I am so grateful for my 25 years of marriage to my wife, Susan. My love for her has grown immensely over the years. I’ve been faithful to her. I’m very attracted to her.
But I can tell you that it’s not because of me. It’s only because of God’s loving hand of undeserved favor. You see, I’m just one decision away from doing something really stupid that could really damage, or perhaps even destroy, our relationship. And I can tell you that I've made plenty of mistakes in my marriage.
Here are eight marriage mistakes I've made:
Mistake #1: Thinking that Susan was responsible for my happiness.
In my early years of marriage, I felt like an important part of Susan’s duty as my wife was to make me happy. I was a bit more focused on me than on us. I didn't think so at the time, but now looking back, I relied on Susan to lift me up when I was down, to help me upon command, and to meet my physical needs when called upon.
Mistake #2: Wishing Susan would be more like me.
Unfortunately, in my younger years, I thought pretty highly of myself. So much so that I thought Susan should be more like me. Oh, I wouldn't say that out loud, but I thought things like, If Susan was more organized and disciplined like me, she would be able to keep the house cleaner. Or, I wish Susan just got things done that I want done when I want them done. I mean, when I commit to do something for her, I’m on it and check it off the list.
Since I thought Susan should think and act more like me, I didn't think about the incredible gifts of creativity and relational skills that Susan had. I didn't celebrate her unique strengths that make her Susan.
Mistake #3: Trying to control Susan.
“Where are you going? Who are you going with? And what time will you be home?” Or, “Did you make sure the kids did their homework? Did they get that project done?”
Those are the kind of questions I’d ask Susan—as a father would ask his child. Rather than just encouraging her to go out and enjoy the night with friends, I made her feel like she had a curfew. Rather than me making sure our kids got certain things done, I asked Susan to take on that responsibility.
Mistake #4: Reflecting Susan’s emotions instead of regulating my own.
Many times in our marriage, I've acted like a thermometer instead of a thermostat. I reflected the temperature in our relationship and home instead of regulating it.
When Susan got mad at me about something, I got mad because she was mad. If Susan was down and didn't feel well, that frustrated me and I let her know it.
I failed to show leadership in our home by regulating my emotions and attitude. As a result, instead of cooling down our emotions, I heated them up causing some very uncomfortable disagreements.
Mistake #5: Being obsessive about things that don’t matter.
It took over a year to restore our home that had been flooded in a big storm. We just moved back in a couple of months ago. As I inspected the work of our painters, I noticed some areas that the painters should touch up. I also noticed some very tiny areas that were inside storage closets that nobody except me would ever see that could use a bit of paint. I made a big deal out of it with our painters, and with Susan, initially insisting that the places nobody would ever see be painted.
Yes, I was obsessive about it and admittedly went overboard. That kind of intense behavior can really put Susan on edge.
Mistake #6: Being critical.
When I look at a new design for a website at work, my eye often first goes to what’s wrong with it. When I look at that dresser that Susan just personally refurbished into a beautiful new piece for our home, I find that spot she missed and let her know about it.
While my critical eye can be a benefit, it can also be a curse. My tongue has been a wild animal in our marriage. It’s gotten loose and pounced upon Susan on a number of occasions with critical words and condescending tones.
Mistake #7: Acting like we are not on the same team.
Susan has said to me on more than one occasion, “I just don’t feel like we’re on the same team.” And she’s right. There have been times when she was dealing with one of our kids’ behavior and I didn't back her up. Instead, I questioned how she was handling it in front of them. And there have been many other times when I’ve treated her like my opponent, not my teammate, in our relationship.
Mistake #8: Having an “if, then” mentality.
“If you would just meet my physical desires, then I wouldn't be so critical of you.”
My “If you would _______, then I would _________” mentality is an example of not unconditionally loving my wife.
Those are just a sampling of mistakes I've made in marriage. Although I still struggle in some of these areas, I've made some good progress in others. You can find out more about Susan’s take on life, specifically parenting and marriage here.
Have you made any of these same mistakes? If so, what have you done to address them? Maybe you’d also be so bold as to share other failures that you've had in your relationship and what you've done about them.
Copyright © 2014 Mark Merrill. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. For more resources, visit MarkMerrill.com.
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1. Read Bill Elliff’s article on “8 Lies That Destroy Marriage.”
2. Listen to Mark Merrill on FamilyLife Today® talk about “Being a Hero to Your Family.” And if you’re a father, check out his book, All-Pro Dad.