Arguing, Communication, Conflict, love, Marriage, relationship

13 Ways To Guarantee Your Spouse Doesn’t Give a Crap About the Marriage

It was a beautiful day when you got married. The sun shone as bright as your future and hope seemed to pour from every smiling face that congratulated you.

And not because of the open bar.

Your friends and family were genuinely happy for you.

You were genuinely happy for you.

But somewhere along the way that raging bonfire of passion and interest became a smoldering wick as you scurried to make appointments, meet deadlines,  and shuffle children from place to place like pieces on a backgammon board.

You don’t know when it happened, but as life intersected love your marriage transformed from an exclamation point into a question mark.

Now, you’re wondering if you have what it takes to make it. Or if you even chose the right partner at all?

After all, your spouse seems to invest more of their life and energy into their friends, their hobbies, or their work. It has been months since the two of you have talked about something other than the demands of the calendar. And the last time you went out, the silence stretched across the table like a small, expanding universe until the two of you retreated into your phones, hoping to find evidence of life elsewhere.

Maybe, you think, it’s not worth it.

You still love your spouse and want a deep connection, yet you fear that if you don’t offer them something new, the disconnected soul and the body of the marriage can never be reunited.

Maybe you’re reading this expecting me to tell you there’s hope. Maybe you want me to tell you what to do.

But I can’t.

I don’t know your marriage.

What I can tell you, though, is that a fearless self-inventory is often necessary before apologies are made, forgiveness is given, and love is rekindled.

So, to begin this process here’s a list of 13 ways you can guarantee your spouse will not give a crap about the marriage. Read through them and ask yourself, “How many of these am I guilty of?”

1. AVOID CONFLICT

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Conflict.

The very word conjures images of people fighting, arguing, yelling, name-calling, and creating increased stress and tension in the home. For some, it may even remind them of a childhood environment where the sharp-toothed fiend of fear lurked around every interaction and the only safety could be found in solitude and retreat.

Anxiety covers their heart like a tarp whenever the sting of disagreement floats through the air of their relationships. Their only expectation is pain followed by an endless cycle of apology, joy, tension, and explosion.

This is not how they want to live their lives. But it is the only life they have known. The sole tool that they possess is the art of bending like water, finding the path of least resistance until the nearest exit presents itself. Often, they do not know how to resolve a conflict, and even when they do, they do not remain in the awkwardness of the disagreement long enough to practice their skills at resolution and learn that they are safe.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…Avoiders feel very deeply and have the ability to use their compassion to bring understanding, hope, and reconciliation to a situation. If they can learn assertiveness, they can achieve confidence, and that confidence will help them move towards resolutions. Because they are so adept at finding exits during a conflict, they have the skill-set to help other people see which options would work best for them and cause minimal damage to both parties.

2. ENGAGE IN ALL CONFLICTS

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These partners may have had a similar upbringing to the conflict avoiders, but they have chosen a different route. Instead of running away from conflict, they run towards it. This is not a bad strategy to use if it can be done with compassion and mutual respect, but Engagers learned early in life that if no one was going to protect their heart, then it was up to them to do so.

Like the Avoiders, Engagers are also ruled by anxiety and fear, but instead of retreating, they push back in anger, insistent on never allowing anyone to hurt them again. Even the smallest slights can be viewed as interrogations, challenges, or debates. And while not all Engagers are violent or abusive, they are all stubborn and find compromise dangerous to their egos. They often insist on being right, have a strong allegiance to what is “true,” and frequently rely on logic to prove their point. This provides them with an almost impenetrable armor of force of will, moral superiority, and razor-sharp insight that is devoid of emotion.

Unlike the Avoiders, however, they are not uncomfortable standing in the gale of conflict. They often feed off of the energy and find an adrenaline rush in the pursuit of winning (not resolving) the argument. To bend, like the Avoiders, would be an extreme act of vulnerability, even if it did not suggest a retreat. It is often perceived as threatening future harm to their selves and often hinders them from learning the art of picking one’s battles.

THE GOOD NEWS IS … If an Engager can learn to add wisdom and selfless love to his repertoire, he can learn to discern which conflicts require engaging as well as how to resolve conflicts with his partner in an intimate, caring, and mutually beneficial way. Stubbornness, truth, and logic can be great tools but only create masterpieces in the hands of someone who is protecting his relationship more than himself.

