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Monday, May 6, 2013

Big Marriage Mistakes You May Not Even Know You Are Making

I don't usually like to write from the negative. In general I think it is more helpful to speak to the positive things you can do to build up and strengthen your marriage. 

But what if there are things you are doing to hurt your marriage that you aren't even aware of doing? That's the reason for today's post - to make you aware of some subtle but potentially marriage-destroying actions and outlooks that could be affecting your marriage relationship without you even knowing it. 

As you read through the list below, take the time to do some serious introspection. Ask yourself if you have slipped into any of these behaviors, even partially. 

1) Missing the Purpose

"The purpose of my marriage is mostly to get what I want and need in order to make me happy."

I put this one first, because I think this kind of thinking is much more prevalent that many people even realize. 

We have a very "me-centered" culture, and that culture almost can't help but seep into marriages. Thinking that your marriage is mostly about getting what you want, however, will set you up for a life of marital discord and struggle. 

I have an interesting dichotomy for you to ponder. You need to own your own happiness and not put the responsibility for it on your spouse.  But you also need to live as if you own your spouse's happiness too.  Do all in your power to bless him or her, to give yourself fully to your marriage and to live a life of selfless love. 

2) Focusing on Changing the Wrong Person

"My marriage would be so much better if only my husband/wife would..."

Go ahead, fill in the blank. I know you've said or thought things like this before. We all have. 

This one kind of goes hand in hand with #1. It's so much easier to put the onus of change on our spouse than it is to own up to our own shortcomings and areas of weakness.  It's especially easy to slip into this mindset if you have bought into the lie that marriage is all about your own personal degree of happiness.

The truth is that you only have the power to change you. If you want a better marriage, start with your self.

I recently heard someone say of marriage: the best way to work on your marriage is to draw a circle around yourself and work on everything inside the circle.  

3) Settling For Less Than Total Intimacy

"We don't have sex very often, but other than that I would say we have a good marriage." ~says the low-drive wife.

"I leave the spiritual stuff to my wife. That's really more her cup of tea." ~says the spiritually disinterested husband

"There is just no way to make room in our schedule or budget for regular date nights." ~says the busy couple

God designed marriage to be a place of complete intimacy. His design and desire is that in every marriage "two become one" in every dimension of their beings: spiritually, emotionally, sexually, financially and relationally. Too often couples settle for a lack of intimacy in one or more of these dimensions.

The thing about intimacy is that there is always more of it to be had, regardless of how great your marriage is. Never stop going for more. You can have as much intimacy as you want or as little as you are willing to settle for.

4) Waiting for Later

"I'll work on my marriage some day when..."

The problem with this kind of thinking is that someday usually never comes.

You might be tempted to think that there will be time to work on your marriages after the kids get older, after the craziness at work settles down, or after you are financially more secure. So you wait. But when that some day comes, you just might find your marriage in total crisis.

Don't wait. Today, and every day, is the day to invest in your marriage.

5) Going for Equal

"The best marriages are when everything is 50-50."

If  you've read here for very long, you already know how I feel about the whole 50/50 idea. It's just dead wrong.

When equality becomes your goal, it automatically sets up a competitive, scorekeeping environment in your marriage. Everything gets graded and measured to see who comes out ahead. The truth is that most who want a 50/50 split, aren't actually interesting in equality; they are interested in "winning" (or at least not "losing"). It comes back to issue #1 again. It's all about me.

According to the Bible, our model for marriage is Christ and the church. There is nothing in that relationship that is 50-50. Christ gave himself completely, 100% for the sake of having us as his bride. He wants 100% of us too. He desires a relationship with us that is 100/100. That's how marriages are designed to work best.

Our goal should be to out-love, out-give, out-surrender and out-bless each other.

- - - - - - - - - -

So there you have my top five. I could add more, but I'd like to invite you to chime in with your own set of "marriage mistakes that couples may not even know they are making."

Let's hear it! Leave a comment.

Related Reading:

image credit: bbbar /

Just out: the May issue of "Pathways," my monthly newsletter completely focused on building the intimacy in your marriage.


Anonymous said...

Awesome post Scott, you nailed it! My biggest stumbling block was #2. It seemed the more I focused on Darrell's sin, the bigger it became. Thereby making mine ... smaller.

I can't speak for my hubby, but one that I would add is failing to resist the temptation to return evil for evil.

Unknown said...

Great post. Maybe you should blog from the negative more often. Until we work out our identity, our tendency will be to use our spouse to build our self up.

George Dosher said...

Great job. You remind us of the importance of neglecting the little things. It is easy for us to let them slide.

Anonymous said...

I love this. Great post, Scott! These are definitely beliefs that many couples go into marriage thinking. I'm definitely guilty of #1. I wasn't sure about the purpose of marriage until 6 months into our marriage, and I'm grateful God gave me a wake-up call early on because some people take much much longer, and some marriages don't survive because they are based on the purpose of happiness, not holiness, growth, and service.

And you're so right about #3 - intimacy is so much more than just physical. Spiritual, emotional, and relational intimacy are just as important in a marriage. This also took me awhile to grasp. Now my husband and I strive to take the initiative to build more relational intimacy and enjoy regular date nights, afternoons, moments together. We build in time everyday to spend with each other, and we enjoy surprising one another romantically. We've been growing in the spiritual intimacy area too - praying together regularly for and with each other, doing a devotional together, singing to praise music in the car whenever we go out to run errands together or on the way to an activity/event, talking about things of God, and encouraging one another in our faith walks. Still growing in the communication area though. But all these forms of intimacy make our physical intimacy all the sweeter.

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