelings and immaturity.

You are not responsible for making sure that your spouse has a good day.

In some marriages, one spouse attempts to manipulate the emotions of the other by communicating that in some way the spouse is responsible for making sure that he[/she] has a good day. Consequently, when something displeasing happens, the response may be: “I was having a good day until you ruined it.”

You are not responsible for making your spouse look good.

This happens far too frequently. A husband or wife expects their spouse to cover for them. Instead of behaving well, they focus on looking good in front of particular people. Perhaps a wife expects her husband to make her look good in front of her mother. Or, perhaps a husband expects his wife to make him look good in front of his parents. (He doesn’t want them to know about his language, his

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online gambling, or the way he behaves toward his teenage son when no one else is around.)

You are not responsible for trying to manage what other people think about your spouse or for trying to create false impressions before significant people.

You are responsible for managing yourself. You are responsible for managing how you function, how you react, and how you choose to relate to your spouse.

Question:

From your experience, what happens to a family when creating the right impression becomes more important than dealing with reality?

 

Ministry Inside.99

mask_photography4But what will people think?

Years ago, Charlotte and I were walking across a parking lot of a large church building in Kansas City.  We had an appointment with a marriage therapist.  This was our first visit with him.

I was nervous.

I was nervous that someone who I knew might see me.   I was nervous they would find out that we were going to a counselor to talk about our marriage.

The truth is that I was more concerned about how we looked, than the reality of our our lives.

No, we were not in a crisis.  We were not dealing with any sort of trauma or disaster within our marriage.  But, we were dealing with an important issue.

We were stuck.

We knew we needed to make some real adjustments but we were unsure what to do.

Yet, I was not as concerned at that moment about addressing those realities as I was the appearance.  I was more concerned about the possibility of another’s perception than the reality of our relationship.

This is not a good place to be.  In fact, it is embarrassing to think about this now.  Yet, sometimes church leaders can find themselves worrying more about a possible perception instead of addressing the reality of their lives.

Unfortunately, this can get even worse.  Church leaders can attempt to control and shut down what their family members are actually experiencing.

Church leaders can communicate to their families that they need to act like everything is ok, even when it isn’t. There are some real consequences to this behavior. 

3 Suggestions for Breaking Through a Boring Marriage

marriage-broken-eggPeople are in a variety of places in marriage.

1.  Some describe themselves as “happy.”

2.  Others describe themselves as “unhappy.”

3.  Marriage is on hold as they are preoccupied with children, career, etc.

4.  Some see themselves in crisis.

5.  Some are newly married and attempting to find their way.

6.  A married couple may be entering a new phase (children, grandchildren, empty nest, etc.).

7.  Some are stuck and not sure what to do.

8.  Some are married but focused on a particular child, an in-law, a dysfunctional family system (one’s own extended family or in-laws).

9.   Married couples can create an imbalanced system.  One person seems to be “carrying” another.  This seems to be their “normal” – for now.  Often, the one carrying the other comes to a place where he/she resigns from this.

Many people describe their marriage as boring.

It is not uncommon (for a variety of reasons) to experience boredom in marriage at some point in time.  However, it is another matter when we experience this and refuse to acknowledge or address it.

The point?

All of us who are married are in different places in marriage.  However, those of us who are Christ-followers have at least one thing in common.

The most important issue in marriage for a Christ-follower is how we allow God to shape and form us as we relate to our spouse.  This is true whether we have been married four years or forty years.

Unless we are committed to our growth and development, we will likely become dull, stagnent, and passive.  If we are not being shaped by God, our marriages may be shaped more by our own selfish desires than what God wants to do through us as a couple.

When man and women become boring people, they often experience a marriage that is boring as well.   One of the most common ways to create a boring marriage is to first become boring people who stopped growing a long time ago.

Their friendship with one another receives little investment.  Conversation becomes boring. Romance and sex may be minimal if it exists at all.  Yes, I realize that our expectations regarding marriage can be totally unrealistic.  However, through neglect and selfishness, a once vibrant friendship can be reduced to something that is stagnant and lifeless.

A few suggestions:

1.  Make the first move.  Refuse to let passivity dominate your life!  Sitting in the recliner waiting for something to happen is not what mature people do.  Far too many marriages die because of the refusal to take the first step.

2.  Deal with your own mess.  Pray that God will give you the clarity to see your sins, your selfishness, and your stubbornness.  These become clear not by comparing yourself with other people or by keeping score with your spouse.  When we follow Jesus into our marriages, we will see the contrast between ourselves and him.