3. INSIST ON ALWAYS HAVING THE LAST WORD

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Remember that kid in your elementary school (or maybe in your home) who loved to play the repeating game? You’d say something. They’d parrot it back. You’d say, “Stop copying me!” They’d say, “Stop copying me!” You’d try ignoring them and walk away. But the little thespian would just follow you and mimic your walk.

Yeah. You remember him now, don’t you? (It was usually a “him,” wasn’t it?)

That was the kid who annoyed you so severely you felt forced to choose between pulling your hair out or pounding him into submission.

Well, that little kid was your first introduction to what it is like to live with a Persister.

Ironically, the Persister could also be called the Shapeshifter, because he has three potential ways of expressing himself and he can be any one of the following, depending on the situation.

First, a Persister can be the person who latches onto an argument like a bulldog. Once their strong jaws have tasted the blood of an argument, they refuse to let go. You may try to walk away or to defuse the conversation, but like the child who mimicked you, this type of Persister always equates victory with having the last word. They perceive the point vs counterpoint exchange in a conflict as a battle for authority or power. Perhaps more than any other style, this person hates to concede anything in a conflict. Such an act would level the invisible balance that holds each person’s comments and would create an equality between the two people that this Persister cannot abide. In his/her mind, the clearest path to victory is to state “one more thing,” which sways the balance in their direction but often frustrates their partner to madness. As the partner tries to leave the room, the Persister will often follow them from one place to another (even via texting, if the partner has temporarily left the home) and hurl departing comments like spears. After they’ve calmed down this type usually recognizes their mistakes and switches from persisting towards winning to persisting towards reconciliation. But in the time it takes for this to occur, their partner has erected a wall around their heart, making the process of reconciliation both laborious and demanding.

The second type of Persister one can be in a marriage has nothing to do with a person’s conflict-style. This person, instead, is usually nice, hard-working, pursues excellence and holds themselves and others to high standards. They are planners, organizers, future-minded people whose love for productivity and efficiency frequently provides them with a structure for what, why, how, and when they act. They can see around the corners of life before others do, and when their warnings intersect with others’ inaction, a startling, incessant, high-pitched alarm clock rattles in their brain. Cause and effect are very important to this Persister. Their calendars are like a map in their brain for how to navigate through life, and they often have difficulty understanding why others will not assist them in keeping their mental and physical worlds clean, efficient, and “clutter-free.” Thus, they nag, nag, nag, nag, nag until finally, the other person throws up their hands in frustration and says (either to themselves or out loud), “Fine! We’ll do it your way!” Typically, this reaction confuses the Persister. They are not trying to be annoying. They are just trying to clear the pathway for a structured, organized life.

The third type of Persister, however, is very different in behavior from the first two types. He is neither insistent on winning nor on doing things his way. Instead, this type turns in the opposite direction from the other two. He is often fun-loving, laid back, and mellow. Like the nagger, he knows he has a “have-to” list in his life, but his inclination is to put it off in order to enjoy his “want-to” list. His mantras are “It’ll get done,” “Don’t worry,” and “I’ve got this.” In many ways, he is the antithesis to the nagger. He is more likely to use his calendar as a coaster than a guide for life. He prefers entertainment to efficiency, and he does not see the purpose in getting upset if things are not done in a timely manner. Where naggers persist in doing, procrastinators persist in doing nothing. That doesn’t mean they sit and watch TV all day. They may piddle in doing many good, yet safe, things around the home, but these are only done in an effort to avoid doing the necessary, yet scary, things. Some are content to allow others to pick up the slack. Some prefer sleep over striving. And some only act when all other options have been expended. Regardless of their expression of procrastination, though, all struggle with doing that which will force them to face and/or reveal the core of their true self. They would deny trying to sabotage their life (or the lives of those they love). Instead, they would claim that they are simply not allowing themselves to be stressed out. That they are trusting that everything will work out. Meanwhile, their spouse feels stretched to the thin, dark edge of sanity and exhaustion as they cover the responsibilities of both the husband and the wife. They resent their Persister for regressing into adolescence yet yearn for the Persister to become all that they can be.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…Persisters have two defining characteristics: loyalty and survival. Although they usually direct these energies towards themselves to ensure their own self-preservation, a Persisters’ love can be both ardent and fearless when they direct their energies toward preserving the relationship. When they learn to replace dependence or independence with a selfless interdependence, you will witness them persisting in love as never before.

4. ALWAYS RAISE THE BAR

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Ok. Let’s take a quick pop quiz.

