7 Ways to Ruin Your Marriage

7 Ways to Ruin Your MarriageEarlier this week, I spotted a clever post on Money Saving Mom called 5 Ways to Ruin Your Day — Guaranteed.

Of course, nobody sets out with that goal in mind, but as I read through her list, I realized that from time to time, I’ve been guilty of every single one of them (with the possible exception of #3).

And sure enough, when I think back to days I’ve devoted to such self-defeating activities, they don’t normally rank among my most productive or joyous.

I thought perhaps a similar tongue-in-cheek post about marriage might kindle some comparable sparks of recognition.

Nobody sets out with the goal of ruining their marriage in mind, but — unfortunately — that’s the position in which many couples find themselves.

Maybe if we could recognize the habits that are undermining our relationships early enough, we could change our ways before it’s too late.

So, in that spirit, I offer you…

7 Ways to Ruin Your Marriage — Guaranteed:

  1. Put yourself first.
  2. Always look out for #1. Make everything about you. Prioritize your needs and marginalize his. If you have children, put them ahead of Daddy, as well. Your husband is a big boy; he’s old enough to take care of himself.

  3. Dwell on his flaws.
  4. Focus all your attention on those things he does that most annoy you. Blind yourself to any good traits, and zero in on the bad ones. Who cares if he is a hard worker if he’s irresponsible with money? What does it matter that he’s a loving and devoted father if he’s also a complete slob?

  5. Assume the worst.
  6. Assign a malignant motive to anything he does that you don’t like. If he really loved you, he would know how much it bothers you and stop doing it. Convince yourself he’s acting that way on purpose, just to tick you off.

  7. Refuse to forgive.
  8. Whenever he forgets your anniversary or loses his temper or leaves his dirty socks on the floor, make sure he knows that he has seriously flubbed up. Glare at him with disapproval or, better yet, give him a cold shoulder. The longer you hold a grudge, the less likely he’ll be to make the same mistake in the future.

  9. Withhold respect.
  10. Don’t just give him respect — make him earn it. The harder he works to win your approval, the more he’ll appreciate it once he gets it. (Until then, feel free to disparage him as much as you like, both to his face and behind his back.)

  11. Turn him down.
  12. You don’t have to have sex to have a good marriage. The sooner your husband understands that, the better. Why make love when you can make excuses? If he’s in the mood and you aren’t, just tell him to go take a cold shower. Put him off enough, and he’ll eventually give up and stop bugging you about it.

  13. Cast blame.
  14. Don’t accept personal responsibility for any of the problems in your marriage — they are all your husband’s fault. Even your own poor attitudes can be pinned on him: If he were the kind of husband he ought to be, you wouldn’t react the way you do. If he’d get his act together, yours would quickly follow.

The good news is, you don’t have to do all these things at once to ruin your marriage. Just doing one or two of them habitually is usually enough to make most couples miserable.

Of course, if you’d rather nurture your marriage than destroy it, then simply do the opposite of this list: Place more importance on your husband’s needs than your own (Philippians 2:3-4), focus on the positive (Philippians 4:8), believe the best (1 Corinthians 13:7), forgive freely (Colossians 3:13), shower him with respect (Ephesians 5:33), don’t deny him physically (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), and own up to your own failings instead of pointing fingers (James 5:16).

25 Ways to Communicate Respect

The Choice is Yours

Love is not a feeling. It's a choice.Jane Austen once wrote, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” But that doesn’t ring quite true.

Experience has proven time and again that chance has much less to do with happiness than do attitude and outlook. Austen might have more accurately written, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of choice.”

Our success in marriage, as in life, is in large part determined by the choices — large and small — that we make day after day after day

So… what is it going to be? Will you:

 The choice is yours. You decide. 

Quotes - LL - Matter of Choice

Q&A: What If My Drive is Stronger than His?

What if my husband's sex drive is lower than mine? Q&A from Loving Life at Home....

QUESTION: “Your book [Love Your Husband/ Love Yourself] mainly deals with wives who are denying their husbands of sex. What if it’s the other way around and the husband has a lower drive than the wife?”

ANSWER: The Bible teaches that the husband has a responsibility to the wife in this area, just as surely as the wife has a responsibility to the husband. (See 1 Corinthians 7:2-5) Each is completely dependent upon the other, as we are given no other righteous alternative for experiencing sexual fulfillment other than with one’s own spouse (thus God’s command that neither is to deprive the other).

