Are you guilty of committing any of the 4 C’s? The irony of all ironies is that we hurt worst the very people we claim to love most. If you want your marriage to survive and thrive you need to make sure you aren’t guilty of any of these love and marriage killers.

There are tons of diverse ways that we can hurt our spouse. While some of them may seem small to us, the accumulation can be devastating to our love and marriage because most people don’t want to stay in a situation where they are constantly being hurt.

If actions and words can build the feeling of love, actions and words can also destroy love. As long as we have more love in our marriage than hurt, we may can work things out. But if we get to the point that there is more hurt than love, the love will surely go away.

And when love goes away, we tend to go away. Maybe we disconnect and don’t talk. Maybe we find new friends or a new lover that makes us feel better about ourselves and doesn’t cause so much hurt. Or maybe we give up altogether and call it quits.

Here are some ideas for you to consider as you make decisions about ways to improve your marriage.

1. Understand the ways that we hurt our spouse. While everyone is different and different interactions affect people in different ways, it’s helpful to get an overview of some problem behaviors.

Here are some examples of the 4 C’s:

Character Issues:

  • Dishonesty in words or actions, in small things and big
  • Unwilling to change
  • Irresponsible

Criticism

  • Talking down to your spouse
  • Thinking your way is better and making sure that your spouse knows it
  • Nagging
  • Judging

Control

  • Cutting off or restricting love, support, talking, money, sex, etc. due to anger or punishment
  • Throwing things or other similar actions that show anger or threats of violence in any way

Contempt

  • Feeling spouse is worthless and not worth loving
  • Looking down on spouse
  • Disrespect

There are many other examples we could include but this is enough to give you an idea of the types of attitudes and behaviors to work to avoid.

And, of course, we aren’t limited to the 4 C’s:

Other Issues

  • Passing gas, belching, or similar behavior
  • Lack of attention, caring, or love
  • Not willing to help or do our fair share
  • Having an emotional or physical affair
  • Jealousy
  • Many more – the ways we can hurt or embarrass our spouse are almost limitless

2. Understand that the impact of hurtful behavior is more than the impact of most loving behaviors. No matter how much love we show to our spouse, we can undo any positive effect by hurting our spouse.

Considering the concept of the love account (similar to a bank) and counting deposits as expressions of love and withdrawals when we hurt our spouse, you can see below how we can undo all that love with hurtful behaviors. Note the numbers are just for illustrative purposes:

Loving Acts

  • He brings flowers to his wife. +10
  • He tells her he loves her. +1
  • He helps in the kitchen by washing the dishes without being asked. +50
  • He takes his wife out for a nice date night that includes a great dinner and a movie. +100
  • He kisses her before he leaves for work the next morning. +1

Hurtful Act

  • The wife finds out that he’s been sleeping with his secretary, who also happens to be her good friend, for the last 3 years. -1000, or even -10,000

Or consider this one:

  • In a fit of rage, he destroys the TV and the living room sofa and slaps and kicks his wife. -1000, or even -10,000

Or this more “minor” one:

  • He passes gas repeatedly in front of her boss while they are all out for dinner -500

Even the smallest of these 3 hurtful behavior examples would erase how many good morning kisses or flowers or date nights? She may feel humiliated and can’t understand why he would be so inconsiderate, disgusting, and willing to put her job on the line. They may argue about this for 2-3 days and then she may harbor resentment for a long time – especially if things start to go wrong at work.

The point is to understand there is more to this equation than just the numbers so don’t think doing loving things gives you free rein to do hurtful things.

3. Quit making excuses for your hurtful words or behavior. Changing is hard, we get it. Professional help may be needed. In the end, even with all the help we can get, change isn’t easy.

One thing holding many of us back is not taking responsibility for our actions and words.