  1. When you take the silverware out of the dishwasher, do you A) take out the spoons, then the forks, then the knives, etc. or B) do you grab all the utensils in one big disorganized handful?
  2. When you cover your Belgian waffle with syrup do you A) make sure that all the squares are equally filled or B) don’t care as long as the waffle is sufficiently covered?
  3. When you do a project do you A) have a hard time finishing because you keep finding ways to make it better or B) set realistic expectations on what you can and cannot do?
  4. When you read that this section had a pop quiz did you A) immediately think to yourself “Oh good! I’m going to make a 100” or B) skip to the end of the quiz to read the rest of the section?

If you answered A to any of the above questions, I am sorry to inform you that you may be a Perfectionist.

And if you just said, “And…?” or “So?” this is probably further proof of your predicament, because Perfectionists do not see this trait as a flaw. They view it as a good thing. It is the characteristic that helped them succeed in school, become promoted at work, be appreciated by their loved ones, and help them achieve heights they never knew existed for themselves.

And while all of this may be true, Perfectionists have a bad habit of driving their spouses crazy. Their favorite words seem to be “if” and “yes, but” as they continually seek ways of improving the various areas in their life. They are typically organized, have high expectations for themselves and others, are married to only one way of doing things, and will go to great lengths to ensure that the almost right thing becomes the right thing.

They continually look to self-improve and can be rigid in their opinions. And all of this would be okay if they did not look to impose their way of doing life onto those around them. Such behavior makes the Perfectionists come off as hypercritical and disappointed in the ones with whom they live.  They are continually raising the expectations for others because this is how they learned to push themselves to succeed; however, those on the receiving end of this behavior often feel they can never measure up because just when they are reaching the standard that the Perfectionist set for them, the bar is raised and a new baseline is set for the loved one.

Finally, the Perfectionist can be moralistic as they try to create absolutes for as many categories of life as they can. Such behavior can cause them to fail to see the gray areas of life and can force them to be more legalistic than gracious when others make mistakes. Their responses in these situations may not be abusive but their disappointment may cut equally as deep.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…Perfectionists are deeply concerned about doing things well, being accepted, and following the rules. Thus, if they can learn to objectively evaluate only themselves in a relationship and can receive affirmation for doing that well, they can become the type of partner who seeks the relationship’s best interest, not their own.

5. SHARE OPINIONS, NOT FEELINGS

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The Laws of Thermodynamics. The printing press. The theory of general relativity. The personal computer. The internet. All of these things required great thought and people of strong analytical skills to develop them. They are our Logicians of the world and their skills have helped society move forward in the fields of technology, philosophy, politics, science, psychology, and others.

But in the field of relationships, Logicians frequently struggle. Although they can dissect and analyze problems with acuity, their solutions often elevate the operational side of relationships at the expense of the emotional one. Well-meaning and often helpful, Logicians can see the value in serving their spouse but can also approach their partner in the same way they would read a schematic. Unfortunately, they either do not understand the language of relationship, cannot determine the correlation of the relationship’s interworking circuits, or misunderstand the tasks of each interconnected part of the marriage.

For Logicians, emotions are variables on a decision tree and are often viewed in a strict, clinical way.  This keeps their emotions at a distance and rarely raises them to primary importance. If emotions could be plugged into an algorithm, they would (ironically) feel more comfortable dealing with them. But since emotions are more fluid than concrete Logicians speak of their emotions in terms they are most familiar with: facts and opinions. For instance, a Logician rarely says, “I feel sad.” That would be identifying and sharing an emotion (sad). What they say instead is, “I feel like you don’t care” or “I feel that you don’t want to be around me anymore.” The key words to be on the lookout for here are “like” and “that.” Both are red flags indicating that a thought, opinion, idea, or belief is about to be shared, but not an emotion.

Never an emotion.

As a result, their spouse is forced to respond in the world of ideas rather than empathically. This prohibits the Logician and his spouse from conversing in a vulnerable fashion and, if necessary, fixing the negative feelings between them. It keeps all dialogue at an intellectual level and can often evolve into a debate, rather than a discussion. Such a dynamic can make the spouse feel frustrated, isolated, and disconnected from their Logician and, if it goes on long enough, can create questions such as, “Do they still find me attractive,” “How can I make them want to connect with me more,” or “Did I even marry the right person?”

THE GOOD NEWS IS…Logicians offer a solution-oriented mindset to the relationship that other marital types envy. Once they understand that the goal of relationships is to nurture and/or fix the feelings, rather than the situations, Logicians can learn the intricacies of their spouse’s heart in a way that is uniquely incisive and empathic. It may take them a lot of work, but if it is done successfully, their spouse will think they have won the lottery.