That’s why I think the frequency with which a couple has sex should really be determined by whichever spouse has the stronger drive. I suggest you discuss the matter with your husband and remind him of your complete dependence upon his active cooperation. You might also read this post, as it has other suggestions for a wife whose husband seems disinterested in sex.

Although it is more common for the man to have the stronger drive, I’ve heard from many, many wives for whom the roles are reversed. It is an agonizing place to be.

If something were to change and I found myself in that situation, I wouldn’t hesitate to discuss it with my husband. Depending on how that talk went, I would probably get a doctor and/or counselor involved, as well.

And since, in our case, a sudden disinterest in sex would be a huge departure from his thirty-year norm, once I ruled out any health concerns or other legitimate causes, I would likely be asking some tough questions about masturbation, pornography, and/or adultery.

A frank discussion about those topics might be in order, even if there hasn’t been an abrupt change in your husband’s interest in intimacy. Although there are definitely some physical things that will affect a man’s libido — low testosterone, depression, anxiety, fatigue, alcohol, drugs, and certain prescription meds, to name just a few — there is a big difference between a man with a low sex drive and a man with a high sex drive who is getting his needs met elsewhere.

To the Mother whose Child is Leaving Home

You knew it was coming.

From the first moment you held that tiny baby in your arms, you knew the day would dawn when you’d have to let her go.

But it came much sooner than you expected, didn’t it? The child who yesterday was snuggling in your lap has almost overnight transformed into a wonderful young adult who is packing bags, leaving home, moving away… and taking your heart along for the ride.

So now you are choking back the tears and trying to swallow that lump in your throat. Not because you have a lot of regrets. You don’t. You were the best mother you knew how to be, and you love your child more than life itself.

Always have. Always will.

But, oh how you miss her! You miss hearing the details of her days. The happy chatter. The sparkle in her eye. The infectious laugh. The music she made when practicing piano.

And that empty place at the dining room table is a daily reminder that she’s gone.

It’s a bittersweet time of life. But in the midst of your lonely, melancholy moods, I hope you’ll find encouragement in these thoughts:

  1. This is the natural order of things.
  2. Our little ones were never meant to stay little forever.

    The whole goal of parenting is to work ourselves out of a job. To raise capable, confident children who are able not only to survive, but to thrive as responsible, caring adults.

    Leaving home brings them one step closer to that objective.

  3. We still have telephones.
  4. And Skype. And Facetime. And instant messaging. And Twitter. And email. Not to mention snail mail (a perennial favorite in our household).

    Even when my daughter spent six months on the other side of the globe, whenever she Skyped us, it was almost like having her back in our living room.

    When our fore-mothers said goodbye to their adult children, it was often as they were boarding a ship to sail to the New World or climbing into a covered wagon to cross a continent. Those mothers knew they literally might never see their child again.

    When you think about it in those terms, we really have it easy.

  5. Kids come back to visit (bringing reinforcements with them).
  6. Whether your child is moving into the dorms or exchanging vows at an altar, she isn’t leaving your life forever. Not only will you hear from her again, but she’ll come home to visit, as well.

    And when she does, there’s a good chance she’ll bring her college classmates, then later a spouse and children, with her.

    So do what you can to make home a warm and welcoming place to be, and be happy for whatever time she’s able to spend there with you.

  7. The other people in your home are depending on you.
  8. If your child left younger siblings at home when she moved away, then you haven’t worked yourself out of a job quite yet. Your other children need you to remain fully engaged in their lives. Let the first child’s leaving motivate you to use well the time that remains with the others.

    If you are blessed to still have a husband at home, now would be a great time to give him an extra measure of love and attention, as well. One of these days, that last little bird will finally fledge and fly away, and then it will just be the two of you together again. By investing wisely in your marriage along the way, you can ensure it continues to flourish even after the nest is empty.

    If this child’s departure left you truly alone, with no spouse and no younger children needing your attention, then look for ways to invest in the lives of others in your church and community.

    My own mother, now widowed, lives out this principle beautifully: She works in the nursery at church (weekly), attends Bible Study Fellowship (weekly), teaches a BSF children’s class (weekly), volunteers with Buckner Children’s Home (weekly), is active with several widows’ and senior citizens’ groups (often hosting them in her home), and plays a vital role in the lives of her children and grandchildren. Mom is proof that living alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely.

  9. The next season of life deserves to be savored.
  10. If you spend too much time pining for the season just past, you’ll fail to fully appreciate the season in which you presently find yourself.

