My daughter, Sadie, has a very typical 11-year-old kind of bad habit: whining. Just for fun one day, I counted the times I had to say the words “tone of voice” to her, and that particular day it was thirteen. Thirteen is at least twelve times too many, so I decided it was time we had a real talk about her bad habit.
In the middle of the conversation she said something very familiar to me, “I know I need to quit, but it just comes out, and I don’t know how to stop it.” It’s her reaction to life, and she doesn’t know how to change that reaction.
That’s when God brought to mind a past marriage issue that I could use to teach my daughter how I once had had a similar habit and how He had helped me to break it.
During an extremely turbulent time in our marriage about eight years ago, I developed a very bad habit. To understand why this habit wreaked havoc on our marriage, you need to know that my husband doesn’t like arguments or fighting, doesn’t raise his voice, and will avoid confrontation if at all possible. During this period of our marriage, arguments were more the norm than the exception.
I had never been much of a pusher but, all of a sudden, I wouldn’t let him walk away anymore. I wouldn’t let him have the moments he needed to think before he reacted—I pushed and pushed. I cajoled. I yelled. He retreated and I followed.
During one particular fight, he tried to retreat to his office and I followed him, yelling and pushing him to talk things out. After (literally) cornering him, I realized he looked much like a frightened animal and I had gone too far. I knew something in our relationship had to change.
Of course, when I took this issue to God, I fully expected it to be something that my husband needed to change, not me. But you know what? God showed me that I had created a very bad habit of pushing and cornering John, and I needed to back off.
Dang. That wasn’t the answer I wanted. But I knew he was right, and so I was determined to change this in myself.
Wouldn’t it be a nice story if I said that God gave me a supernatural power to walk away from our arguments and our marriage was instantly transformed?
Unfortunately, that’s not the way it happened.
I clearly remember the next fight we had, and the absolutely agonizing willpower it took for me to shut my mouth and walk away. I remember thinking that it felt like ripping off my own arm.
And it happened again and again. And I had to force myself to break that habit, again and again. And, praise the Lord, eventually that period of our marriage faded into the distance and the arguing lessened. Not only did our marriage grow from it, but I also learned a very valuable lesson.
Bad habits can break a good marriage.
We all have developed habits in our marriages that block intimacy between us and our spouse:
- Not actively listening when they speak.
- Forgetting to thank them when they do something for us.
- Responding with sarcasm instead of love.
- Talking badly about our spouse to friends.
- Being “too tired” to have sex.
- No longer verbally saying, “I love you.”
I was able to use this hard time from our marriage to teach Sadie that bad habits can be broken. God can and will help us have the willpower to change the things that need to be changed about ourselves, but we have to be willing to acknowledge that the bad habits are there and need to be changed.