3.  Grow together.  The answer to bordom is not to find someone who seems more exciting.  The answer is to commit yourself, along with your spouse, to growth and development.  Do this together. If I want to avoid a boring marriage, I must first address my own life and behavior.

 

Question:

What might especially be helpful to couples who want to avoid long seasons of boredom in their marriage?

10 Ways to Murder a Marriage (Part 2)

Learn-How-to-Heal-Your-Broken-MarriageThe following post is a continuation of an earlier post (find it here) describing behaviors that can murder a marriage.

6.  Refuse to forgive.  Some couples fight and refuse to forgive.  They stuff their anger, their resentments and their bitterness.  They refuse to forgive and move on.  The old negative behaviors of the past are allowed to accumulate in one’s heart and mind, like smelly garbage that is never taken out.

At some point, when this couple is in a heated battle, they open the garbage bag and drag out the past failures of their spouse.  Out comes nasty resentments and more anger.

Refusing to forgive can destroy the intimacy in a marriage and put one another at a distance.

7.  Be disrespectful to one another.  I once knew a couple who regularly showed disrespect toward one another.  They didn’t just disagree.  They wanted to hurt one another.  She would accuse him of not being a real man with any backbone.  He accused her of being cold and unresponsive.  Their language toward one another was demeaning and hurtful.

Disrespect can slowly destroy the tenderness that a couple may have had toward one another at one time.

8.  Act in an untrustworthy manner.  A man in his late thirties has been on a number of business trips with his company.  He never wears his wedding ring when he travels and is very flirty with female co-workers.  At one point, his co-workers were shocked to learn that he was married. Eventually, his wife found out about his reputation at work.  Now she refuses to trust him.

Behaving in an untrustworthy manner is a major breech in a marriage and destroys the trust that might have once existed.

9.  Be manipulative.  Manipulators attempt to get what they want without being honest enough to be transparent.  A woman once said regarding a family member: “I feel like he is always up to something.”  The manipulator is always trying to put himself at an advantage so that he can get what he wants.

Husbands and wives who manipulate one another destroy their opportunity to practice self-giving love while they opt instead for power and control.

10.  Put yourself first.  

Putting yourself first in your marriage destroys the opportunity to follow Jesus while you decide you choose instead to go your own way.

10 Ways to Murder a Marriage

marriage-broken-eggThe following is part 1 of a two part post in which I reflect on how to destroy a marriage. We have been married for 34 years and have had a front row seat to many, many other marriages.

1.  Create an atmosphere that no one would want to come home to in the evening. Do nothing but stare at your television night after night.  Complain.  Gripe at her or him for mistakes.  Go to bed angry and resentful.  Repeat the next day.

Constant carping, complaining and whining can destroy the atmosphere of a marriage. 

2.  Use pornography.  This is an ever increasing temptation not only for men, but women as well. You can lose yourself in a make believe world.  Pornography creates the illusion that sex is basically about the enjoyment of one person, instead of the mutual service of two people.  You don’t have to grow.  You don’t have to mature.  You don’t have to work at the give and take of relationship.

Pornography can destroy intimacy in marriage.

How to Grow in Marriage and Parenting

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

“I have no idea what I am supposed to do.”

That statement came from a very gifted and intelligent young man who was about to be married. I appreciated his honesty. He had never seen a marriage up close before. His parents divorced when he was very young. He deeply loved his mom and dad. Yet, he had never been close to a healthy marriage and so it was difficult for him to imagine what it would be like to be married.

Many other people have seen a marriage up close but it was a dysfunctional marriage with dynamics that were anything but healthy or even godly.

So what is a person supposed to do?

1. Plan to unlearn. So often, we are at a disadvantage because of our own faulty assumptions. “Surely this won’t last my entire life.” We also make assumptions about sex, parenting, and other roles. Our assumptions often come from a variety of sources and experiences. Yet, they sometimes set us up for failure.

For example, much unlearning often has to be done regarding sex and marriage. Some people enter marriage with assumptions borrowed from this culture. A person might think that sexual experiences with multiple people give one an advantage in marriage. Really? Where did that assumption come from? Did the creator ever tell human beings that this was a good thing or an advantage? Sometimes unlearning has to be done due to a long history with pornography. Such a history will often give a person some very unreal expectations regarding marriage.

2. Be intentional about learning. Maybe you have never seen a healthy marriage up close. Or, maybe you are realizing that marriage is more complex and more difficult than you imagined. Read good marriage books, particularly those that address marital concerns from a Christian perspective. Talk with people who have been married for many years and obviously love one another. Invite a couple who you admire over for coffee and desert and ask questions about marriage. Look for resources in your church. Bottom line: Be intentional about learning.