Wednesday, August 28, 2013

3 Ways You May Be Undermining Your Marriage/Relationships

I am big Predators fan. We love hockey in my house. A few years ago the Nashville Predators were fresh off a first-round defeat of their arch nemesis, the Detroit Redwings. The Predators beat them in 5 games. Their next opponent in the playoffs were the Phoenix Coyotes. Most Predator fans thought this was the year we were going to make a deep run in the playoffs, perhaps to a Stanley Cup. We were poised to do it. We had great players. We had momentum. We had confidence. Everyone in Nashville was a believer. 

Then the news came out that two of Nashville's best players, Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitstyn, had been suspended for two games due to a violation of team rules. These two guys, the day before a big playoff game, stayed out until the morning hours partying. They broke the team curfew and did their own thing. The result? They were suspended for two games. The Predators lost both of those games. They lost the series. And their magical playoff run was suddenly a fantasy that never materialized. 

Why do I share this sports story to start a post on marriage? Because what these two guys did was undermine their own team's success. These players hurt their own team. And I believe that couples every day are doing the same thing. Every day couples are doing things that are undermining their relationship. I believe that marriages and relationships suffer more from the actions of one another than any other source. Though you may be doing unknowingly, certain behaviors, attitudes, and actions will destroy your relationship.

Here are 3 ways you may be undermining your marriage.

1. Holding Unrealistic and Unspoken Expectations

Every person has expectations. Whether you realize it or not, you have formed expectations about how things in this life should go. This includes marriage and relationships. You have formed expectations for your relationship. You have created in your mind how life in your home is supposed to look, how your spouse should respond to you, how your family should spend Friday nights, and many more.

Where do these expectations come from? Most of our expectations for relationships have formed over time. They formed during childhood as you grew up in your home. Your expectations also are shaped by television shows, movies, your friends, and other places. Most people never sit down and determine to map out their expectations for our how marriage and family should look. It develops gradually, through experiences and other influences, most times unknowingly. 

Expectations can be dangerous because most times, they are unrealistic. We expect our spouse to live up to some movie scene we have in our mind. We want arguments to resolve themselves like they did on the Cosby Show, where everything is neat and tidy at the end of thirty minutes. More disappointment than can be imagined follows when a spouse realizes their expectations are not being met. However, perhaps we need to reevaluate what those expectations are and how we came to them.

Not only can our expectations be unrealistic, they are most often unspoken. So not only do we have unrealistic expectations, we do not share them.Despite this, we still get grossly offended when our loved one doesn't comport with our wishes. We act as if they should know our hidden standard of perfection. 

We undermine our marriage and relationships when we carry these unrealistic and unspoken expectations. Our marriages are not about our expectations being met. It is about two people, coming together as one, and establishing mutual expectations of how the relationship should look and function. We hurt our relationships when we live our lives measuring everyone's actions against our unspoken decrees of how things should be. 

A good exercise for you to do is begin questioning how you arrived at the expectations you have. Next time you feel offended that your spouse did not do what you wanted, ask yourself how you arrived at the conclusion that they should do what you want. What you will begin to find is that there are a lot of unrealistic and unspoken expectations swirling around your mind that come leaping out as some as they are violated.

2. Insisting on Getting Your Own Way

This point flows naturally from the previous one. If you want to undermine a relationship, determine to always have your way. Insisting on your own way can become the standoff between spouses. When both spouses are determined they are going to win, nobody wins. When spouses draw the line in the sand and refuse to back down from getting what they want, both lose.

These are turf wars. Turf wars will kill a relationship like no other. You have all experienced turf wars. It is fighting for the sake of winning the argument and gaining the turf. Turf wars will cause us to act in ways that are silly, simply because we don't want to give in. We don't want to admit fault or failure. We don't like to admit sin and selfishness. So we insist on having our own way, and we are willing to fight to the death to ensure victory. The problem: in a turf war, nobody really wins.  

Why is this? Insisting on getting our own way is the very opposite of how marriage should function. In Genesis 2:24 the Bible says about marriage, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." In marriage, two individuals who have lived their entire lives for themselves, are joined together to make one person. In marriage we must lose the "I" and "me" language and adopt the "us" and "we" language. When you enter into marriage, you forfeit your individual rights. You no longer belong to yourself. You are now joined together with another. The same is true for your spouse. 

This is why fighting to get your own way completely undermines marriage. It strikes against the very fabric of what a marriage is supposed to be. You are both called to die to your own ways, and together decide what is best. The apostle Paul, when defining love, gives this descriptor: "it does not insist on its own way." (1 Corinthians 13:5). Why is insisting on your own way damaging to your relationship? Because it is unloving. It is the opposite of the way of love. 

Next time you and your spouse are in an argument, ask yourself the question: am I insisting on my own way? If yes, ask yourself: why do I feel the need to have my way? Probe further: is this about winning a turf battle or do I have legitimate reason for my position?

3. Focusing on Your Own Needs

This last factor in undermining your marriage is crucial to grasp. I cannot tell you the number of people I have counseled who have made a statement similar to this: "They are just not meeting my needs any more." That line sounds like it has been taken directly from a movie or novel. It sounds like a legitimate reason to be unhappy with your spouse, except it isn't. 

The focus for your marriage should not be your own needs. Your focus should be on the needs of your spouse. That's right. Not your needs, your spouse's needs. Some people don't like reading or hearing that. But it is true. 

The reason for this is that when two people are both focusing on themselves and their needs, neither are going to have their needs met. The two will play tug-of-war against each other. Compare these two approaches. The first couple approaches their relationship with the mentality: "they better meet my needs." With that mentality, they are both focused on themselves and whether the other is sufficiently doing what they desire. The second couple approaches their relationship with the mentality: "I'm going to focus on meeting their needs." With that mentality, they are focused on meeting the needs of the other, but in the process, have their own needs met. 

This is the irony of it all. When spouses focus on having their own needs met, both will go unmet. This leaves both unsatisfied and hopeless. But when both focus on the needs of the other, both find their own needs met. Both are satisfied in their relationship. It is amazing how this works. 

So if you want to undermine your relationship, focus on having your own needs met. If you truly desire for your needs be met, quite focusing on them, and begin serving the needs of your spouse. Make their needs your greatest priority and concern. You may find that serving others and dying to your selfishness leads to greater joy and satisfaction. Who would have thought?


These three ways of undermining your marriage can happen at any time. You must stay on guard against these. If you are currently doing any of these three things, I recommend you do two things:

First, repent from these actions and confess before God that they are selfish and wrong. Ask God to give you strength to turn from these behaviors and to make the necessary changes. Philippians 4:13 reminds us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthen us. This includes making changes to better our relationships.

Second, go and apologize to your spouse. One of the healthiest practices you can engage in with your spouse is to apologize for wrongs. Inform them that you want to change these things. Ask them to forgive you and give them permission to call you out next time they witness these behaviors.

If you can learn to constantly engage in these last two recommended practices, you are sure to have a healthy marriage for many years to come. Let's stop undermining our marriages, and instead, begin to build them to last.

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1 comment:

  1. It's upsetting how true this is of myself in my marriage. Thanks for clearing up issues that can get murky.