How to mess up your marriage…

A few people near and dear to me are getting married soon – and I wanted to encourage them (and us all) by sharing our “best advice” and those things that really can mess up your marriage. I’d love you to join in with your suggestions in the comments today.

Remember, we don’t give advice really, but share what we’ve seen, what God says, and what research shows (and not surprisingly, it’s all the same stuff).

So in a nutshell my favorite top 4 things we can do to mess up our marriage (and ways to counteract them) are listed below. I like the picture below because of the “man’s best friend” point – it’s better to be friends with your wife than your dog – someone told me, though, that they took offense at the picture because she felt I’m equating women with dogs or their position, and I’m sorry for that – please don’t take it that way. This is a picture of my husband with our golden retriever – she thinks she’s his best friend, but I’m hoping I’m it for all the days of his life – after Christ, of course! 🙂

be his best friend

  1. Fail to take good care of ourselves in honor of being selfless and serving. When we are constantly throwing ourselves under the bus sacrificially, we can start doing it to our own physical detriment. This eventually makes us susceptible to illness – both mental and physical – and makes half of the marriage unwell, while tempting the other spouse to take advantage. The counter? Take care of the temple of the Holy Spirit – YOU. Yes, serve, yes, don’t be selfish, but be discerning. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t always mean you should.
  2. Expect your spouse to fill the Jesus-shaped hole inside us all. S/he can’t. And there really is something to this whole “expectation” biz – given that we acclimate in relationships (yes, it is more than just temperature!) we are constantly on a path to take each other for granted – and when we stop daily counting our blessings and having that thankful heart which makes Him smile… well, we start messing things up.
  3. Waiting on our spouse to change and letting him/her define who we are, instead of living life for the Audience of One. Research shows (check this video) that if we will act “as if” we are the person we aspire to be (which we could assume would be a godly wife or mom, for example) then we are more likely to become that way.  People argue that this is “phony” and “lying” – it’s not. It’s OBEDIENCE. So when the Bible says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to become angry (James 1:19), we choose to DO that not because we feel like it, but because it is what God knows is best for the relationship. There are few verses about what we should be thinking, and TONS about what we should be DOING. 🙂 
  4. Focusing on conflict resolution instead of developing the friendship. YES, you should know how to be a good listener and interact with others without being unhealthy and sinning (no name-calling, no character assassinations, no blaming, “I” versus “you” language, etc.), but research shows the friendship is at the base of all successful marriages. They can then grow into “shared meaning” which is where real intimacy occurs. But it starts with a friendship relationship – one where we can be real, be safe, be compassionate, be heard, be respected, and be given to and received from… those are the things that REALLY impact a marriage. Titus 2 tells us this, so does the research. Think about it – if we’re focused on conflict… whatever we pay attention to GROWS. :/

Bottom line time for me:

  1. Take care of the temple.
  2. Thank God for 3 things about your marriage and God before bed each night.
  3. Act “as if” you are the person God has called you to be. Keep doing it, even when you fail.
  4. Learn how to be friends with him. It’s different than with your girlfriends. 🙂

Would love to hear from YOU – what are YOUR favorite ways to mess up or help your marriage? It’s Titus 2 Time! 🙂

Love to you,


Other posts you might be interested in:

Where to start when you’re wounded

Who do you think you are?

Identity in the world or from the Word?

Expectations of God & religion


titus 2 women leadership

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

14 thoughts on “How to mess up your marriage…

  1. Putting my children before my husband almost destroyed our marriage. The results of reversing that have been absolutely amazing! Praise God!

  2. What are YOUR favorite ways to mess up or help your marriage?

    Ways I mess up:
    • Complaining about stuff that adds up to absolutely nothing: lost car keys, the way household chores are done (loading the dishwasher, cutting carrots, etc.)
    • Me, constantly lecturing at home about the first 250 years of Christianity: The doctrines, practices, . . . . How they got it “right” and the current state of Christianity has gotten it “wrong.”
    • Bible “discussions” (-ha, ha, ha, ha. . . . oh, my) that devolve into lectures or theology debates, including but not limited to: source criticism, form criticism, textual criticism, redaction criticism, even mainstream consensus Biblical interpretation (Jesus Seminar-style.) -I know, “Jesus Seminar” sounds good, it is not!
    • Turning certain events into “love” tests requiring extensive mind reading.
    • Being over-committed . . . So, becoming under-connected.