In many cases, it seems there is always an excuse or someone else to blame when things go wrong. We make excuses even when we are 100% to blame. For example, we are angry that a police officer wrote us a ticket for speeding while others were not given a ticket even though some were driving faster. So, we feel the cop was unfair or out to get us or they should spend their time chasing “real” criminals. Why not just admit that you were speeding which is breaking the law and change your ways? Why does it have to be about someone else and not about you?

With that in mind, let’s discuss a couple of common issues.

No one can make you angry. Why is it your husband’s fault that you got angry and started screaming? How did he control your behavior? Yes, the thing that he did that made you angry may have been bad or wrong. But he didn’t “make” you angry.

You chose to be angry by choosing to not handle the situation in a different way. For example, you chose to raise your voice instead of taking a walk and cooling off first.

While your spouse may need to change if you make this excuse you also need to change. You need to learn self-control and control how you behave. It’s a fact that the great majority of us can do this. Why do we say this? In the speeding ticket scenario, for example, you probably didn’t start yelling and acting out of control with the police officer even though you were angry. So, you can control yourself – when you want to.

Your stress, tiredness, feeling bad, etc. has nothing to do with how you should treat others. Since when did the fact that you are tired or had a hard day at work, give you a reason or right to lash out at others? If you are feeling bad or tired, then go rest or go to the doctor – don’t get angry at others.

A good principle to learn is to handle your issues with the people that caused the issues. If it’s your boss then handle it with your boss. If it’s your neighbor then handle it with your neighbor. But don’t take out your frustrations with the other drivers on the road or an irate customer or a rude teacher on your family members. It’s not their fault and they shouldn’t be punished because of something someone else did. That’s not right, it isn’t fair, and it destroys love.

4. Quit being so strict or demanding. Striving for excellence is an important principle that we teach. Similarly, we help people get things done, stop making excuses, stick to goals, etc. But, some people take things to extremes and have unrealistic expectations.

For example, if your husband says he is starting a new diet he needs encouragement and support. If he cheats and eats something he shouldn’t, he still needs encouragement and support – he doesn’t need criticism, nagging, or to be told, “I told you so.”

None of us are perfect in every aspect of our lives. We all have weaknesses of some kind. While working towards excellence yourself and hoping your family and spouse come along, stop expecting perfection.

At the other end of the spectrum, don’t get so laid back in your attitude that nothing ever gets done or changed or improved.

Find the balance. Almost every suggestion, hint, teaching, etc. can be done in a loving, kind, non-judgmental way. Learn how that works and start doing it.

5. Decide and make a commitment to stop hurting your spouse. As you make this commitment, there are a couple more important things to consider.

Before doing or saying anything, ask yourself if what you are about to do or say is going to make things better or worse for your spouse and for your relationship. The rule is simple – if it isn’t going to help then avoid saying or doing it.

Note that while sometimes blasting our spouse can make us feel better temporarily that’s not a good idea if you want to improve your relationship.

Each person’s pain tolerance is different. If I hit you and you say it hurts, I cannot say that it didn’t hurt you. I may not think I hit you hard enough to hurt you but I don’t really know what you feel. The same principle applies to words. If you say something to me, it may hurt me to the point where I start crying, can’t sleep at night, or can’t seem to get over the hurtful words. If I said the exact same words to you, they may have no effect on you.

It’s important to understand that what hurts you may not hurt your spouse and vice versa. Learn what hurts your spouse and avoid doing or saying those things. Make it a point that you aren’t going to hurt them any longer. Just do it!

It’s also important to know when you may be doing or saying things that hurt your spouse but you have no clue you’ve done anything wrong. You can accomplish this by spending more time in meaningful discussion about your relationship and what’s going right as well as what’s going wrong. Tell your spouse that you’d like to know if or when you do anything that may cause pain or embarrassment. Then, when you find out, take the information and make the necessary changes.

Hopefully, with these starter ideas, you can start to learn how to stop hurting your spouse. As you do, our hope is that you’ll find more love, more passion, more romance, or more of whatever you are looking for in your marriage. If you’d like to know more, sign up to our Revive Your Marriage 30-Day Challenge today.

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