The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize

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On a regular basis I will hear from a parent, “My child is disrespectful to me or to my spouse and I don’t know what to do about it.” Or I’ll hear this from someone, “I can’t seem to connect with my spouse. We don’t connect sexually. We don’t connect emotionally or relationally.”

What is going on? I’m about to pull my hair out. I don’t know what to do.

Your kids reaction to you is a mirror of how they see you react to your spouse.

Here’s an example.

I knew a couple who made fun of each other. It was how, they would say, “joked with each other.” The problem was, everything they said to the other person had a little bit of truth in it. “We’re always late because of this one” (laughter). “Wow, your husband does that, wish my husband wasn’t so lazy” (laughter). “Sweetie, look at what Joe got for Sue. Remember when you got me a necklace 5 years ago” (laughter). “So, you’re the couple that has sex 5 times a week. I’ve heard about couples like that. What’s that like?” (laughter).

Those are real lines that I’ve sat and heard a person say in front of their spouse and a group. Consequently, those aren’t even the worse ones.

Now, each time the whole group laughed (some nervously).

Each time and don’t miss this: There was truth in each statement. 

Couples use joking and making fun of their spouse as a way of communicating truth. Now, this is a destructive and unhealthy way to communicate truth, but nevertheless a powerful way.

The problem is that over time, it is disrespectful, it tears the other down and it does not build oneness in your marriage. Eventually, the only communication that happens in your marriage is nagging, nitpicking and making fun.

Why?

Because your spouse will reciprocate.

If you have kids, this gets magnified.

Your child will see how you tear down your husband, how you make fun of your wife and do you know what they will think? That’s how I communicate to mom or dad.

The respect a child shows a parent will always be less than the respect a husband gives his wife, or a wife gives to her husband. Always. 

So, back to the statement at the beginning.

Every time I hear those statements, my heart breaks. It means people are miserable. It means that the picture of the gospel that marriage is supposed to be is broken to the world around it. It means couples aren’t communicating well. That couples aren’t fighting well.

It also means that as children watch, the cycle will most likely continue. They will see how to relate to their parents (in an unhealthy and disrespectful way). Boys will see how his mom treats her husband with disrespect and condescension and think, “If I want a woman to respect me, I need to dominate her, I need to be rough with her” instead of loving and serving her. Daughters will watch her father disrespect her mom and think, “that is how men treat women, they make fun, they put down, they do not show love and respect to women.”

When moving from this, when a child disrespects a parent, it is best if the other parent correct the child. Simply saying, “That’s not how we talk to daddy, we talk to him with respect.” If the child is older and responds with how disrespectful you are. Take the opportunity to admit your sin to your child and apologize. Yes, be angry at their sin, but realize their sin is simply from watching you. 

If you are not proactive, this cycle will just continue and that is disastrous to your marriage and family (and one day to the marriage of your child).

If you aren’t careful, this is the one thing that will destroy your marriage (and your family) and there is a good chance you don’t realize it. 

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How to Fight Well in a Marriage

In honor of preaching on the topic of marriage at Revolution this past Saturday and this coming Saturday, I thought I’d repost some of the more helpful things I’ve written on the topics of marriage, dating, sexuality, roles, communication and others topics related to marriage.

Many couples have no idea how to fight. Every couple does it, in fact, when a couple says “We never fight.” What they are saying is, “We don’t have an honest relationship.” So, don’t believe the myth that there is a some couple out there that does not fight. The couples that are healthy are the ones who learn how to fight in a constructive way that moves them forward.