6. FORGET WHAT YOU’RE FIGHTING FOR

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As a child, most people enjoy imaginative play. The crackle of synapses. The stream of consciousness. The adrenaline rush of playing all the characters until, exhausted, good finally triumphed over evil. As a pre-teen, competitive play became part of life. We discovered that we no longer had to stand in the shadows of imagination. We could live out our dreams by matching skill versus skill, brains vs. brawn, and will vs. will until the final seconds ticked off the clock and the scoreboard declared a victor. Then adolescence bloomed and we found that the thrill of using our minds and the rush of competition could be perfectly blended in arguing and debating. We’d square off against any opponent just to see whose mind was sharper, whose wit was quicker, and whose truth could be articulated best. We yielded no ground in order to lose no honor. And in the end, we became a Gladiator.

But in adulthood, the rules all changed. We found someone special. We fell in love. And although we know we ought to be patient, kind, forgiving, and selfless, a warrior stands at the boundaries of ourselves, sniffing the air for conflict and tuning his ear for any sound of a challenge.

When engaged in battle, the Gladiator forgets all allegiances and seeks only to survive. Victory can be defined for the Gladiator in a plethora of ways. But this overarching goal so clouds the mind of the Gladiator that he forgets that the victory that he seeks should not be a personal one. It should be a relational one. He should focus on conquering issues, not individuals. When this rule is abandoned he exchanges small victories on the personal level for huge losses on the relational level.

What Gladiators view as exciting and invigorating, their spouses often view as annoying and exhausting. Spouses of Gladiators don’t want a winner and a loser. They want unity. They want resolution. They want teamwork. And they want to know that they (and the marriage) will never be attacked but will be protected as fiercely as the Gladiator would protect himself.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…The Gladiator’s instincts can be contained. He can learn to fight for his spouse and the sanctity of the connection that they share, instead of against it. Plus, Gladiators offer their spouse an intense love and devotion when they remember that they are fighting with their spouse against the problems of life, not against them.

7. EMBRACE YOUR INSECURITIES

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The opposite of the Gladiator is the Mouse. Instead of charging into battle with no regard for life or limb, the Mouse holds back, explaining why he can’t or shouldn’t do something. It is not courage or adrenaline that the Mouse thrives upon, but fear and insecurity.

Self-doubt is the hallmark trait of the Mouse so that every challenge is countered by a “what if” and every growth opportunity is followed by an “I can’t.” They are keenly aware of their limitations and rarely push themselves to step into an arena where the outcome is uncertain. This does not mean that they do not work hard or love their family. They do. But they are content to settle for doing what is familiar rather than risk doing what is unfamiliar.

Despite the encouragement they receive from others, they continually fear that whatever endeavor they choose someone will eventually expose them as a fraud. It is this fear of public humiliation and shame that drives them not only towards procrastination but also slothfulness. Their life-motto is: “Easiest path. Highest success. Least resistance.”

These are the people who often link themselves to a marital partner who can carry them emotionally and, at times, financially. They require a lot of cheerleading but the continual emotional taking can eventually burn out their spouse, leaving them with little (if anything) left to give.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…The Mouse can change, but firm boundaries must be in place to strengthen their self-reliance. When they learn to take the greatest risk of all in selflessly loving their partner, the Mouse can learn that risk is worth the reward, and they can not only overcome the barriers to a healthy marriage but also those that have impeded a healthy personality.

8. REFUSE TO GIVE THEM SPACE

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In some ways, this next category is a cousin to the aforementioned Persister. But instead of having to have the last word, this person latches onto their spouse and won’t let go. For this reason, I call them Leeches.

A Leech is the type of partner who is either A) wholly dependent upon their spouse for every need that they have or B) becomes so distraught during an argument that they follow their spouse from room to room, seeking a resolution.

Type A may not sound bad at first glance, but people who depend on their spouse to meet every need that they have are not seeking a spouse. They are seeking a god. While it is true that the level of intimacy we have with our spouse should always be greater than the level of intimacy that we have with others, we should also have a variety of relationships that pour into and help shape ourselves. Parents, friends, colleagues, college roommates, and the like should all have something other than time to offer to us. But the Type A Leech latches onto their spouse and continually pursues them. At first, this may feel flattering but over time, the spouse finds him/herself drained from all of the attention and discovers that although they cannot be all that the Leech desires, they are required to continue giving.

