Evangelist David Wilkerson once said, “Love is not something you feel. It’s something you do.” Likewise, it’s the things you do (or don’t do) that can make your spouse feel unloved.
This was a hard lesson early in my marriage, and frankly, continues to be one. Even if we’re practising good habits regularly, it is all too easy to derail our relationship by succumbing to bad ones.
After more than twelve years of marriage, we still have our bumps. But we’ve gotten better at identifying our unhealthy patterns, and more importantly, repenting from them.
If I were to give my younger married self advice, I’d say to watch out for the following six bad marriage habits.
1. Selfish Demands
It’s natural to want to be loved in your marriage. And it’s good to communicate how you want to be loved, via your love language or other personal needs. However, it’s all too easy for a humble request to slip into becoming a selfish demand.
My weakness is to disguise my demands as whiney guilt-trips or passive-aggressive manipulation. There’s a reason Proverbs in the Bible warns more than once about the nagging wife and how she tears down her husband quickly.
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If your husband seems to shut down or fight back when you try to share your needs with him, consider how you’re communicating. Are you demanding or manipulative? If you’re not sure, ask him, or get an outside opinion.
Likewise, if you feel like he’s too demanding of you, try to communicate with him without snapping back.
Learning how to communicate in healthier ways with one another is a process (we’re definitely still learning it!). But if you can hamper the habit of making selfish demands, you will save yourselves a lot of hurts.
2. Disrespectful Judgments
My husband and I are great together, but we are very different people. We have different interests, personalities, opinions and sometimes priorities.
As a young wife, I used to be concerned about this. I would criticise my husband for the way he did things or would try to manipulate him into seeing things my way.
Word of advice: Don’t do that!
I’ve learned over time to let go of my impossibly high and unreasonable standards because they were the opposite of helpful—feeling disrespected was a huge de-motivator for my husband.
Now, on a good day, I communicate my hopes and expectations without the threat of judgment behind them. That works much better!
If you and your husband are different (and you probably are!), try to see things from his perspective, rather than pass judgment over his weaknesses. Even if he’s flat out wrong or in sin, your unfiltered criticism isn’t going to bring you closer together.
3. Angry Outbursts
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. –James 3:6
Raise your hand if you’ve ever let words slip out of your mouth that you regretted later! I bet you were angry at the time.
James 3:6 says that the tongue is like fire because of the damage it can do. This might be one of the most useful verses on marriage in the whole Bible!
Your marriage can suffer a world of hurt from just one comment released in an angry outburst.
Some of us have shorter fuses than others. If you’re in the habit of letting your mouth go in the heat of the moment, I strongly urge you to pray about your self-control in this area.
Anger never exists in isolation; it’s usually tied to another emotion like hurt or fear. When my husband and I start to react with one another, we give each other permission to “cool off” for a bit and take a momentary break from the conversation so we can speak more rationally about what’s really going on.
This can be a hard habit to break, but you can do it with focused prayer and some anger management strategies. If you need help, ask for it from a counsellor or mentor.
We didn’t think we lied to each other…until we did a little more study into what dishonesty really means. While we never told outright lies, my husband and I discovered early on that we were in the habit of keeping little secrets from each other. They included how we spent our money and how we spent our time, as well as our thoughts and opinions.
We mistakenly thought that we were protecting each other from hurt.
The problem was that when one of these secrets came into the light, the trust in our relationship was immediately eroded. It took time to build it back up.
Dishonesty is never worth it, no matter what the size of the secret. If you’re afraid of your spouse’s reaction about something, you’re much better off opening up about it immediately, rather than having him find out about it down the road.
I remember all too well the Sunday afternoon I planned to go hang out with my girlfriends, as I was in the habit of doing when I was single.
I was a little surprised when my new husband was hurt that I had made plans without talking to him. Wasn’t I still free to have a social life outside of him? It took me a while to learn that, while it’s healthy to have separate interests, you and your spouse are still a unit. To be functional, you have to communicate and work together.
I’ve known a few couples that ended up divorcing after drifting apart slowly and steadily, becoming disengaged and isolated from each other.
But in marriage, you are “one flesh.”
My husband and I constantly talk about how we’re spending our time and resources and making sure that we’re “in the loop” with one another. It goes both ways, and because we are so open with one another, we naturally trust each other as we pursue both our mutual and separate interests.
6. Annoying Behaviour
I wonder how many marriages have one partner who likes to leave their clothes on the floor, driving the other one nuts. It’s an example of annoying behaviour that can get under some people’s skin, and it’s a fight I hear about a lot!
We can laugh about it, but the truth is that if you have enough annoying habits that you don’t even try to address, they can push your spouse away from you emotionally.
My husband and I each have our share of little idiosyncrasies that the other person finds irritating. But we at least try to address them, if possible.
When your spouse communicates that there is something you’re doing that they don’t like and you ignore it, you’re essentially saying that you don’t care about their concerns.
It’s not okay for your husband to be a jerk when he’s feeling annoyed or for you to be too judgmental when you don’t have unrealistic expectations (see #1,#2 and #3 above). But it’s also not okay to knowingly repeat behaviour that is making life unpleasant for your spouse.
When it comes down to it, most bad habits in marriage are related to communication. As long as you’re continuing to learn how to communicate in healthy, godly ways, you’ll be able to nip bad habits in the bud and have a healthy marriage that lasts a lifetime!
Which one of these unhealthy marriage habits are you most likely to slip into? Is there another bad habit that should have made the list?
Article supplied with thanks to Gina Poirier at Equipping Godly Women. Gina is a happily married mum of three, stress management coach and writer who helps overwhelmed, exhausted mums find peace and purpose in the everyday.