Here are 16 ways to fight (taken from The Book of Romance):

  1. Never speak rashly. Choose your words carefully. Choose how you say things very carefully. Often, how we say something does more damage than what we say.
  2. Never confront your spouse publicly. I am blown away by how some couples will tear each other down in front of other people. If you are upset with your spouse, no one else needs to know about it or be involved. No one wants to listen to you fight. This will destroy your marriage very quickly.
  3. Never confront your spouse in your children’s presence. This is tough to do because stuff comes up. It is best to fight away from your kids as it can really tear at their confidence in your marriage and create uncertainty in their minds. If you do fight in front of your kids (and some couples want to in an effort to show their kids how to fight) make sure you make up in front of your kids, let them see and know the resolution and talk with them about it. Don’t just assume they know you made up.
  4. Never use your kids in the conflict. A fight between a couple is just that, between a couple. Your kids, friends, parents don’t need to take a side, they don’t even need to be a part of it. Turning your kids against your spouse is disastrous for your marriage, family and for your kids.
  5. Never say “never” or “always.” Even if it feels like always, no one does something all the time. No matter how you make it seem that way in your head. This is very accusatory and will make the other person defensive. Don’t believe me? Try it. They will do everything in their power to think of the one time when they didn’t do it, and then what? Instead, use “When this happens, I feel ___________.” You have just said the same thing without putting them on defense.
  6. Never resort to name calling. If you can’t fight without calling each other names, don’t fight. That will not accomplish anything. The point of every fight is to have resolution, to finish. To finish, you need to push towards that, name calling pushes against that.
  7. Never get historical. The past is the past. Especially if it is something you have talked through, one of you has apologized and you have resolution on that issue. Let it go. It no longer is allowed to be brought up.
  8. Never stomp out of the room or leave. This will tell your spouse, “You should be afraid that I may leave at any minute.” This does not create confidence to fight well. To fight well, both spouses need to know that the other will stay there and finish.
  9. Never raise your voice in anger. Kids listen better when we are calm, our spouses are the same way. When we raise our voice, we go on offensive. It is like talking to someone in another language, they don’t understand us better just because we are talking louder.
  10. Never bring family members into the discussion unless they are a direct part of the problem being addressed. This is the same as #4. Your mother is not going to help the discussion with your spouse. It is between you and your spouse and you need to learn how to work it out.
  11. Never win through reasoning or logic and never out-argue. The goal is a fight is not to win. The point is resolution, a way forward.
  12. Never be condescending. This is the same as #5. The point is not to talk down to someone or put them on defense. Being right does not endear you to your spouse.
  13. Never demean. Do not put your spouse down, ever. Couples do this so often in public it blows me away. We need to be building up our spouses.
  14. Never accuse your spouse with “you” statements. It might be their fault, but that isn’t going to help the situation, you pointing it out. Telling them “You caused this” is not going to all of a sudden make the argument make sense. They already know. Remember the point of a fight, resolution.
  15. Never allow an argument to begin if both of you are overly tired, if one of you is under the influence of chemicals, or if one of you is physically ill. Don’t fight at night, you can’t think clearly and seek resolution if you are drunk, tired, sick.
  16. Never touch your spouse in a harmful manner. You are not a man because you can scare a woman or knock her around. Seriously. If your husband is hitting you, call the cops. If you are hitting your wife. Stop. Or, go and fight a man, someone who will hit back. Seriously.

Deal with your Junk

As I shared earlier, today is mine and Katie’s 9 year anniversary. To commemorate it, I am sharing some things we’ve learned about marriage and the things I love and appreciate about Katie the most.

Every couple, every person has junk. The faster you can recognize this and deal with it, the better. This means, that when you get married and all your junk from previous relationships, sins, idols, your parents marriage, things you’ve buried will come out. This will often make your first few years of marriage difficult. The faster you can deal with this, and deal with everything that comes up, the better.

You can tell a couple who has not dealt with their stuff and those who have.

By dealing with it, you have more accurate, healthier conversations and reactions to things. Often, we lash out at someone not because of what they did, but because it reminds us of something that happened to us in our past that we haven’t dealt with.

Favorite Posts of 2010

In case you missed them this year, here are the top posts for 2010:

  1. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
  2. Radicalis Notes
  3. Being a Pastor’s Wife
  4. How a Wife Handles Her Husband’s Sexual Addiction
  5. Thoughts on Burnout, Sleep, Adrenalin, Stress, Sex and Eating
  6. Don’t Malign Your Spouse
  7. Someone Pays the Price
  8. The Role of Men in the Family
  9. Why We’re Homeschooling
  10. Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Shirtless Guy