She looked hot and she knew it.
Suede stilettos with a way-too-short skirt.
Beckoning green eyes and a killer smile to match. She wanted everyone’s attention in the room and boy, she got it (including mine).
She floated through the crowd, giggling with one group and then another. Finally, she sauntered over toward a group of men—one of whom was my husband. Before she walked away, she patted his arm with her graceful, manicured hand—maybe a little too much.
Probably she meant nothing by it, but it kind of bothered me. So after the party, my husband and I talked about the situation, laughed a little and moved on.
Although this happened years ago, I’m glad we chose to talk about it and reassure each other, rather than pretend like it didn’t happen. Recognizing things (or people) that might sabotage our marriage helps us protect it.
I wish we’d done that even more.
After 31 years of marriage, I’ve learned a lot of things not to do, both by observing others and by making a lot of mistakes, myself. And I’m still learning. With each anniversary, my appreciation grows for our beautiful, quirky and sometimes less-than-perfect relationship. I want to guard our marriage and work to make it better.
I’m sure you do, too.
While nobody sets out to sabotage their marriage, it’s not that hard to do. And often, you may not realize that you’re doing any damage at all—until it’s too late. Here are ten ways to sabotage your marriage that I’ve learned to avoid:
1. Bottling up your feelings. I’ve learned it’s best to talk about the flirty blonde or whatever bothers me now, rather than burying it (and exploding later). Failing to communicate can cause arguments, distance and even bitterness. The Bible says, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Eph. 4:26) Or in other words, go ahead and talk it out. Today. Bottling up your feelings can sabotage your marriage.
2. Not dating, anymore. I remember the days when we were knee-deep in children, homework and sports practices—romance didn’t seem very important. But we’ve learned that making time for romance is like making an investment into our marriage. We all want to be desired, pursued and valued by our spouse. Sending love notes, scheduling date nights and anniversary get-a-ways helps keep love alive.
3. Never admitting you’re wrong. Apologizing is a sign of weakness! Unfortunately, I used to think this. When we were first married, I had trouble admitting I was wrong and even more trouble apologizing. This put distance between us. Finally, I’ve learned that being right is overrated. It’s not as important as being patient, loving, or kind. Having to be right can tear your relationship apart, but the more you give up your right to be right, the freer you are to love and to be loved.
4. Hiding your shopping bags. Go on a spending binge! Keep financial secrets. Seriously? “Financial cheating” can end your marriage. Have a serious talk about finances with your spouse. Make some ground rules. If you’ve been lying about money, admit it and apologize before it’s too late. Remember, your marriage is far more valuable than anything you can buy.
5. Flirting with others. After all, it’s only harmless flirtation—you don’t really mean it! Be oh, so careful. Being flirty can lead other people on, cause unwanted advances and lead to temptation. I’ve witnessed how devastating “harmless” flirtation can be. Acting, talking or thinking like you’re single (even in small ways) can cause hurt and insecurity. Flirt only with your spouse. Make him or her the sole object of your affection.
6. Keeping score. Keep track of who does what, so you never have to do more than your fair share. Use your “all I’ve done for you, lately” list to guilt your spouse into action! While scorekeeping can be a tempting habit (at least for me), I’ve learned that it can destroy a relationship. Marriage isn’t a game of who did what, but rather of who we are—a team of one, not two.
7. Comparing. Resist using the couple down the street as a measure of your marital happiness. Here’s why: comparing your marriage to someone else’s can wound your spouse deeply. None of us like being compared or judged. We’re all very different, so our marriages are supposed to look different. Accept where your relationship is right now and work to make it better without comparing.
8. Never praying together. When we were first married praying together felt awkward, so we often skipped doing it. Joint prayer takes effort, but we’ve finally learned to treasure it. I’ve witnessed how God has used our times of prayer to draw us closer. Praying together invites God’s presence and power into your relationship (Mt. 18:19-20).
9. Making fun of your husband or wife—everybody does it! Be careful. Mockery doesn’t draw you closer. I used to make fun of my husband—ever the accountant—for turning off the lights to save money. Now as a result of ridiculing him (even in a small way), my kids never bother to turn off the lights. Here’s why mocking your spouse is harmful: it communicates superiority. It’s like saying: You’re silly. I’m smarter than you. I’ve got it all together—you don’t. This can easily sabotage your marriage.
10. Expecting your spouse to complete you. Really? “You complete me” is one of the worst, most misleading movie lines ever because it fills us with unrealistic expectations. Naively, I once expected marriage to complete me, but I’ve learned that only God can complete what’s lacking. (Col. 2:10). When I started seeking after the Lord, my life began to change. Drawing closer to Him is the best thing I’ve ever done for our marriage. In fact, it’s helped me so much, I wrote an entire book on it, called Seeking a Familiar Face. If seeking God changed my marriage (and my entire life), it can change anybody’s.
Marriage is the closest bond you can have with another person. Sometimes, you can sabotage this precious relationship without realizing it, leaving your marriage weak and vulnerable. So be on guard. Identify threats. Protect the love that you have. Pray. Spend time with God and with your spouse. Avoid these areas of sabotage as you build a beautiful, lasting marriage.
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