"Small stuff" May Ruin Our Families
- 2005 19 May
"The little foxes are ruining our vineyard" Song of Solomon 2:15
I asked a girlfriend who was recently divorced, "When did you first notice that your marriage was in trouble?"
She replied, "Looking back, I see that it had been slowly crumbling away for years. It happened so gradually that I can't even tell you when we stopped having fun or when we stopped holding hands. He started spending more time at work, and I was relieved when he called to say he wouldn't be home for dinner. We didn't have huge fights, but we were both critical and impatient. He says that he 'fell out of love' with me one little step at a time."
"Do you think he ever loved you?" I asked.
"Oh, I know he did! When we first got married, we finished each other's sentences and almost read each other's minds. We used to share all our dreams and make wonderful plans for our future. . . . but the last few years, I got too busy with the kids and outside interests, and he poured himself into his career. We stopped having family devotions and praying together. The romance gradually faded. Our marriage was just on auto pilot."
"Then how did it crash?" I asked.
"There was a woman at his office who, he says, was everything I wasn't; exciting, interesting, flirtatious, and fascinated with him -- she told him he was wonderful and she didn't nag or correct his manners and grammar. He left me, and our two children, so he could be with her. He says that she made him feel alive again.
"I was devastated when he left, but when I looked at my part in the failure of our marriage, I had to admit, I'd been taking him for granted. I'm not excusing what he did; it was the wrong solution to our problem, but I can see that we both were selfish and had been drifting apart for a long time. He told me that there wasn't any one big thing that killed his love for me, just a million little things."
Her story is all too common. A verse in the Bible warns us about the small stuff: "The little foxes are ruining the vineyards" (Song 2:15 TLB). Sometimes horrific tornadoes, like the death of a child or mental illness, intrude into our marital vineyards and ruin them. Perhaps they are flooded by physical or verbal abuse, but more likely, the little foxes of indifference, neglect, criticism, or score-keeping creep through the hedges and rob our marriages of their fruit.
Here's one of the sneakiest foxes that may tiptoe into our marriage: It's easier to criticize than to praise, and it's hard to keep our mouths shut when our mate makes a mistake. Ladies, if you want your husband to enjoy your company, remember this important truth: You are not his mother. It's not your job to correct him, especially about insignificant things. And men, remember that you are not your wife's father. You are teammates, working toward a common goal.
I'm not telling you that you should never correct each other. There are times when we need to express our disappointments and offer solutions about major spiritual, financial, or relational issues, but always do that a spirit of love and restoration and always in private. Those corrections are necessary to the growth of the marriage.
However, the kinds of corrections that can damage our relationships are petty, selfish, or controlling. Here's an example:
I was leading a round-table discussion at a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. One of the women said, "I'm so upset with my husband! Just before I left the house this morning, he was taking the laundry out of the dryer and was folding the towels all wrong! I've shown him how to do it a hundred times, but he never gets it right!"
I formed a "time-out T" with my hands and said, "Whoa Nellie, you're forgetting the big picture. . . . He's doing laundry! My husband hasn't washed a load of towels since Nixon was president." I took a survey of the other women, and only one of them had a hubby who was laundry literate.
"You have a jewel of a husband!" I said. "Next time he's folding towels, no matter how crooked they are, I think you should give him a big kiss and a 'Thank you!'"
Do you remember the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf? If we whine about every little thing, our spouses will tune us out. Then when something serious is troubling us, they won't hear us.
Our words have the power to heal and the power to destroy, so we must choose them carefully. Make it a goal to find five things to compliment or thank your mate for each day. You will be amazed at the power of praise. "So then, let's aim for harmony....and try to build each other up" (Romans 14:19 NLT)
If we guard against the negative verbal foxes and keep our vineyards safe and healthy, the fruits of our marriage will be sweet and tender.
Adapted from Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage (Kregel Publications 2004)
Nancy C. Anderson and her husband of 26 years, live in Orange County California with their teenage son. If you would like more information about Nancy's book, affair proofing your marriage, or the Andersons speaking at your couples' event, visit www.RonAndNancyAnderson.com.