Type B is a little different. They may have a well-balanced life socially and understand the need for them and their spouse to have outside interests and activities with friends, but Type B cannot handle having a conflict with their spouse. They require resolution ASAP and even if their spouse requests a brief timeout, it pains them to grant it. Deep down Type B desperately fears losing their spouse and they view unresolved issues as the primary vehicle to this end. However, they rarely state this fear outright. Instead, they follow their spouse from room to room or blow up their phone with text messages. This, of course, can create more distance, not less, and over time can develop a negative cycle that fulfills their worst fear.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…Both types of Leeches are acting out of fear. That may sound weird, but hear me out. The Type A Leech fears being independent. But as they learn to balance life with their spouse and life with others, they discover that interdependence with their spouse is a more healthy practice for their marriage than dependence. Type B’s can also overcome their fear of losing their spouse if they will allow their spouse space and time to cool off. If they will face their fear and reassure themselves that resolution will occur (just not now), they will find strength to wait until the issue can be readdressed when everyone is calmer.

9. EMBARRASS YOUR SPOUSE

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If there is one over-arching characteristic all couples are called to enjoy, it would be unity. Unfortunately, some partners feel the need to assert themselves over their spouse instead of finding ways to work with their spouse. The partners that do this appear to have some unnamed vendetta against their spouse and cannot seem to step away from publicly pointing out their spouse’s flaws and then claiming they were “just joking.”

Everyone in the room knows they’re lying, of course, but it does not take the sting out of the forced smile the spouse feels obliged to give. To be clear, Embarrassers do not have to be verbal abusers or narcissists. They can be fun-loving at home and good parents to the kids. But they take very little time to ask themselves how their words are going to land on their audience or on their spouse. The Embarrasser does not seem to recognize the weight of his words or how each little comment chips away at his spouse’s self-esteem. And, surprisingly, they often minimize their spouse’s angry, depressed, or callous responses as the reactions of an over-emotional person.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…If Embarrassers will make one simple adjustment, whether they are with their spouse or not, they can break this cycle of “unintentional” malicious behavior. What is this magic pill? Talk your spouse up…Always. Regardless of whether you are at work, with in-laws, talking with your best friends from college, or writing in your diary, talk your spouse up. For when an Embarrasser begins to actively look for the positive qualities of their spouse, instead of comparing them to an imaginary version of who they want them to be, they can actually activate the necessary neurochemicals in their brain that are needed for connection and bonding. And soon people will know that they are not only married, but that they are happily married.

10. STOP SEEKING TO UNDERSTAND THE DETAILS OF THEIR LIFE

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Couples have so many different ways of connecting with each other you would think it would be easy to maintain a relationship and nurture love over the long-haul. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many people. Instead of daily building on the energy and interest that nurtured the relationship in the beginning, couples fall into monotonous routines and begin to believe that they know everything there is to know about their spouse, or at least everything they wanted to know. This belief led to an emotional drift between the two partners until eventually, their cells phones are getting more physical affection than their spouse. Such people are what I call “Ignorers.”

Ignorers can be any age group and could be married for six months or sixty years. Some of them retreat into technology. Others dink around with hobbies, committees, or other interests. But regardless of how they do it, Ignorers have one common characteristic between them: They stopped pursuing their spouse.

Ignorers have forgotten that the romance in their dating life was not developed through extravagant expressions of love, such as trips to New York or dinner at an expensive restaurant. Romance was taking a daily interest in their spouse and the intricate details of their spouse’s world. It was, in a word, pursuit.

Ignorers may be hard-working, conscientious, thorough, and meticulous, but they mismanage their energies in unimportant pleasures instead of placing their marriage at center-stage.  They often focus on short-term pleasures, instead of taking a long view and investing their time and energy towards future, God-honoring, loving goals. Because of this, boredom settles over the marriage like a fog, obstructing the pathway back to each other.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…Pursuit can be reignited. If a person can consistently remind themselves of how lucky they are to have their spouse and why, they may discover that fondness, admiration, and interest will reignite for their spouse, as well as love. But a word of caution must be made here, of all the other types on this list Ignorers are the most at risk of falling back into the old slothful behaviors that initiated this problem. Diligence is the key and this will take intentional effort from both partners so that love can be nurtured in the mind as well as in the activities a couple does together.

11. REFUSE TO ACCEPT YOUR SPOUSE’S HELP

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Excluders not only think they can do everything on their own but also insist on proving it. They value stubbornness as if it is a virtue and treat vulnerability as if it were a vice. And even those who deny this is true project an unwelcoming attitude to their spouse when offered help. It’s as if they believe that they will be disrespected or viewed as weak if they cannot accomplish the task alone.