    What has helped?
    • Seriously praying together every night, even from the road (-Bible study too, just not too much depth!)
    • Fostering an atmosphere of laughter. Looking for ways to laugh together (-Even if it gets out-of-hand and sometimes it just does! . . . ha, ha, ha, ha -it just does!)
    • Holding and kissing exercises every morning or evening, without fail.
    • Answering lists of questions we ask each other about everything from childhood, to our parents, to our feelings. . . Why?. . .So, we can keep discovering things about each other (-ha, ha, ha, ha. . . . .Yes, sometimes that provokes a fight too but it is 95% GOOD!)
    • Genuine compliments and lots of “thank you” -courtesy language and gratitude!
    • Being tough on the Problems but TENDER on each other!
    • Making sexual intimacy a priority! RE: imagination & passion
    • No Pretending: FULL disclosure. No Hedges. Creating WIN/WIN solutions always inside a safe, judgment-free zone.
    • Always realizing that Jesus is our source and we give to each other the overflow. We are not trying to fix, blame or change each other. This requires me realizing my husband is not capable of meeting my God needs, only Jesus is, and that resets my expectations.

    One last thing: situational awareness!!! Rote praise and stock gestures of appreciation are quickly seen for what they are…putting a check mark in a box (-Sometimes I get away with it. Then the Lord convicts me and I have to repent, which is humiliating.) Anyway, they pick up on auto-pilot pretty quick! We always ask each other: What do you need me to hear that I am just NOT hearing? Do you feel loved and cared for in our relationship? Do I show enough interest in you and your needs?

  3. Good tips you have here Nina (plus I like the title of your blog 🙂 )
    I think what I could share from my experience with my husband, in addition to the very helpful comments I’ve read is;
    1) Do not try to love him as you want to be loved. Find out how he wants to be loved(spelt respect) and love him that way. I used to get frustrated when I’m doing all sorts of things for him and I feel like I’m not being appreciated but it was because the things I was doing did/do not communicate love to him.
    2) Do not give him unsolicited advice. Still struggling with this, sometimes I slip but now we laugh about it and I apologize and retrieve my advice.

    Well, I’ll stop here now. Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts.

  4. My number one suggestion for all newly married people would be to remember that you married a person of the opposite sex. So ladies, you married a man and he’s not going to respond and behave as a woman. Please learn about the differences in male and female brains and also very importantly the differences in male and female sexuality. This area can be such a hotbed (pun intended) of tension and division in a marriage when you don’t understand how your husband is different than you. There are plenty of excellent resources out there to teach you about the way God made our brains and our bodies different. If you’re struggling in that area reach out for help sooner rather than later. 🙂

  5. I really liked the third point: Act “as if” you are the person God has called you to be. I remember years ago, I had a friend whose parents had taken him on a big church trip with them (they were the youth pastors at the time) and he had a lot of emotional issues prior to the trip. He would get sulky and moody and kind of just be a butt sometimes. 😛 Anyway, at one point during the trip, he came up to me, smiling, and said, “I’m smiling because Mom and Dad told me I need to be positive while I’m on this trip and I need to smile even if I don’t feel like it, ’cause otherwise they’re not gonna let me take these kinds of trips anymore!” That really resonated with me, and when they left the youth ministry after ten years of service, I wrote down a few of the lessons they taught me, and that was one of them: “Smile even when you don’t feel like it. Eventually your attitude will catch up with your face.”

    It REALLY does! It’s remarkable to me how well that works… you go from “hoping” to be that person, to actually BEING that person because you’ve emulated it and practiced it so much. And then when you do fail at being that person, you just get right back up and do it because the Lord has enabled you to do so… I love it! I used to think, “I wish I could be like that lady,” (I have a lot of great older married women in my church) and had no idea how to do it. I started watching them and trying to do what they do… trying to react like they react. (There is a woman in my church whose husband passed away, and I’ve always told myself I’d be an absolute wreck – like, dangerous to myself – if anything happened to my husband… yet after he passed away, she was able to smile with a perfect peace on her face, rejoicing that he was with the Lord… even though she missed him terribly. That blew me away!) I found that the more I tried to imitate godly women in my life (or just the Lord Himself… or godly women in the Word), the more I was able to BE like them.

