A marriage is a very precious relationship: far more important than any other relationship that we have. As with all items of value, it must be guarded. We must protect it, and defend it. Yet there are many dangers that our marriages face. These 5 ‘enemies’ of marriage are incredibly deadly, and can potentially destroy your marriage. But don’t forget: the first step in defeating destructive behaviours is recognising them for what they are.
5) Don’t value your marriage
If you don’t value your marriage, you’re headed for problems. Period. Although I’ve put this one down at number 5, it’s the foundation stone upon which all the other destructive behaviours are built. If you don’t value your marriage, then you’re not going to put in the energy and time to maintain it (let alone grow it). You’ll more likely want to escape marriage (temporarily, but later permanently), especially when difficulties arise (and difficulties will arise).
4) Don’t appreciate your spouse
John Gottman, author of the New York Times Bestseller ‘The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work’ claims that after researching and closely examining the marriages of 640 couples, the biggest difference between a ‘happy’ marriage and an ‘unhappy’ marriage is whether the spouses appreciate each other or not. Those with the happiest marriages were good friends. They respected and appreciated each other, and knew each other’s likes and dislikes, passions and struggles. They showed their appreciation not just in big ways, but day in and day out. Their positive feelings for each other outweighed any negativity that might have arisen from conflict etc, so that their marriages are much more positive and healthy.
3) Begin each conversation with a ‘harsh start-up’
A ‘harsh start-up’ is a negative way of beginning a conversation with your spouse. It involves launching in with criticism, sarcasm, or some other form of contempt (I thought I told you….I can’t believe you…). Statistically speaking, 96 percent of all conversations that begin this way end up in an argument, with nothing being resolved. Do this for most of your conversations with each other, and after a while your marriage will either become a war zone, or you will just not talk to each other because, well, it’s just too hard. Keep this up for a substantial period of time, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that your marriage is more of a concentration camp than a joyous relationship.
2) Invite the ‘Four Horseman of the Apocalypse’ into your communication
John Gottman defines the ‘Four Horseman of the Apocalypse’ as four key indicators that the marriage is not going well. In fact, if any of these ‘Four Horseman’ are common in a marriage, then the marriage is headed for trouble.
The ‘Four Horseman’ are simply negative communication styles, and often clip-clop into a marriage in the following order: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. If these are allowed to run rampant in your marriage, then the effects will be devastating. I’ll quickly define each so you know what I mean.
Criticism is when you talk about your ‘whole’ spouse in a negative way, criticising their character or personality (e.g. “You’re always so forgetful. I just can’t believe it!”).
Contempt involves being disgusted with your partner, and comes in a variety of forms: sarcasm, cynicism, name calling, eye-rolling. sneering, mockery, hostile humour. It’s very difficult, if not impossible to resolve a problem when your partner gets the message that you’re disgusted with her.
Defensiveness involves defending yourself against the attacks from your spouse. You justify yourself. But all it communicates is ‘The problem isn’t me – its you’. And the fighting continues.
Stonewalling involves simply tuning out and ignoring your spouse. This often happens when you feel so attacked that you just don’t want to communicate.
1) Have an affair
Game over. If you have an affair, it’s extremely difficult to restore your marriage. Not impossible, but it’s kind of like trying to shovel sand with a fork. The trust has been shattered into a million pieces.. Can your partner ever trust you again? How can he/she be sure that you won’t have an affair again?
Interestingly enough, affairs are not often the root of a busted up marriage: they’re more likely to be the fruit of a bad marriage. In other words, if you want to increase the likelihood of having an affair, just ensure you have a bad marriage. (By the way, the opposite is also true: if you want to minimise the risk of extramarital affairs, make sure you have a great marriage).
The above 5 ways to destroy your marriage will truly destroy your marriage if followed. However, if you want to have a great marriage, just do the opposite: Value your marriage; Appreciate your spouse; Don’t begin conversations with harsh start-ups; Don’t invite the Four Horseman into your communication; and Don’t have an affair.