I have had the unfortunate experience of seeing too many marriages fail miserably and irreparably. It’s very sad to see husband-and-wife relationships begin with so much happiness and promise yet end in bitterness and resentment.
There’s one case in particular that I remember very well. A long time ago, I sat down with a woman who had recently separated from her husband of 37 years. I think the Lord gave me wisdom to ask the right question because it opened the floodgates, and for two hours, the pain gushed forth. I simply asked, “Would you please help me understand?”
Her first words hit me with jackhammer force and have been lodged in my heart ever since. In her palpable despair she said to me, “You don’t know what it’s like to wake up next to a person and every hope you ever had of loving them is dead.”
“You don’t know what it’s like to wake up next to a person and every hope you ever had of loving them is dead.”
How does this happen?
How does a lengthy marriage, or any marriage for that matter, get to that place? How does a wife become so closed off to her husband that she despairs of all hope? You may think, “My marriage isn’t even close to that.” Well, in this case, the husband in this case had no idea and was clueless right up to the point of separation. While these may not be all the reasons a marriage can be irreversibly destroyed, I learned four things that day that an unwitting husband will do to kill his marriage over time. Be on the lookout for these behaviors in your own relationship with your spouse:
1. Failing to show respect.
Respect is the glue of relationships. It’s difficult to love someone you don’t respect, and it’s difficult to love someone who disrespects you. In this case, the husband never allowed his wife to have an opinion. He made it painfully obvious that her ideas, preferences, and desires didn’t really matter. He was overly harsh and critical, intimidating her with his domineering disposition. Over time her self-esteem was in shambles.
2. Failing to communicate.
The loss of respect built a wall in this marriage that prevented any real, heartfelt communication. Communication is listening to understand, not manipulating to get what you want. Any man that speaks softly and caringly to his wife only when he wants sex is a fool. You can’t drain the well dry and expect to have your thirst quenched. Only a fool would think his wife doesn’t see through the sham.
3. Failing to show appreciation.
There are a million and one ways to show appreciation to your spouse, and the wise husband does so consistently. He offers words of thanks for things big and small. He notices and compliments her in true sincerity. In this case, the husband was good at pointing out what was wrong with the meals she had worked so hard to prepare, but never really expressed gratitude for all the years she had fed her family. The house was clean, but he could always find something she had overlooked.
When the man admired at church is thoughtless and uncaring at home, it breeds pain and resentment.
4. Failing to be whole.
Being whole means to have integrity and exhibit the same qualities in every setting. In short, a whole man is not a hypocrite. The husband in this story was a well-respected man at work and at church, where he maintained a reputation for outstanding character and faithful service. Yet in the home it was a different story. When the man admired at church is thoughtless and uncaring at home, it breeds pain and resentment. You need to understand that these things took place over many years, but slowly and surely the foundation was destroyed; eroded by years of selfish neglect.
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Perhaps you’re wondering how I know so many details about this couple. I know them because I witnessed them firsthand growing up in this home. The day my mother unburdened her heart to me I began to recall memories that confirmed her words. I could look back and see that she was right about my dad, and it broke my heart.
But there’s a happy ending to this story…you’ll just have to stay tuned until next week to hear it.