It’s that time of the week. Another week goes by and your relationship is kinda…there. You’re not exactly thriving and you’re not getting worse either. This pandemic is prolonging this sense of uneasiness and future is so unpredictable. You may be hoping that things will get normal again. Normal meaning everyone getting back to work, kids start school again and doing your routine daily and weekly “stuff.” When will that be? No one knows. So what do we do in the meantime?
I have a short list of 16 questions which you can answer with YES or NO to determine if you have healthy marriage. Go through this list on your own and have your spouse answer them on his/her own. This list is from Leslie Vernick, a licensed therapist, social worker and a relationship coach. She has more than 30 years of experience and authored 3 books with a bestseller, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship.
- My spouse shows care and concern for me and my needs.
- My spouse has my best interests in mind.
- My spouse asks my opinion on things.
- My spouse trust me.
- My spouse is willing to get help for our marriage problems.
- My spouse works with me as a partner to parent our children.
- My spouse takes responsibility and apologizes when she or he’s wrong.
- My spouse asks for my opinion on things in our marriage.
- My spouse is considerate of my feelings.
- When we have a problem, my spouse is willing to talk about it.
- My spouse submits to the Bible to correct his own life.
- My spouse listens to advice from wise people.
- My spouse allows me to make my own decisions.
- My spouse allows me to be myself.
- My spouse allows me to disagree.
- My spouse is a good steward with our finances.
If you’ve answered YES to most of these questions then you’re marriage is in good shape. If you answered NO to more than 3 questions then you need to pay attention. If you answered NO to more than 5 questions the author says you are in a “destructive marriage.” Sometimes it’s hard to answer these questions with simple YES or NO. You feel like it’s a YES sometimes and other times NO. But you can still evaluate your marriage by answering these questions honestly and comprehensively. The question is, “Is my spouse USUALLY like this?” If you can sum it up by what the usual pattern is then you can answer either YES or NO. We all need to take a moment to answer these kinds of difficult questions to check up on ourselves. I’m suppose to be a relationship expert and yet I miss these signals from my wife. I had no idea that I leave her lonely many times and dismiss her feelings. But when you have these regular check-ups it will put your marriage back on track before it really becomes destructive or even point of no return.
What are some patterns that destroy relationship and damage people? – Leslie Vernick (Author and licensed clinician)
- Reactive Abuse – This person simply reacts to situations and erupts in anger. This person is unable to manage the negative moods, frustrations of life, and tempers in mature way. This looks similar to Controlling Abuse but the distinction is that it’s not about power or control. It’s about their negative emotion that cannot be managed. This person simply reacts in response to situations with negative cycle of abuse.
- Controlling Abuse – A healthy couple negotiates and compromises. Self centered and uncompromising people cannot have healthy marriage. Only mature people can sacrifice their desires for the sake of their spouse. Controlling abuse is about using threats and force to make the other person give in. This kind of abuse is about power. It’s about making your spouse forcefully submit to your demands. This comes in form of psychological and/or emotional manipulation.
- Deceit – This is about lying to hide. It’s not just lying to get what you want. It’s about hiding the truth. The truth may be that there is an underlying and unresolved issues. But this person is intentionally deceiving to create something that is not there or to cover up something that is there. This is a bad sign of destructive marriage. It’s a means to make the other person look bad or to keep the real issue (the truth) from surfacing.
- Indifference – Dr. John Gottman names this as one of his 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse. He calls it stonewalling. Indifference is feeling nothing for the other person. You may have heard this before but opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. This is when you know that your relationship has come to an end. You have no more strength to care. Indifference says that I don’t care enough to make our relationship work. It says to the other person that they are not worthy of love and care.
- Dependence – We are not in relationship because we are dependent on others. We are in relationship because we are interdependent on one another. This creates synergy. We must not be dependent on others as infants do to their mothers. As we grow up we must learn to become independent. This is something many needy parents don’t know how to do. They need to be needed. An unhealthy relationship is the same. It’s a cycle of narcissistic/codependent relationship or savior complex relationship. A dependent spouse strains the marriage because this person cannot produce his/her own energy and identity while the other person constantly needs to save their spouse.
Hope this exercise and five patterns of destructive relationship is helpful for you. If you have any questions or want more comprehensive assessment of your marriage please send me an email. You can go through a thorough list of questions that will give you a more precise evaluation through online tools like Prepare and Enrich. For further information you can look up prepare-enrich.com.