My great-grandfather was a wise, tough, hard-working Indiana farmer who was married for almost 70 years and together with my great-grandmother, raised nine children. He had a gift for boiling life’s challenges down to simple, memorable maxims. He once summed up the challenges of raising kids by saying, “Kids…when they’re little, they step on your toes. When they get bigger, they step on your heart.”
That quote has relevance to marriage as well. In marriage, there will be times when you “step on each other’s toes,” so to speak. But the really hurtful moments happen when you “step on each other’s hearts” and wound your spouse on an emotional level. There are times when one spouse might intentionally try to hurt the other, but I’m convinced that many of the most damaging wounds in marriage are inflicted unintentionally.
I’m convinced that there are times when we step on our spouse’s heart and hurt their feelings or damage their trust without even realizing that we’re doing it. Most of us have blind spots that lead to unnecessary pain and conflict in the marriage. If you’re stuck in a cycle of conflict, please watch this short video from Jimmy Evans on how to resolve conflict in marriage before reading the rest of this article.
If you want to protect your spouse’s heart, prevent unnecessary conflict and keep a solid foundation of trust in your marriage, then please DON’T do the following four things.
You’ll unintentionally hurt your spouse every time you…
Only try to “fix” the problem.
Men especially tend to be “fixers” and we want to jump straight to solutions as soon as a problem pops up. But this can be an issue for both men and women. You must first take the time to listen to your spouse and connect with them. When you rush through that time to connect, it communicates to them that they are unloved. There’s a time to talk solutions, but the first priority must always be to simply be there for each other and show your love for each other.
Make plans without consulting each other first.
Whenever you tell your spouse what the plans are instead of starting by asking their thoughts on the potential plans, you communicate disrespect. Consider your spouse first in every decision you make, because every one of your decisions will impact them in some way. When your buddies ask you to play golf on Saturday, instead of just saying “Yes,” say, “That sounds like fun, but let me check with my wife and see what we have going on this weekend.”
“Check out” other people.
If your head spins around every time an attractive person walks by, even if you don’t say a word, you’ve communicated a lot. Your spouse doesn’t just want you to be physically monogamous; they want you to be mentally monogamous. Your spouse wants to know you have eyes only for them. If you’re checking out other women, you’re damaging your wife’s confidence in herself AND her confidence in you. If you’re checking out other men, you’re communicating that your husband isn’t enough to meet your needs. Whether it’s someone on the street or on a screen, watch carefully where your eyes wander.
“Hide” your spouse instead of highlighting them.
If you try to keep your marriage compartmentalized or “separate” from the other parts of your life, you might think you’re just protecting your spouse, but you’re actually hurting them. This is revealed in things like not wearing a wedding ring, not posting pictures of the two of you together online, not having a picture of them prominently displayed on your desk at work or a million other little things that send the silent message that they’re not a central part of your life. Show the world that you’re married and you’re so proud, honored and thankful to be sharing your life with the spouse of your dreams!
Avoid these four common mistakes and you’ll be on the right track to building a stronger marriage. For additional tools to help you grow in your relationship with your spouse, check out all the resources at xomarriage.com.