Stop Hurting Each Other
There is an almost endless number of ways that we can hurt our spouse or make them unhappy such as:
- Publicly embarrassing them due to something we say or do
- Having personal habits such as passing gas or not putting dirty clothes where they belong that cause them frustration in some way
- Lack of attention
- Being unfair
We provide plenty of guidance and help for anyone willing to change, to understand how to avoid these kinds of hurtful attitudes, actions, or words that can slowly but surely destroy love and marriages.
In addition, we put special emphasis on four especially destructive and hurtful behaviors. We refer to these as the 4 C’s: Character Issues, Criticism, Control, and Contempt.
Many couples that lose that loving feeling do so because of one or more of the 4 C’s. No matter what else you do to try to save or build your marriage if you are guilty of one of the 4 C’s you are putting your marriage at risk.
Any of them that aren’t controlled can potentially destroy even the best relationship. No one likes the bad, negative feelings that come with the 4 C’s and most of us can only take this kind of hurt for so long before something gives.
Quick examples the 4 C’s follow:
Often unhappy spouses will ask themselves what happened to the sweet, loving, kind, helpful, courteous, person they fell in love with. Why did he or she change so much to become this way (opposite of the way they were when dating)?
What happens is that our spouse’s real character starts to come through.
Think about dating as a job interview. The potential employee is on their best behavior. They are polite, punctual, and seem to say all the right things. Their accomplishments and good experiences are highlighted and focused on in an attempt to win over the potential employer.
If the person is hired, though, after the honeymoon period where they are still on their best behavior, their true self starts to show.
He takes too many smoke breaks. She is often late with one or excuse or another. Careless mistakes start to happen. He starts complaining about the rules or about management. She starts to sneak in a quick check of her personal email on company time or surfs the web just for a minute or otherwise wastes her employer’s time. He is too slow coming back from breaks.
What happened to the potential star employee who proved they had all the right stuff at the interview and on their resume? Their character starts to show through.
The exact same process happens in marriage. Character issues are behind most hurtful behavior – even the other C’s and if they don’t improve, they can destroy any marriage. A couple examples:
- Dishonesty in words or actions, in small things and big
- Unwilling to change
Criticism is when we find something wrong with what our spouse does and when we address the issue, we also blame our spouse for the behavior.
For example, it may be true that I don’t exercise enough and may be helpful for my wife to lovingly discuss my health with me because she loves me and doesn’t want to lose me. This kind of discussion should build love as I see her care and concern for me.
However, when we attach blame, it turns into feeling like an attack. “I thought you said you were going to exercise more but you quit after two days. What’s wrong with you?” Or, “Why do you always neglect your health? Don’t you care about me?”
Other forms of criticism include:
- Talking down to your spouse
- Thinking your way is better and making sure that your spouse knows it
When criticism doesn’t make things change, many of us turn to trying to control the situation. Sticking with the health example, because I felt attacked I purposefully didn’t exercise for 2 weeks after hearing my wife’s criticism. She’s frustrated and so am I. Perhaps I’m acting like a child with my “I’ll show you you’re not the boss of me” attitude.
To deal with this frustration, she turns up the heat on the criticism by trying to control the situation. (Note that she may feel she’s doing this out of love and concern, but she just hasn’t learned how to discuss issues without using any of the 4 C’s.)
Sometimes control isn’t vocalized but is an action instead. She may say or just act like this: “Look, if you aren’t going to take care of your health, then no more salt on the food, more vegetables instead of what you like, and I’ll personally make an appointment for you with the doctor whether you want to go or not!”
This controlling attitude can destroy marriages. No one likes to be controlled, forced, or bullied—especially in a “loving” marriage.
Other examples include:
- 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
When nothing else seems to work, sometimes we begin to feel contempt. Love is all but destroyed at this point. We may feel that the marriage and our spouse isn’t worth it. We may give up, tune them out, and start to live independently (even if we still live in the same house).
An example of contempt, “My mother was right. You are a loser that I should have never gotten involved with in the first place. Pigs live better than us with your nastiness. I can’t believe I’ve wasted 10 years of my life on you. Leave me alone, I don’t even want to see your face anymore.”
Other examples include:
- Feeling spouse is worthless and not worth loving
- Looking down on spouse
- Disrespectful attitude and actions
In the Evolving Marriages program, we share simple, actionable strategies and give plenty of tips on how to avoid hurting your spouse. As a result, love can have the space to increase (not be drown out by hurtful behaviors) and you can start to improve your marriage and prevent divorce.