    What a beautiful thing that the Lord has allowed us to do. 🙂 I really liked your last sentence on that point: “There are few verses about what we should be thinking, and TONS about what we should be DOING.” Obedience is key! 😀

  6. Here is my list..

    Let go of ALL expectations…. Never assume that your spouse will do for you all the things that you do for them. They don’t see things like we do. YES they appreciate all you do, because it will be missed when you don’t do them. Just don’t think or assume they will do the same for you.

    Let them talk….. I used to butt into every story my husband would tell. I have learned through RD and Daughters and this is disrespctful. Even if they tell the story wrong, it doesn’t matter. When we interupt and add in details, they feel like we are treating them like a child.

    ALWAYS speak of your spouse in a positive light. Don’t join in with others in belittling your spouse.. even behind their back. The feelings behind those words will be carried home with you. For all the complaints you have , there is ALWAYS positives too. Focus on the good, and be your husband’s champion.

    • AMEN! 🙂 And I’d add “men in general” – our society needs to change. 🙂 Men are awesome. I married one and gave birth to two. 🙂 I love the “champion” word, too!
      Love to you,

  7. I’m with you! What is helping me is to talk less and listen more. Just being there is often enough for my husband. No words necessary

    • Don’t treat him as if you alone have the right answer. You don’t have to break things down for him like he’s an infidel without your further explanation. When you have a complaint start it of with ” I feel” statements because when you start off with ” you this and you that” then it feels like an attack and they shut down.

    • Lisa – YES. And when you DO talk, he’ll easily pay better attention because you say things worthy of hearing – to him, anyway! 🙂
      Love to you,

  8. I really like your number 1. In going through the Daughters of Sarah on my own and trying to remember what my dreams for my marriage were, I read some of my diaries from when my husband and I were dating, engaged and first married. I was a pretty smart girl as I wrote about keeping Christ number one and not expecting my boyfriend and eventual husband to meet all my needs. However, I was going to be his best friend and meet all of HIS needs. I was going to sacrificially serve my future husband all of my days.

    I wish someone had told me that it is ok for me to have needs, that saying no, even to your spouse is ok sometimes. ( You know honey, I know that is important to you but I am absolutely exhausted. Would you mind if I take care of it tomorrow instead?) I thought that being a good wife meant that I should always be happy in front of him, always put his needs before my own and be the perfect wife.

    I read all of the marriage books before I got married and as I have been married. I was always striving for the perfect marriage and trying to be that perfect Proverbs 31 wife. What I like about your materials, Nina, is that is seems more balanced. I crashed and burned in a large way. My husband now realizes that I am not superhuman. In a way, I wasn’t respecting him by not allowing him to meet my needs.

    I wish someone had told me that conflict and fighting are not the same thing. I tried to smooth everything over and be happy since a good wife should never be quarrelsome or negative. I wish someone had taught me how to talk about hard things. My husband and I had a good conversation several months ago where I was real about some of the ways he hurt me. I had also realized that one incident that upset me was because I thought that if he had a right to do that, then so did I. My husband told me of course I did since I was the other half of this relationship. Ir makes me sad for all of the wasted years where I tried to do everything myself. Though I was trying to depend on the Lord as well, I wasn’t trusting enough to be who I really was with my husband.

    My friends in high school and college were all guys. I’ve never really had close friendships with women. I spent long evenings talking things out with those guys in my life. Women seemed hurtful and shallow. However, I didn’t think I should keep the guy friends after I got married, so it just left me with superficial relationships. I’ve been trying to work on that, but no one around here seems to share in a deep level. Our ladies Bible studies are pretty shallow without much sharing. I am going to be leading a Daughters of Sarah study this fall. Please pray for me as I do this that it will be the beginning of starting a community of women.

    • Elizabeth – I can relate to a number of things you said, especially about women – and now… He’s blessed me with some of the most wonderful women friends! I don’t know how I survived without them.
      Love to you,

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