Marriage Killers // Positively Speaking // Mark Wilson

Nobody intends to ruin a marriage. Couples never go into it expecting to ruin their relationship. When they are in the engaged stage, everything is good. “He’s my dreamboat,” a bride-to-be will gush. Unfortunately, in many instances, the “dreamboat” springs a leak, and becomes the Titanic. It all goes downhill from there. As one wise guy said, “Marriage is like a bath – once you get in, it’s not so hot!”

Unrealistic expectations can set couples up for failure. Expecting a “Hollywood style” romance, they are often disappointed with the realities of daily living.

Yet, every couple can have a positive and fulfilling relationship, if they make it a priority and avoid doing things to sabotage the marriage.

There are many ways to have a good marriage, according to researcher, Scott Stanley, but there are four ways to ruin one. These four “marriage killers” are relational germs which can lead to isolation, and even divorce.

1. Withdrawal: This means moving away from your partner. It occurs when offenses are not resolved in a healthy way. A natural response to hurt is to move away and live behind a protective emotional barrier. The barrier keeps pain at bay — but it doesn’t allow love to get in. You can’t truly love through a wall.

2. Escalation: Things get out of control when partners get angry and defensive. Instead of attacking the problem, they begin to attack each other. The greatest cruelties often happen within the home. As conflict escalates, communication shuts down — resulting in further alienation and misunderstanding.

3. Belittling Your Mate: To belittle is to BE LITTLE. When you act like your partner is “stupid” or inferior, you cause tremendous damage. A marriage will never be healthy if one person thinks he’s better than the other. Healthy couples do not call each other names. They do not criticize each other in public. They do not “tolerate” each other with scornful smiles. No – healthy marriages are gardens of trust and encouragement.

4. Focusing on the Negatives in Your Mate: A sure way to kill the romance in your relationship is to zero in on all the things that annoy you. If you want to find faults in your spouse, you will! Everybody has them. The more you know somebody, the more aware you are of this person’s shortcomings. The Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” In other words, it overlooks a lot. Ben Franklin was wise when he said, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterwards.”

One husband put it this way: “My wife and I have our differences. But, like a Californian after an earthquake, we always say, ‘With all your faults, I still love you.'”

Above all, if a marriage is going to go the distance, the partners need to practice the art of forgiveness. This means letting go of the bitterness and resentments that have been keeping you from true intimacy.

I once heard Gary Smalley say, “If you allow fear, frustration and hurt to go on longer than a day without dealing with it, you will never bury your anger dead. You will bury it alive!” This is why it’s always the best policy to “never let the sun go down on your wrath.” Don’t go to bed mad at each other. Keep short accounts. Don’t let things fester.

Recent researchers made the following observations about happy marriages:
* a healthy expectation of marriage
* a realistic concept of love
* a positive attitude and outlook on life
* ability to communicate feelings
* an understanding and acceptance of gender differences
* ability to make decisions and settle arguments
* a common spiritual formation and goal.

One final word of advice: Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire.

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