How We Tear Down Our Marriages, One Negative Thought at a Time

Are you stuck in a rut of thinking negative thoughts about sex or your husband? Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I could go the rest of my life without ever having sex again. It’s not worth the trouble.”
  • “I’m just not a sexual person, and I never will be.”
  • “Husbands make too big a deal about sex. It really doesn’t matter that much in a marriage.”
  • “I’d be much happier if my husband wasn’t interested in sex with me.”
  • “Sex is just one more thing I have to do for someone else before I can finally go to sleep.”
  • “My husband is: an idiot, stupid, dumb, a selfish person, a loser, lazy, uncaring.”
  • “My husband is like my second/third/fourth/etc. child.”
  • “It doesn’t matter to my husband whether I enjoy sex or not. He is just using me to get his needs met.”
  • “If my husband really cared about me, he would stop asking me for sex.”

All of these thoughts are poison to a marriage. If you habitually think negatively about sex or your husband, it’s like slipping a little arsenic into your coffee every morning. You may not drop over dead immediately, but over time, the poison will destroy you. Likewise, if you push the “Play” button on these poisonous thoughts and repeat them in your mind throughout your day, you are slowly destroying your sexual relationship and your marriage.

This “slow poison” idea is backed up by research from America’s foremost marriage researcher, John Gottman, Ph.D.  His 35 years of research confirms that unhappy couples think contemptuous thoughts about one another while happy couples nurture fondness and admiration for each other and their marriage. The success and stability of your marriage depends upon, among other things, you believing that your spouse is fundamentally a good and likeable person who is worthy of honor and respect.

When you choose to think good thoughts about your spouse and marriage, you are protecting against feeling contempt for your spouse. Dr. Gottman has found that contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce and must be eliminated if a marriage is going to survive. Feelings of contempt can quickly break down the bonds of marital friendship and leave you believing “my husband is my enemy. He’s THE problem in my life.”

sillouhette of angry coupleContempt conveys disgust with your spouse through sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, hostile humor, and even belligerence. When contemptuous, you assume the “high moral ground” and demean your spouse, either with your words and actions or in your thoughts. The bottom line: we get on our high horse, think we are better than our spouse, and ignore our own shortcomings. We end up living out Psalm 36:2: “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their (own) sin” and ignoring Philippians 2:3b:  “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” We become like the foolish wife of Proverbs 14:1: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Are you tearing down your own house—your marriage and your sex life—with contemptuous thoughts?

You can create an antidote to the poison by training yourself to nurture fondness and admiration for your spouse, your marriage, and sex. This will take intentional, concentrated effort.

Start by listing your husband’s positive qualities and for each quality, list a specific incident when he displayed that quality. To this list, add positive features of your marriage and sexual relationship, and for each feature, list a specific incident. For example:

  • He is kind. He raked our elderly neighbor’s leaves.
  • He is an involved father. He coaches our children’s teams.
  • He is a good provider. He goes to work every day.
  • He is a talented musician. He sings in the church choir.
  • He is a thoughtful lover. He tries to please me in bed.
  • We make a good team as parents. He backed me up when I disciplined the kids yesterday.
  • We share the same sense of humor. We both started laughing last week at the same thing.
  • We both value extended family. We make time to visit each other’s families.
  • We are adventurous in the bedroom. We tried _________.
  • We can be romantic. One time, we ___________.

Each day, add another positive quality and specific incident to your list. You can even write the positive quality on a slip of paper and post it on your desk, dashboard, or someplace where you will see it often. Throughout your day, repeat the positive thought silently to yourself.

When you find yourself slipping backwards and rehearsing your poisonous list, deliberately “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and purposefully practice Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

In addition, recall happy events from your marriage. Allow yourself to smile 😀  as you remember the good times. In Dr. Gottman’s research, 94% of couples who had positive memories of their history together were likely to have a happy future. Here are questions Dr. Gottman suggests to help stir up happy memories:

  • How did you meet? What were your first impressions of each other?
  • What do you remember about the time you were dating? What were your favorite things to do or places to go together?
  • How did you decide to get married? How did you know your spouse was the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with? Was it an easy or hard decision?
  • What do you remember about your wedding? Your honeymoon?
  • How was your first year of marriage? What things did you have to adjust to as newlyweds?
  • Looking back, what moments stand out as the happiest times in your marriage? In your sexual relationship?
  • What moments stand out as difficult times in your marriage? How did you get through those hard times? Why did you stay together despite them?

As you rehearse positive thoughts about your spouse, marriage, and sex, you will find that positive feelings about him will begin to come more naturally. It will be easier to see the good things in your marriage, admire and respect your husband, and value and enjoy sex.

And you will be the wise woman who builds her own house.

Let’s get the antidote party started: Leave a comment detailing one or more of your husband’s positive qualities. Tell us when he displayed those qualities. What is a positive feature of your marriage or your sexual relationship?

Comments 236

  1. Jennifer Degler
    December 3, 2011

    My husband is a great and patient listener. He listened to me detail my worries for over an hour yesterday, and I’m sure he was starving at the time and ready to eat dinner. Instead, he let me talk and then didn’t complain when I served him leftovers from last night’s dinner.

  2. December 5, 2011

    My husband is generous. He is generous with his money and his time and is always willing to help when someone needs help. He gives freely and asks for nothing in return. He’s also an amazing youth leader.

    1. Jennifer Degler
      December 5, 2011

      Thanks, Samantha, for sharing some of your husband’s positive qualities!

  3. lindsey
    December 9, 2011

    I needed this tonight. Really having a hard time and have a great husband.

    My husband is faithful to his family. He goes to work whistling and comes home excited to see myself and our daughter. We are his #1 priority!

    1. Jennifer Degler
      December 9, 2011

      Good for you, Lindsey, for affirming your husband’s positive qualities. I’m praying for you to have a fun-filled weekend with him.

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