By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
When two people commit to getting married, they vow to be together forever. But as the years go by, it is easy to get into a marriage rut, allowing small annoyances to bloom into bad habits. Those habits, when gone unchanged, can slowly erode a firm foundation of a marriage. Here are seven habits that can cause damage to a marriage:
1. Not Praying Together
The saying “the family that prays together, stays together” rings true, especially in marriage. Satan wants nothing more than to destroy a unit of two people–especially Christians—who are unified in their quest to glorify God in their relationship. The best way for him to destroy that unity is through a lack of prayer.
Sure, it seems easy enough to skip one day of praying together. But soon, that one day becomes two, which becomes three, which soon leads to months (or years) without prayer. How can a couple remain connected to the vine when their way of connecting to God is cut off from the roots?
2. Fighting Dirty
All marriages experience conflict. But what will you do when you (or your spouse) fight dirty? This means launching into a character assassination or degrading the other person in an effort to “win” the argument. You may win the argument with a few blows below the belt, but the war will have just begun.
Those words, if you haven’t apologized for them, will just pile up. Like toothpaste from the tube, you can’t take them back. Keep your fights clean by sticking to the issue at hand and the underlying fears and insecurities that lie beneath them, and you’ll have a marriage that can weather any storm of conflict.
3. Bringing Up the Past
When you fight with your spouse, do you stick to the current issues--or do you drudge up past mistakes, failures, and sins? God gave us memories so we can appreciate the past. But we must choose to either allow our past to ruin our present or to use it as a way to redeem ourselves and others.
If God chooses to “forgive our sins as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), why can’t we? Jesus was clear that if we don’t forgive others of the times when they have wronged us, God won’t forgive us of our sins. What a sobering statement! This demonstrates Jesus’ passion for Christians to freely offer the same forgiveness as Jesus did on the cross. It won’t be easy—neither was his crucifixion—but he chose to do so because of his great love for us. And we need to love others with the same level of respect.
4. Staying Unhealthily Connected to Your Immediate Family
There is a reason why in Genesis, God ordained that man “should leave their father and mother and the two will become one flesh.” Your mother, father, and siblings are your foundation to lean on during your childhood. But once you become married, you are to lean on your spouse and start a family with them. That means enduring trials together as a family unit, not involving your parents or siblings.
There’s nothing wrong with asking a parent for his/her advice, but valuing their opinion over your spouse only spells trouble. When making major life decisions, make sure you make it with your spouse, not your parent.
5. Putting Conditions on Love or Respect
When a marriage has experienced a major trial like infidelity or other sign of unfaithfulness, the victim in the relationship may feel entitled to disrespect the other partner or withhold love for fear of being hurt again. Yet, the recipe for a successful marriage lies within Scripture: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).
As wives, we should respect our husbands, whether they deserve it or not. When wives can show their husbands respect, we can in turn show ourselves respect, and thus honor our marriages.
As well, husbands must love their wives whether they deserve it or not. It may not always look like holding hands or other physical signs of affection in public, but loving your wife means listening to her, supporting her during trials, and taking her opinions into account before making a decision. When a husband loves his wife, he also brings honor to his marriage. A marriage that has honor will eventually go back to a loving one.
6. Prioritizing Being Right Rather than Having Right Relationship
In today’s world, Christians are known more for what they are against than what they are for. When this is the case, their example of Christlikeness gets marred. It is the same in the marriage relationship. When a partner cares more about being right than in right relationship, the marriage relationship reflects less of the bride of Christ and more like two selfish people who only want to get something out of the relationship than giving to it.
Each partner must commit to giving of themselves fully to the marriage rather than having to prove the other wrong, especially during conflict. Stop trying to be right and winning in the marriage and follow the example of Christ, who spent His life-giving and emptying himself so we (and your spouse) can have the fullness of life our father promised.
7. Shutting Down Communication
One of the best parts of a marriage is when two people share intimacy both in the bedroom and outside of it. This means both partners communicate their feelings and emotions without fear of condemnation from the other. Marriage should be a safe place where people can express themselves fully. But when there is unresolved hurt and resentment that had not been dealt with, partners shut down and only communicate on a superficial level.
The relationship can deteriorate to the point where the best level of communication revolves around “how was your day?” Neither partner feels safe enough to express their discontentment with life or each other.
This reduces the relationship to nothing more than roommates. Christ’s relationship with the church needs to be more than just roommates. God wants our fellowship, and so does our partner. Imagine if your relationship with God was nothing more than a list of prayer requests. How healthy would your relationship be? Take the time to resolve conflict and heal from hurt so you can keep your communication at a deep level.
Marriage is far from easy, but when two people are committed to making it the best relationship they have, Christ is glorified, and they enjoy an abundant life of love and laughter God wants for them. If you are exhibiting these marriage habits, do the hard work to break them. This can include anchoring yourself in the word of God, seeking the help of your church or a therapist, or enlisting the help of accountability partners. Strive to be the spouse your partner deserves.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year and the Enduring Light Silver Medal, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her first book with Leafwood Publishers, An Invitation to the Table, came out September 2016. She also teaches at various writers' workshops, such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She and her husband live in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Caleb and Leah. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.