    Those happy, hectic years of nursing babies and changing diapers and chasing toddlers marked one of the sweetest, most precious seasons of my life. But I must admit that when I first began my journey into motherhood, I spent many a night wishing for a little more of the uninterrupted sleep I’d enjoyed in the previous season! If I hadn’t learned to embrace those midnight feedings, I would have missed out on a lot of warmth and joy and closeness that came from those sweet, undistracted hours with my babes.

    Now, after being pregnant and/or nursing for twenty-five years solid, it would seem my baby days are behind me. But rather than grieving that the last season has come to an end, I’m determined to make the most of the season I’m in now.

Your child’s leaving home is not the end of the story — certainly not for her, but not for you, either. It’s simply turning the page and beginning a new chapter.

Best of all, you get to help determine the direction that chapter will take. Will it be a drama or a romance? A tear jerker or a comedy? A plodding documentary or a page-turning adventure?

You’ve got a lot of life left to live, so come on out of your child’s empty bedroom, dry your eyes, and get busy living it. Your next adventure awaits!

Q&A: I Feel Like I’m Living with Jekyll & Hyde

What to do when you find yourself married to a man with a Jekyll & Hyde personality...

We’ve received several questions through our family blog lately that deal with subjects better suited to this forum, so I’ve decided to publish my responses here, in case other readers are dealing with similar situations. Here’s the first:

QUESTION: Hi, Jennifer. I would like to know how you would deal with a husband that is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

One minute everything is wonderful, the next thing he acts mad at me for everything under the sun…. I am not perfect and have made some mistakes, but I think I am a great wife. He has even made the comment that I have put up with a lot over the many years we’ve been married.

He can be wonderful at times, but very difficult to live with at other times.

ANSWER: It’s been decades since I’ve read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I remember enough to know that Hyde would be a very difficult person to live with.

I believe in the book, the doctor’s transformation was caused by some concoction he was drinking. If your husband’s mood swings are caused (or made worse) by alcoholism or substance abuse of any kind, or if he is suffering from a psychological disorder like manic/depression or dissociative (split personality) disorder, or if his behavior is putting you or your children in physical danger, then please get some professional help ASAP.

But if, as your letter indicates, he simply acts one moment as if everything is rosy and the next as if he is intensely irritated by every little thing you say or do, then the following suggestions may help.

You will notice, I’m sure, that all these recommendations require you to adapt your attitudes and actions to him and his mood. And you may be thinking, “He’s the one with the problem, why should I be the one to change?”

I know that seems unfair. And it is.

You were probably hoping for a solution that would change your husband and the way he acts, and I wish I could give you one, but only God can change his heart.

You have no control over your husband’s actions. You can only control your response.

From the (omitted) details of your letter, it sounds like you are already working very hard to make your marriage work. Clearly, you feel you are doing your fair share and just wish your husband would be more appreciative and less volatile in recognizing that fact. In an ideal world, he would. That’s how it’s supposed to work, and I know it really stinks when reality falls short of what could or should be.

But think of it this way: Staying married is a little like driving a car.

To get safely from one place to another when you’re driving, you not only need to obey traffic laws and signals yourself, but you must also watch for other drivers who may be ignoring those same laws and signals.

This is a concept my own dear father had a hard time accepting. Whenever the law gave him the right-of-way, he was determined to take it, no matter what the other drivers around him were doing.

That attitude nearly got our family killed a few times. When we’d mention that fact to him, he’d argue, “Well, if we died, it would’ve been their fault.”

Yeah, maybe. But we’d still be dead.

And preventably so, if you saw a way to avoid the accident, but stubbornly refused to take it.

Likewise, if your marriage crumbles — even if it’s demise can be pinned 100% on your spouse — you and your children are still going to suffer the consequences. Knowing that someone else was to blame does not alter that fact. It won’t breathe life back into the casualties.

So what can be done (beyond all you are already doing) to prevent that from happening?


Start by trying to understand your husband’s stressors and alleviate as many as possible. Do what you can to minimize the things that frustrate him. Here is a list of possibilities to get you started:

  • physical hunger
  • financial strain
  • self-doubt
  • illness/ poor health
  • unfulfilled desire for sex
  • feeling disrespected (at home or work)
  • overextended schedule (at work or home)
  • concerns about the children
  • responsibilities and commitments
  • caffeine withdrawals
  • unmet personal goals/ dissatisfaction
  • restlessness
  • bad modeling from his own father
  • cluttered/messy house
  • midlife crisis
  • fluctuating hormones
  • general irritability associated with aging
  • immaturity
  • jealousy/ competitiveness
  • general sin nature
  • guilt over specific sin(s)
  • pride (in him or me)
  • crisis of faith

Obviously, you have a measure of control over some of these things, such as cooking good meals to alleviate his physical hunger or saying yes when he’s in the mood to address his sexual hunger.

