I still remember the euphoric feeling I experienced the night my then-boyfriend asked me to marry him. I laughed. I cried. I screamed. I looked at myself in the mirror, smiling like an idiot, perhaps daring the news to not be true. I remember feeling lighter than air—my head and heart felt like they would explode.
As I exited the elevator on the 35th floor of the Trammell Crow Center the next morning, I wondered if my appearance would seem different to my co-workers. To my surprise, no one said anything. I hurried over to a friend’s cubicle.
“Mary, Bret and I got engaged last night.”
She hugged me and said, “I knew something was up. You have the goofiest grin on your face. Congratulations!”
Bret and I hadn’t dated long (one month to be exact), but we knew the relationship was built on godly, solid principles. We didn’t need months and years to understand every intricate detail of each other’s personalities. We knew the important aspects of one another’s character. We agreed divorce would never be an option.
Fast forward through the engagement, wedding and honeymoon to about month two of the marriage—that’s when real life set in:
- My new husband wasn’t perfect. (But neither was I.)
- He didn’t join me in the kitchen every evening to cook—like my own father had. (But I didn’t watch Texas Ranger baseball with him every night, either.)
- Some nights he seemed more interested in having sex than talking. (I didn’t feel used, but I began to understand how some women use sex as a bargaining tool.)
But what I needed to learn was that any frustration, anger, disappointment or resentment I felt had come on as a result of my unrealistic expectations. This led to a critical spirit. The critical spirit led to critical comments, indifference or arguments. I could see myself falling for the worldly trap of thinking of marriage as a what’s-in-it-for-me instead of how-can-I-be-a-better-wife?
My criticisms, cut-downs and snide comments didn’t exactly foster a romantic, intimate relationship. Far from it! Every time I headed down Crabby Court or Sarcastic Street, I did the following:
- Stole a little more of my husband’s enthusiasm
- Threw a cup of cold water on intimacy and passion
- Caused my husband to withdraw and second guess his actions
- Hurt his heart—which ultimately hurt mine
I’m not in this thing called marriage for myself. Or, rather, I shouldn’t be. I should be in it to help my husband become the man God intended. That frees him up to help me become the woman God intended. That’s why criticism is such a killer of marriages. Why it leads to discontentment, emotional separation—and, if left unchecked, affairs and divorce.
Bottom line: Want to affair proof your marriage? Stop criticizing.