Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Number Destroyer of Marriages

What is the number one destroyer of marriage? Is it infidelity? Yes, infidelity wreaks havoc on marriages, but it is not number one. Is it hobbies? Yes, hobbies can behard on marrages, but they are secondary? Is it squabbles over money, or in-laws, or sex? Yes, all of these are responsible for much marital grief, but they are not number one.

I submit that the number one destroyer of marital harmony and intimacy is the small, insidious, seldom noticed sin of bitterness. You don't keep short accounts. Little wounds accumulate. They don't get healed. Eventually they become infected and kill your relationship. Twenty years into marriage you find yourself sleeping in separate beds.

Here is how it works. Your spouse does something to wound or hurt you, an unforgiven grievance from 12 years ago comes to mind. You combine them, and the pain is doubled. Now the resentment is amplified. "Forgiving is the hardest thing you will ever do," notes Andree Seu. "That's why most people don't do it. We talk about it, cheer for it, preach on it, and are sure we've practiced it. But mostly the illusion of having forgiven is that the passage of time dulls memory. The ruse will come to light with hair-trigger vengeance when fresh offense hurls in to empty out the gunnysack of half-digested grievances."

Only Christians have a really solid basis for forgiveness. It is the gospel. The gospel is why we forgive. The gospel reminds us that our sins were infinitely heinous in God's sight. Yet, despite this, God so longed to forgive that he sent his only begotten Son to be tortured to death in our place. Now that is mega-forgiveness. It is gross hypocrisy to accept this from Christ and not give it back to our spouse. Their offense against you, no matter how serious, is always finite, but your offense against God is always infinite.

Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a repeted, heart-felt, act of the will. That is why Jesus, when Peter asked how many times he should forgive, responded  70x7 (Matt 18:22). Those who want happy marriages and increased intimacy do the same.  


  1. You need to add a "share post" app to your blog. That way I don't have to figure out how to send people over to read it in old fashioned ways.

  2. Katie Hulsizer7/29/11, 2:50 PM

    Hi, Bill;
    This is the first time I've ever read your blog, but I like what I've read so far. Though I've not been married long enough to have much of any experience with this in my marriage, I have definitely experienced it in other areas of life. I'm really oversensitive and have a tendency to be offended easily, and to hold onto things--and I also have a tendency not to see it. Sometimes it's taken months or even years (in one case, my entire life until last year) for me to even realize I need to forgive someone, let alone go through the process of actually doing it. But, having been through the process on a deep level, I have learned that, much as you said here, forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. It's so hard for us emotion-driven humans to differentiate between our feelings and reality. For this reason I am so grateful that we have a God who speaks to us in no uncertain terms about what is right and what is not. And Who gives us grace to do what He requires.