How You Could be Poisoning Your Marriage Without Even Knowing it!
At some point, you will wrestle with negative thoughts about your spouse that won’t seem to have the potential to kill your marriage, but they do. Now, I’m not talking about axe-murderer kind of thoughts, which would ruin your marriage in an instant. No, I’m talking about the things that will kill your marriage very, very slowly. What I’m talking about would be just like feeding your marriage one small drop of poison every day. After a week of this poison, your marriage will start to feel sick, like something is not right but you can’t quite figure it out. After a month of doling out this poison to your marriage, you really start to notice it’s impact — you notice that the poison is starting to impact everything. After a year of consuming this poison, you won’t even recognize the happy marriage you once had because not only does it feel dead, it soon will be dead!
This poison that I speak of starts with a single negative thought about your spouse or your marriage, but takes on many subtle forms. Maybe you allow yourself to think, “My spouse can be such an idiot at times.” Then, as your mind starts to justify that thought, you find yourself looking for patterns of your spouse repeating the same idiotic behavior — and you will find that which you look for! And the poison starts dripping.
Or maybe your spouse said something harsh to you in a heated moment. If you had been watching two other people having the same kind of argument, followed by the same harsh words, you would likely think, “Certainly, he/she didn’t mean what they said, it was only said in anger and we all do that sometimes.” But since this particular comment was thrown at you by someone you love and trust, it just feels different — and you can’t get it out of your head. You wish you could go back and “unhear” what was said, but you can’t and you find yourself wresting with those harsh words 10, 20, or even 50 times every single day. The poisonous shift happens when you fail to extend grace and forgiveness to your spouse for saying those things, but instead think, “My spouse must have never really loved me if that‘s what they think.” Drip, drip.
Maybe you are the person who often thinks, “My spouse just doesn’t understand me or what I’m going through. In fact, he/she probably never will.” What you have just done is allowed a subtle kind of division to creep in between you and your spouse. That kind of division allows you to believe that you aren’t important enough for your spouse to genuinely try to understand you. Drip. Once this kind of poison has reached its full potential, you will meet someone of the opposite sex who seems to offer you the right kind of compassion and body language that convinces you this new person understands you in a way your spouse never could. Drip, drip.
Are you able to see these subtle poisons and their ability to ruin your marriage? In the work that Tami and I do with couples, we see this poison at work in marriages far more than we would like to admit. Far more. Additionally, turning off this poison drip is quite simple, though rarely easy. And the way to ruin off the drip is to work daily at thinking the best of your spouse and your marriage instead of allowing yourself to think the worst!
Let me give you some practical ideas based on the two examples I shared earlier.
How you can respond when your spouse uses harsh words toward you or calls you names? First, I am not suggesting that it is ok for your spouse to constantly berate you in a verbal firestorm. This is not ok! If this is the case and there is constant hostility in your home, you likely need help beyond the scope of this article. Please seek help from a professional counselor, a leader at your church, or a trusted and safe friend. If, on the other hand, your spouse slips up from time to time and says something in a heated moment that they would not normally say to you, you must learn to extend grace and forgiveness. You need to remember that you are not showing grace and forgiveness because your spouse deserves it — they likely don’t. No, you are giving grace and forgiveness because NOT doing so is simply too much of a burden for you to bear. The truth is, when you don’t forgive someone it is like wishing they would drink the poison, but not realizing that you holding the container of the poison is actually killing you! Instead, you have the ability to stop the poison drip. Learning to give grace and forgiveness in these situations is not only the right thing to do, it is also the healthiest thing for you to do.
Now, let’s address a better way to handle the second scenario. You recall that in the second example, someone was convincing themselves that their spouse would never understand them or didn’t love them enough to try. In this case, what if the spouse that feels so alone and misunderstood were to choose to believe the best about their spouse — they choose to believe that their spouse is doing the best that he/she can right now? This seems like a small mind shift, one that could not possibly alter the outcome like stopping the drip drip of the poison. Don’t underestimate the power of choosing to think the best of your spouse. For those who have made this change in themselves, the positive outcome for their marriage is huge!
We need unity in our homes for those living within them to thrive. One way to regain unity is to stop the slow but deadly trickle of poisonous thoughts that we all have allowed into our homes. Don’t allow poison into your home. In every sense, it tastes awful and kills everyone!