Danger! These 5 Things Can Kill Your Marriage
Not too long ago, I wrote a couple of posts about marriage that were incredibly well-read. They seemed to have touched upon deep longings most people have within their relationships:
To be known.
I believe when you read these kind of lists, it helps identify what you know to be right and true–even if you haven’t been able to articulate it. Recognizing what you need is usually the first step in getting that need met. Yet, among the many comments I received about those articles, there were painful recognitions that those needs weren’t getting met. For some, not ever within their marriage. That led me to wonder if those people ever recognized what things are detrimental to a healthy marriage before they made that commitment.
So, in response to that question, I’ve compiled my list of the most harmful behaviors that can ultimately kill a marriage.
In a Category of Its Own: Abuse
This should go without saying, but I want to be clear. Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse must not be tolerated in any relationship. It’s an absolute deal-breaker. Only if the abuser recognizes his/her behavior is wrong and seeks serious, long-term professional help should the marriage stay intact. Separation during this period of time—however long it takes—is necessary. Aggressive, harmful behavior takes hard work, dedication, and time to change, and the abused spouse must not be in contact with his/her abusive partner unless it is supervised by a qualified professional.
Marriage-Killer #1: Infidelity
Fidelity is not limited to sexual behavior. By definition, it means loyalty, keeping your promises, performing the duties you signed up for. Read: your wedding vows. Because most of us think of marital unfaithfulness only in sexual terms, we sometimes unwittingly (or carelessly) disregard other behaviors which similarly erode trust and safety within the relationship. Marriage is so much more than a contract. It’s a sacred union of two souls; the ultimate expression of surrender to another person. To do injury to your spouse is to harm your own soul.
Flirting, for instance, is rarely as harmless as it may seem. It’s an invitation and an open gate into territory that has already been claimed. Additionally, when you share emotional intimacy with anyone else to a greater (or equal) degree as what you share with your spouse, it violates the sanctity of your marriage. I really think this includes our friendships as well. We need them—don’t get me wrong. But if you are placing your friendships on a higher plane or at a deeper level than your spouse, you are putting your marriage at risk.
Marriage-Killer #2: Lying
Lying breaks trust. Period. It creates an uneven playing field, preventing both partners from sharing the same reality. In almost every instance, it’s self-serving. If you’re hiding your purchases from your spouse, saying you’re at work when you’re really out with friends, keeping secrets that aren’t “happy surprises,” you’re jeopardizing your marriage. Most of us need to examine our practices around truth-telling. “White lies” are still lies.
Marriage-Killer #3: Checking Out
This is a big one I think most people don’t recognize until it’s too late. Disengaging from your partner wreaks havoc on emotional and physical intimacy. It’s the exact opposite of them, actually. And intimacy, in all forms, is critical to a healthy marriage. We all need alone time, yes. And we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become enmeshed in every crisis, even with our spouses. But part of the “love, honor, and cherish” we promise each other at the altar means being available to them. Emotionally. Physically. In the good times and in the bad times. Checking out not only harms your partner, but yourself. Isolation, as a practice, is detrimental to emotional health.
Marriage-Killer #4: Name-Calling
I’m so fired up about this one. Not that I haven’t resorted to it before—I have, and deeply regret it. But name-calling is so incredibly damaging! It’s ugly and caustic and just plain mean. There is no other motivation behind doing it except to hurt the other person. I believe it causes deep wounding with long-lasting effects because name-calling attacks a person’s identity. It’s like slapping poisonous labels on someone’s soul. Most of us can easily remember being called names as a child—and what those names were. They stay with you for a lifetime, and when they come from the person who is supposed to love you most, it can destroy your marriage along with your self worth.
Marriage-Killer #5: Manipulating
We all do this to some degree, but it doesn’t make it right. Using guilt, fear, sex, or anything else in order to control your spouse is dangerous behavior. Unfortunately, in order for it to even work, one partner has to be compliant and subservient to the other. Manipulating creates an unnatural and unhealthy hierarchy in the marriage. Dominant vs. submissive. Strong vs. weak. More important vs. less important. Whether you’re the manipulator or the one being manipulated, your mindset and boundaries need fixing. Seek help before it gets out of hand.
This is not exactly a happy post, but very needed. So many people suffer needlessly through unhealthy marriages because they don’t recognize the warning signs as they arise. As I said, abuse is in a category of its own, but the other five marriage killers don’t have to be marriage enders. They are fixable and redeemable with help. Both partners need to recognize and own their behaviors. Both partners need to be committed, not only to each other, but to the growth and health of their relationship.
And they have to be willing to change.