Marriage is work. Especially if you want one of those long-term, secure, gospel-witnessing marriages.
But killing a marriage? That’s easy.
You might be surprised by how effortless the whole thing can be. In less than 12 months, and in just five easy steps, you too can kill a marriage. Here’s how.
1. Expect Perfection
Forget John’s comment that those who claim to be without sin are liars (1 John 1:8). Instead, fix your mind on the faultless spouse of your imagination while diligently marking your partner’s every transgression. Ruminate on their failures. Let each incident be part of the grand narrative of your spouse’s incompetence. Forget Paul’s counsel—let the rivers of bitterness rage (Eph. 4:31–32). Console yourself by remembering you’re the victim.
Dwell on perfection: physical perfection, emotional perfection, spiritual perfection—think on all of it—and be deeply offended at your spouse’s shortcomings. When hope begins to raise its head, shame it with memories of how your spouse has failed in the same way multiple times. Downplay any incremental progress. The truth is they will always hurt you and you can never trust them.
On those occasions when they meet your expectations, do not under any circumstances celebrate with them. Instead, seem vaguely annoyed that they finally lived up to their call. What’s more, assume the only reason they’re doing it is to get something from you—money, children, sex. You know there must be ulterior motives somewhere; hunt them down. Whatever you do, don’t look to Calvary amid your discontent. Because if you do, you may notice that the only perfect person hung on a cross for you.
2. Emote, Don’t Communicate
The roll-eyes emoji has nothing on you. Listening is for suckers, and speaking softly is for the weak. Don’t let Paul’s exhortation to speak only what edifies get in the way of a perfect sigh of frustration or lipcurl of disgust. Your emotions are the arbiter of truth, and they should be given full voice at all times. Though the tongue can set fires hot enough to rival hell, don’t restrain it. Give it free reign because that’s just you being authentic.
Communication that is full of grace (Col 4:6), love (1 Pet. 3:10) and truth (Eph. 4:15)? These commands were obviously written for the super-spiritual, or at least for someone whose spouse is more capable than yours is. Being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (Jas. 1:19) requires time and energy that frankly you don’t have and they don’t deserve. It’s easier, quicker, and more satisfying to yell, stomp, pout, or freak out. And while you may not have time to listen to your spouse, they should always stop and pay attention to you right away.
3. Keep Your Options Open
You never know when something better is going to come along. True, you made vows in front of witnesses and the Lord, but everyone knows such commitments are naïve at best. After all, if you’d known all of your spouse’s failings, would you have made such a promise? Definitely not. Would God have made such promises to his people if he had known they were going to be lazy, gluttonous, murderous, treacherous idolaters (Rom. 5:6–11)? You certainly can’t be expected to do the same. Can you (Eph. 5:1–2)?
There are a lot of fish in the sea, and one of them may be the key to your real long-term satisfaction. Indeed, you probably felt that way about your current spouse at some point, but you’ve learned so much since then. If you could do it all over you would make sure to get someone more attractive or more communicative or more artistic or more athletic or more organized or more . . . whatever. It doesn’t matter. But you’d definitely do better. So whether you’re at the gym or the grocery store, at work or even worship, be on the prowl for an upgrade.
4. Look Out for Number One
Nothing is more important than your momentary individual happiness. And by nothing, I mean not even God himself. Refuse to imagine a God who would want you to be unhappy, even if it leads to loving Jesus and being more like him (Rom. 5:3–5). Your marriage, as with all things in life, has one ultimate purpose: to serve you. Regardless of Christ calling you to serve (Mark 10:43–45) or to count others more significant than yourself (Phil. 2:3), demand that your needs be put first.
Remind yourself that your value comes from your spouse’s ability to hold your desires in the highest esteem, not from the fact that Jesus chose to become as nothing that you might be redeemed (Phil 2:6–8). Only in the context of being constantly, effectively, efficiently, and immediately served should your spouse ever expect anything in return. And then only when it’s convenient for you.
5. Don’t Seek Help
Who needs an abundance of counselors (Prov. 15:22)? You’ve got this! It’s not like we’re talking about solving world hunger or finding the cure for cancer. We’re just talking about one of the foundational structures God uses to display his covenantal goodness to all mankind (Gen. 2:18–24). Your vows—“in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer”—were meant to reflect to the world, in a tangible way, God’s covenant promise to “never leave nor forsake” his people. Easy peasy, no help necessary.
Plus, getting others involved would take work. It would mean giving up the appearance of having it all together and the illusion of control. Counselors, pastors, and mentors may speak hard truths into your life (Eph. 4:15). They may even hold you accountable for living up to your call as a spouse, regardless of how your spouse is acting (Rom. 12:9). You shouldn’t seek advice from older couples with happy and healthy marriages, because they were just plain lucky. Besides, no amount of real-world advice could stand up to the repository of dating and marital blogs you’ve skimmed over the years. All of which point to one inescapable conclusion: You’re miserable, and it’s all your spouse’s fault. How can anyone help that?
That’s it. With little effort and a whole lot of pride, you too can destroy your marriage. And any time you do, you destroy a powerful image of Christ’s covenant love for his people. Sadly, the world will be happy to let you get away with this murder.