How Not To Tear Down Your Marriage With Your Own Hands
Are destructive thoughts about your husband playing on a loop in your head? Do any of these ring a bell?
- “My husband is like one of my kids! Why do I always have to be the adult in our marriage?”
- “He can be so selfish! Most of the time, he only thinks about himself.”
- “Why can’t he just do what I say when I tell him to do something? Sometimes he forgets to take out the trash, and he still won’t load the dishwasher the way I showed him!”
- “He’s lousy at being the spiritual head of our house. It’s like he’s not even trying!”
- “He is a sex maniac because he always wants to have sex with me!”
- “My husband does the dumbest things.”
These thoughts are poison to a marriage. If you are in the habit of thinking negatively about your husband, it’s like slipping a little arsenic into your orange juice every morning. You may not drop over dead immediately, but over time, the poison will destroy you. Likewise, if you push the “Play” button on a loop of poisonous thoughts about your man, you are slowly destroying your marriage.
Dr. John Gottman’s longitudinal research with married couples uncovered the “slow poison” process. He found that happy couples deliberately nurture fondness and admiration for each other while unhappy couples feed contemptuous thoughts about one another. Your marriage’s success depends upon, among other things, you believing that your spouse is a good, likeable person worthy of respect.
When you choose to think good thoughts about your spouse and relationship, you prevent contemptuous thoughts. Dr. Gottman found that contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce and must be eradicated for a marriage to thrive. Contempt rapidly erodes your friendship with your husband and leaves you believing “my husband is THE problem in my life.”
People convey contempt through eye-rolling, sarcasm, name-calling, hostile humor, etc. Do you roll your eyes at your husband’s words or behaviors? This send the message “you are an idiot, and I know better than you. I am better than you.”
The bottom line: we get on our high horse, think we are better than our spouse, and ignore our own shortcomings. We live out Psalm 36:2: “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their (own) sin” and ignore Philippians 2:3b: “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” We become like the foolish wife of Proverbs 14:1: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”
Are you tearing down your own house—your husband and marriage—with contemptuous thoughts?
You can create an antidote to the contemptuous poison by intentionally nurturing fondness and admiration for your husband and your marriage.
Start by listing your husband’s positive qualities and a specific incident when he displayed that quality. Add positive features of your marriage, his fathering, and specific incidents. For example:
- He is kind. He raked our elderly neighbor’s leaves.
- He is an involved father. He coaches our children’s teams.
- He is a good provider. He goes to work every day.
- He is a thoughtful lover. He tries to please me in bed.
- We make a good team as parents. He backed me up when I disciplined the kids yesterday.
- We share the same sense of humor. We both started laughing last week at ___________.
- We can be romantic. One time, we ___________.
Each day, add another positive quality and specific incident to your list. Write the positive quality down and post it where you will see it often. Throughout your day, repeat the positive thought.
When you find yourself slipping backwards and rehearsing your poisonous thoughts, deliberately “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and purposefully practice Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
In addition, recall happy events from your marriage. Here are questions Dr. Gottman suggests to help stir happy memories:
- How did you meet? What were your first impressions of each other?
- What do you remember about the time you were dating? What were your favorite things to do or places to go together?
- How did you know your spouse was the person you wanted to marry?
- What do you remember about your wedding? Your honeymoon?
- What moments stand out as the happiest times in your marriage? In your sexual relationship?
As you rehearse positive thoughts about your husband and marriage, you will find that positive feelings about him will come more naturally. You will notice the good things in your marriage, admire your husband more, and build the good friendship that happy couples enjoy,
And you will be the wise woman who builds her own house.