The reality Excluders fail to see is that when they repeatedly deny their spouse the opportunity to assist them in what they’re doing (even in a small way) they send a strong non-verbal message of rejection. Though they may not mean it this way, they are essentially saying, “I don’t need you,” “I don’t want to spend time with you,” and/or “You can’t offer anything important to what I am doing.” Excluders may feel it will be more efficient to do the project or task on their own, but over time their spouse will interpret them as preferring to turn away from them, rather than towards them.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…Excluders are usually doers. They are your Type A personalities and when given a task that they are deeply invested in, they will do everything within their power to succeed at that task. Failure to an Excluder is not just a mistake. It is an identity crisis. Therefore, when they understand that they could potentially “fail” at marriage, they will do whatever they can to ensure that marital “success” is accomplished. Granted, they will have to learn to “play nice with others,” but this can be a small sacrifice for them if they realize that it only needs to be done at home and is a vital ingredient to keeping the spouse of their dreams.

12. LET YOUR MOM INTERFERE

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In Genesis 2:24 the Bible says of a marriage, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Some people, however, never learn to create the necessary boundaries between themselves and their parents once the marriage has occurred. I call these people “Never-Cleavers.”

These are the people who continually run to their family of origin for advice about their marriage and bring in one or both of their parents as a mediator or arbiter or counselor for difficult situations and major life decisions. Never-Cleavers seem to confuse respect for their parents with enmeshment. They often have not matured into an adult who can make their own decisions. Sometimes this is because the parents have a dominating nature and want to control their child’s life, and sometimes it is because the Never-Cleaver cannot A) envision leaning on anyone except for his/her parent(s) and B) never learned the value of setting boundaries with his/her parent. Independent adult living, especially within the context of marriage, provides the perfect environment for a person to learn to do both of these things.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…The term “Never-Cleavers” is a misnomer. To say that they can never cleave to their spouse is unfair. They can. But boundaries are absolute necessity, both with their parents and with their spouse (who may have controlling tendencies as well). But when they learn to do this lovingly and effectively, the Never-Cleaver can develop a new environment with their spouse in which they are super-glued to each other in unity and love.

13. PUNISH YOUR SPOUSE

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Punishers could also be called “Score-Keepers.” These are the spouses who blatantly disobey the biblical injunction “Love does not keep a record of wrongs.” (1 Cor 13:5) and have a running tally in their head of all the mistakes, mishaps, and miscommunications their spouse has done in the relationship and then metes out punishment as they see fit. Sometimes they express this punishment as the silent treatment. Sometimes they withhold sex. Sometimes they hold the moral high ground and continually treat their spouse like a child or an underling.

What Punishers never do, though, is keep score on themselves. Why? Because they believe that whatever wrongs they have done can never equal the emotional wounds from their spouse. In other words, they use their pain as an excuse to inflict pain on their partner.

Ironically, their strongest relationship desire is also their strongest fear. They want a connection with their spouse but intuitively understand that a couple’s connection is always dependent on the couple’s vulnerability to one another. Such vulnerability is risky to them, so in an effort to gain a high connection with low vulnerability, they create a parent-child dynamic in the hopes that their partner will change his/her ways and establish new behaviors for the marriage.

THE GOOD NEWS IS…Punishers want a better marriage. They’re just scared. If their fears can be calmed and they can learn that they have an emotionally safe environment with their spouse, reconciliation may not be far away. Punishers, however, will have to learn the skill of keeping score on only themselves and work with their spouse to develop a healthier, adult-adult dynamic.

NOW WHAT?

If you discovered that you fall into one or more of these categories, you may have discovered what is going wrong with your marriage, or at least half of the reason. But, as you may have noticed, there is hope for everybody. Change can occur so that new habits can be practiced.

But first, before you do anything else, go to your spouse, acknowledge your mistakes, apologize for them, recommit to making it right, and then strategize how you will permanently turn away from these negative behaviors.

If your spouse doesn’t believe you, if they say they’ve heard it all before, that’s ok. Seek out resources. Go to therapy. Gain advice from your pastor. The point is to do whatever you can to seek out new behaviors and new ways of loving your spouse so that you can become the person of their dreams. As Chuck Swindoll once said, “If you think you are married to the wrong person, then treat them as if they were the right person, and over time, you may discover that you have married the right person after all.”

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