Thanks to Stu and Lisa Gray of the Stupendous Marriage Show for turning me on to this topic! Check out their podcast for some smart commentary.
Negative stereotypes about marriage are so pervasive in our society that it is almost impossible to escape them. Name almost any TV show with married couples and you’ll find at least one example of the “ball and chain” metaphor. Marriage is the end of fun. It is the end of sex. It means constant bickering and being tied to someone who you can’t stand for the rest of your life.
Media and popular culture certainly perpetuate these damaging stereotypes, and, at the same time, we are all just as guilty ourselves. Every time we complain about or badmouth our spouses to others, we perpetuate marriage stereotypes and hurt our own marriages. I’ve written before about why complaining about your spouse in social situations is a big no-no. (How did you feel when kids talked behind your back in middle school? How doubly hurt would you feel if your spouse–someone who you trust and love–was doing this?) At the same time, it’s hard to escape these bicker-fests. If all the boys are standing around the locker room complaining about their wives, what are you going to do when it comes your turn? Not join in?
This is exactly what Steven Crowder, a writer at Fox News did. And then he wrote a pretty snarky, yet spot-on, article about it.
“When men get together, they moan about their wives,” Steven writes. “The commentary provided on marriage between groups of men, is typically one from a viewpoint that assumes marriage to be life’s greatest, most unfun mistake. Not only is it often disingenuous…but it’s incredibly harmful.”
Steven is right, and not just because your spouse may be angry or hurt when she finds out about what you have been saying. Words are very powerful. Christian readers may be familiar with the line, “Death and life are in the power
of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof,” Proverbs 18:21. The study of psychology has shown this to be true: what we say, over time, can become what we think and what we do. A word can plant the seeds of life and love, or it can sow seeds of decay.
Therefore, if you spend your day nitpicking about the annoying, unpleasant aspects of our spouses, what do you think will happen when you come home to him at night? You will focus in on those negatives. They will begin to overshadow all the good things about your relationship. Eventually, you find yourself on the slippery slope of actually disliking your spouse and creating distance and loss of love in your marriage.
If you truly believe your spouse is a ball and chain, it’s time for some honest conversations with yourself–and with your spouse.
- Firstly, have you voiced any of these ball and chain issues–which you share so freely with your friends–with your spouse? Have you told him that you feel stressed when he doesn’t help with chores or childcare? Have you talked to her about how your sexless marriage makes you feel frustrated and rejected? Unspoken dissatisfaction will only bubble up later as resentment and contempt–the #1 killer of marriages.
- If you blame your spouse for holding you back from accomplishing your dreams or having fun, take a good long look at how hard you yourself have worked to make those things a reality. You may be projecting–seeing in others the shortcomings or problems you worry about in yourself. Or you may be using your spouse as a crutch to explain why you haven’t been more proactive. Inevitably, your spouse should support you but is not responsible for your happiness; only you are responsible for your happiness.
- Lastly, people who truly love each other support each others goals, dreams, and desires–your spouse doesn’t want to be your ball and chain; she wants to be your wings. If your spouse actually wants to make your life miserable, tries to control your activity and behavior, and prevents you from seeing friends or working on personal fulfillment, you should talk to a counselor immediately and consider divorce. These are all indicators of an abusive relationship.
Steven vows to never badmouth his wife in front of other people. He also encourages everyone to break the vicious cycle and speak love for their spouses. If you have a good marriage, talk about it! And the best place to talk about a bad marriage is with your spouse and marriage counselor in your counselor’s office (or with a certified marriage coach at Power of Two!) So go ahead and speak life, and fill your marriage with love.