Over others, such as how his boss treats him at work or what kind of modeling his own father provided for him as a child, you have absolutely no control. But sometimes just recognizing these contributing factors and empathizing and encouraging your husband in the midst of them is enough to help alleviate their harmful effects.

So put yourself in his shoes and treat him as you’d want to be treated, were you dealing with the same stresses and pressures.


It may be helpful and instructive for you to keep a calendar of your husband’s mood swings for several months to see if you can pinpoint what might be triggering them.

Along with his moods, plot his work load, your menstrual cycle, extracurricular activities, your own attitudes, financial ups and downs, his call/vacation schedule, etc. Play the part of a detective and look for connections.

Again, you may not be able to do anything about the triggers, but just being aware of them can help you modulate your own actions and interactions to keep the peace at home and be sensitive to extra pressures your husband may be facing during certain times of the month or year.

Yes, it would be nice if he’d be sensitive to the pressures you’re facing, as well. Maybe someday God will mature your husband to the point that he can reciprocate in the sympathy and compassion department so things won’t seem so one-sided. But until then, you can still improve your situation by giving consideration to these matters, even if none of them are “your fault.”


I’m sure you are already doing this, but beyond praying that God would change your husband or stabilize his moods, I’d encourage you to pray that He’ll give you wisdom and patience in responding to your man, and also ask Him to open your eyes to anything you may be doing to contribute to the discord.

Pray with the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NASB)

Pray that God would open your eyes to your husband’s good points, as well. Pray that He’d help you keep your focus there, and would give you a deep and abiding love and appreciation for the man you married, and would make you a crown and a blessing to your husband in every way.


Wait until your husband is in one of his good moods and gently broach the topic of how his bad moods affect you and the children.

Sometimes men vent their anger and frustration and don’t intend for anybody within earshot to take it personally — like a guy who lets loose a string of curses when he hits his thumb with a hammer, then can’t understand why his wife who overheard the tirade would think he was mad at her. I’m not trying to justify such behavior, by the way, I’m only attempting to explain that sometimes husbands just don’t realize how much their dark or angry moods hurt their wives.

So prayerfully try to explain all that in a nice way, without getting angry and accusatory. I know that’s a tall order, but if you come across as critical, self-righteous, or disrespectful, you’ll likely just make the situation worse.

If your husband is already aware of the problem, ask him if there is anything you can do to help stabilize his moods, and follow through as best you can. I know what keeps my husband happy is a tidy house and lots of sex with me, so — guess what? — that’s exactly what he gets. (Okay, so sometimes the house gets a little cluttered, but I’m extremely faithful in the other area, and that helps blind him to those piles of books on our dining room table.)


I hurt for any wife in your situation. Sin stinks. And it breaks God’s heart. These Jekyll & Hyde mood swings were never part of God’s perfect plan for marriage, nor do they accurately reflect Christ’s love for us.

Even so, you can still glorify God in the way you respond to the circumstances in which you find yourself. You can still grow and mature in Christ in the midst of it. And you can still have a happy, solid marriage, despite your husband’s volatile moods — but that happiness will hinge on your attitudes and reactions.

If you haven’t already done so, I’d encourage you to commit pertinent Bible verses to memory and draw strength from them when the going gets tough. Here are a few I’d recommend, for starters:

  • “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NIV)
  • “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3, NASB)
  • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1, NIV)
  • “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6, NASB)
  • “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)
  • “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NASB)

You may also want to read this post. It’s about getting along with difficult mother-in-laws, but the strategies outlined work equally well when dealing with difficult spouses, bosses, neighbors, or anybody else who has a demanding personality or seems impossible to please.

Helping Siblings become Friends

How do you encourage siblings to be friends? Here's what works in our family (www.flandersfamily.info)

One of the first things people usually notice about our children is how well they get along. Sure, they have occasional squabbles, but that is the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, they really love and admire one another and enjoy being in each other’s company.

They are friends.

When people ask us how this came to be the case, we’re always quick to credit God’s grace. It’s a heartfelt answer, but not particularly helpful. So for parents who are searching for ways to encourage a deep and lasting friendship between their children, we offer eight practical suggestions:

  1. Turn off the TV
  2. Have you ever noticed how poorly family members treat one another on sitcoms? Yet every snide remark is rewarded with liberal doses of canned laughter. If our children are raised on a steady diet of such fare, it shouldn’t surprise us when they emulate what they’ve been watching.

