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8 marriage mistakes I’ve made

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MerrillMarkSusanI am so grateful for my 25 years of marriage to my wife, Susan.  My love for her has grown immensely over the years. I’ve been faithful to her. I’m very attracted to her. But I can tell you that it’s not because of me. It’s only because of God’s loving hand of undeserved favor. You see, I’m just one decision away from doing something very stupid that could really damage or, perhaps even destroy our relationship. And, I can tell you that I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my marriage. Here are 8 marriage mistakes I’ve made.

1.    Thinking that Susan was responsible for my happiness.

In my early years of marriage, I felt like an important part of Susan’s “duty” as my wife was to make me happy. I was a bit more focused on me than us. I didn’t think so at the time, but now looking back, I relied on Susan to lift me up when I was down, to help me upon command, and to meet my physical needs when called upon, just to name a few.

2.    Wishing Susan would be more like me.

 Unfortunately, in my younger years, I thought pretty highly of myself. So much so that I thought Susan should be more like me. Oh, I wouldn’t say that out loud, but I thought things like, “If Susan was more organized and disciplined like me, she would be able to keep the house cleaner.” Or, “I wish Susan just got things done that I want done when I want them done. I mean, when I commit to do something for her, I’m on it and check it off the list.”  Since I thought Susan should think and act more like me, I didn’t think about the incredible gifts of creativity and relational skills that Susan had. I didn’t celebrate her unique strengths that make Susan, Susan.

3.    Trying to control Susan.

 “Where are you going? Who are you going with? And what time will you be home?” Or, “Did you make sure the kids did their homework? Did they get that project done?” Those are the kind of questions I’d ask Susan as a father would ask his child. Rather than just encouraging her to go out and enjoy the night with friends, I made her feel like she had a curfew. Rather than me making sure our kids got certain things done, I asked Susan to take on that responsibility.

4.    Reflecting Susan’s emotions instead of regulating my own.

 Many times in our marriage, I’ve acted like a thermometer instead of a thermostat. I reflected the temperature in our relationship and home instead regulating it. When Susan got mad at me about something, I got mad because she was mad. If Susan was down and didn’t feel well, that frustrated me and I let her know it. I failed to show leadership in our home by regulating my emotions and attitude. As a result, instead of cooling down our emotions, I heated them up causing some very uncomfortable disagreements.

5.    Being obsessive about things that don’t matter.

 It took over a year to restore our home that had been flooded in a big storm. We just moved back in a couple of months ago. As I inspected the work of our painters, I noticed some areas that the painters should touch up. I also noticed some very tiny areas that were inside storage closets that nobody except me would ever see that could use a bit of paint. I made a big deal out of it with our painters, and with Susan, initially insisting that the places nobody would ever see be painted. Yes, I was obsessive about it and admittedly went overboard. That kind of intense behavior can really put Susan on edge.

6.    Being critical.

When I look at a new design for a website at work, my eye often first goes to what’s wrong with it.  When I look at that dresser that Susan just personally refurbished into a beautiful new piece of furniture for our home, I find that spot she missed and let her know about it. While my critical eye can be a benefit, it can also be a curse. My tongue has been a wild animal in our marriage. It’s gotten loose and pounced upon Susan on a number of occasions with critical words and condescending tones.

7.    Acting like we are not on the same team.

Susan has said to me on more than one occasion, “I just don’t feel like we’re on the same team.” And she’s right. There have been times when she was dealing with one of our kids’ behavior and I didn’t back her up. Instead, I questioned how she was handling it in front of them. That’s just one example. There have been many other times when I’ve treated her like my opponent, not my teammate,  in our relationship.

8.    Having an “if, then” mentality.

“If you would just meet my physical desires, then I wouldn’t be so critical of you.” My “If you would _______, then I would _________” mentality is an example of me not unconditionally loving my wife well.

Those are just a sampling of mistakes I’ve made in marriage. Although I still struggle in some of these areas, I’ve made some good progress in others. You can find out more about Susan’s take on life, specifically parenting and marriage here.

Have you made any of these same mistakes? If so, what have you done to address them? Maybe you’d also be so bold as to share other failures that you’ve had in your relationship and what you’ve done about them.

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  1. May 22, 2014    

    Thank you for a great summary of my mistakes as well.. 🙂
    Shared the link with my men’s group FB page.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      May 23, 2014    

      Serge, We hope the guys you shared with see the article as an encouragement to work on weaknesses and not a condemnation of shortcomings. Thanks for building into other men’s lives.

  2. Dave's Gravatar Dave
    May 22, 2014    

    Here is one that happened tonight. I recently started a new job. It is sort of busy trying to get acquainted with all of the “new” thing that happen with new jobs. My wife comes home and drops a bomb. “I thought this new job was going to give you more time at home………”. It is one of those situations that men are given a choice. Before I would react now I reflect. I used to take her message and get angry. Now I see her frustrated. Instead of looking at my needs I look to see what she needs. So I asked here after the bomb was dropped. “What do you need help with?” This allowed me to serve her. To me when I open up myself to serve it allows her to be honest with me. I am no “Super” but tonight I got to wear the pants.

  3. Adam's Gravatar Adam
    May 23, 2014    

    Thanks for sharing. This’d just pretty much sums me up. I’m paying to be a better man, a more godly man and a husband that would make both my wife’s father and heavenly father proud.

  4. May 26, 2014    

    ​I appreciate this list although most of it applies moreso to my ex-wife than myself​​. ​

    ​After 19 years she wanted to be a free agent. Rarely did she take the time for self-reflection​, but would rather blame me for the deterioration instead of being held accountable for her actions and demonize me to those of her circle so they wouldn’t hold her accountable even knowing her decision was wrong.

    On another blog was the title “8 Lies that Destroy Marriage.” My ex used 7 of the 8 against me to justify and rationalize her selfish decision.

    I was constantly criticized (at least on a regular 6-month basis)–compared to other husbands, other fathers–even now after 3 years divorced, I still love her deeply, and would accept a sincere apology and repentance in a heartbeat, but remain distant around her since our children are involved.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      May 27, 2014    

      We grieve with you in your pain, Davis. It’s true, these mistakes/lies are not just men’s issues but are equally applicable to wives.

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