I’ve been busy in the garden these last few months. As I have spent time weeding, fertilizing and watering, I’ve had a lot of time to consider the similarities between the garden and the marriage. Even if you don’t don a funny hat and gloves, go into the heat every day and work in the soil, I’m sure that you are aware that gardens can be beautiful and bountiful if maintained, or ugly and unproductive if neglected. Our marriages are very similar. With daily effort to maintain a marriage, it is beautiful to enjoy but with neglect, the marriage relationship withers and the ugly intrusive weeds begin to grow and eventually take over. Sadly, once this happens, many find the work overwhelming and they give up on their marriages, either divorcing or staying together in a miserable existence.
What are some common areas of neglect in marriage?
>The critical eye. This person tends to be super observant but they lean toward being negative. They can quickly locate and emphasize the flaws in any person or situation. Unhealthy criticism negatively impacts self-image and can crush the spirit of others. Often those exposed to this type of criticism, will feel emotionally unsafe and will learn to bottle things up and distance themselves from their critical eyed spouse.
>Failure to leave and cleave. Putting extended family before your spouse or allowing extended family to interfere or control, communicates to a spouse that they are less important. A spouse become resentful over time.
>Unhappiness or loneliness in the marriage. No marriage is perfect but some desperately need help from a trusted mentor couple or counselor. Keep communication open between you and your spouse. If you are struggling, please communicate this to your spouse. If things aren’t right, get help before you wake up one day and decide that this is the day that you are leaving.
>Over sensitivity or self-centered behavior. This is the spouse that believes that all offenses are aimed at them and they are easily hurt and offended. Sometimes they brood or are pouty and they can also be demanding. Think of the term “walking on eggshells”. This spouse creates tension and robs the marriage and household of peace.
>Controlling and manipulative behavior. This can manifest itself in different ways. A know-it-all spouse, or a micro-management spouse. A spouse that receives attention because of their attractiveness or charm and uses it as a threat. A spouse who uses a past mistake committed by their spouse, to control the relationship. All of this is about using power to control another human being and essentially it damages self-confidence and causes another to be motivated by fear and guilt.
>Failure to offer encouragement. Humans crave encouragement from the most important person in their life whether it be for trivial things or big accomplishments. Without encouragement from a spouse, a person becomes defeated and loses their zest and motivation to live life abundantly.
>Disrespect. A spouse that talks negatively about their spouse or ignores a request to discontinue an unsavory behavior or teases their spouse even when they know that it hurts. A spouse that makes major decisions without the consent of their spouse or despite the way their spouse feels. This communicates a lack of value to the other spouse.
>Conditional love and support. This spouse believes that they deserve a flawless spouse. They make their loving contingent on the way that their spouse performs, behaves or looks.
>Unwillingness to serve. This spouse believes that they don’t need to extend themselves, or learn to serve and love in ways beyond what they are comfortable with. In men, they might not give emotional support and in women, they might believe that sex is needed only as frequently as they choose.
>Disunity in parenting. The spouse that undermines the parenting of the other spouse. In order to parent well, unification is necessary and each parent should support the other.
>Emotional misplacement. The spouse that places more emotional dependence on the children or on others. This robs the marriage of emotional intimacy.
Many marriages will survive in a neglected state, simply because one spouse is committed to doing their part, but these marriages will not thrive. A healthy marriage is all about giving and sacrificing and it requires 100% effort from both spouses. My hope is that each of us will examine ourselves, commit to make the changes needed, and reap a beautiful and bountiful harvest in a well-tended marriage.
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