    Even if the programing is good and wholesome, allowing children to watch too much of it precludes more meaningful, real-life interaction with their own family members. So switch off the set and make your own fun, instead.

  3. Play Games Together
  4. When you enter into your children’s world through play, you send them the message you enjoy being with them, and those warm feelings get sent back to you and shared with one another.

    A few of our family favorites? Puzzles. Zombie tag. Spoons. Knock-Out. Chess. Checkers. Tea parties. Hearts. The Hat Game. Ultimate Frisbee. Putt-Putt Golf. Ping-Pong. Cabo. Bananagrams.

  5. Allow for Kid-Directed Adventures
  6. Sometimes our kids dream up things to do together that don’t include Mom and Dad: Build blanket forts. Ride bikes around the block or to the gas station for a treat. See how deep a hole they can dig in our backyard. Hike through the bamboo forest. Build bicycle ramps. Bake peanut-butter cookies. Sell lemonade on the street corner. Drive to Dallas to see Nana.

    As long as the things our kids are asking to do are feasible and reasonably safe, we try to say yes to their requests. Not only do these sort of adventures build character, maturity, and confidence, but they bond siblings together in a special way that parent-directed activities alone cannot do… ( Read the rest of this post on our family blog.)

The Flanders Family Website: Helping You Build a Happy Home

A Prayer for the Sick

A friend of mine recently asked me to pray for her nephew, who is presently fighting a recurrence of a malignant brain cancer known as medulloblastoma.

His name is Gabe — if you’d like to send up a prayer for him, too, I know they’d be grateful — and he graduated from high school the day before this latest tumor was discovered.

I’ve been thinking about Gabe a lot lately. It makes my mother-heart hurt to even imagine what their family is going through.

Sometimes, when problems loom large, it’s hard to know where to even begin in your prayers, but in this instance, God brought the following Scriptures to mind almost immediately. These are the verses I’ve been praying over Gabe:

P is for Peace

Pray that God would calm their heart, quiet their fears, and grant them a peace that passes understanding. Ask Him to carry them through this trial and comfort them with His presence. Pray that they’d find complete rest in Him, casting their burdens at the foot of the cross and leaving them there. (Psalm 56:3, Philippians 4:7, Matthew 11:28, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Exodus 33:14, Psalm 68:19-20)

R is for Relationships

Pray that God would use this illness first and foremost to draw others unto Himself. Pray that relationships to family and friends would also be strengthened, that any past offenses would be freely forgiven, and that sincere words of love and affirmation would be spoken. (John 6:44, Exodus 20:12, 1 John 4:20, Proverbs 17:17, John 15:12, Ephesians 4:15)

A is for Assurance

Ask God to assure them of His great love and faithfulness. Pray that He would remind them that He has a purpose and a plan, that He is in control, that He can work all things together for their good and His glory, and that He is committed to continuing His work in their hearts until it is completed. (Psalm 117:2, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 103:19, Romans 8:28, Philippians 1:6)

Y is for Yielding

Pray that the afflicted would yield themselves completely to God and place their full trust in His son, Jesus Christ. Pray that the would boldly approach the throne of grace to make their requests known unto God, yet would still be able to say with all sincerity, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” (Joshua 24:23, Proverbs 3:5-6, Romans 10:9, Hebrews 4:16, Philippians 4:6, Luke 22:42)

E is for Endurance

Ask God to strengthen and uphold them in the days ahead. Pray for their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual fortitude. Pray that God would give them grace as they walk through this trial and protect them against weariness and despair. Ask Him to bear their burdens and put a song of deep and abiding joy in their heart. (Isaiah 41:10, James 1:2-3, James 4:6, Isaiah 40:31, 2 Corinthians 4:8, Psalm 55:22, Isaiah 49:13)

R is for Restored Health

Pray that the Lord would mercifully and miraculously restore the one who is sick to health. Pray that He would heal them, body and soul, and would receive all the glory for having done so. Ask Him to prolong their life, and pray that they’d live out the remainder of their days in grateful service to Him. ( James 5:15-16, Matthew 8:17, Luke 4:40, 1 Timothy 1:7, Psalm 91:15-16, 1 Samuel 12:24)

Do you have friends or family members who are struggling with poor health? Pray for them! Scripture tells us:

“…the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” – James 5:15-16

To download a free printable copy of this prayer guide, click here. To view copies of our other prayer guides, follow this link.