Better Watch Out for the ‘Marriage Killers'

Published December 21, 1989. If you had to identify a dozen things or events that disrupt marriage, what would they be? In his recent book “Love for a Lifetime,” James Dobson has compiled such a list. They are in a chapter titled “The Marriage Killers.”

At the beginning of the chapter Dobson notes, “It is true, of course, that the society in which we live actively mitigates against marital stability. There are dangers on all sides, and we must defend ourselves with all our energies. In fact, I think it would be healthy at this point to name the great marriage killers. Any one of the following evils can rip your relationship to shreds if given a place in your lives.”

So, what will the Christian psychologist from California say is the number one thing most disruptive to contemporary marriage? Money? Sex? In-laws? Alcohol? His answer may surprise you. And it is particularly pertinent during this time of year. According to Dobson, the No. 1 marriage killer is over-commitment and physical exhaustion.

Dobson cautions, “Beware of this danger. It is especially insidious for young couples who are trying to get started in a profession or in school. Do not try to go to college, work full-time, have a baby, manage a toddler, fix up a house, and start a business at the same time. It sounds ridiculous, but many young couples do just that and are then surprised when their marriage falls apart. Why wouldn’t it? The only time they see each other is when they are worn out! It is especially dangerous to have the husband vastly overcommitted and the wife staying home with a preschooler. Her profound loneliness builds discontent and depression, and we all know where that leads. You must reserve time for one another if you want to keep your love alive.”

      What are the other Marriage Killers according to Dobson? They are:
  1. Excessive credit and conflict over how money will be spent
  2. Selfishness
  3. Interference from in-laws
  4. Unrealistic expectations
  5. Lack of autonomy or personal space
  6. Alcohol or substance abuse
  7. Pornography, gambling, and other addictions
  8. Sexual frustrations, loneliness, low self-esteem, and the greener pastures of infidelity
  9. Business failure 
  10. Business success
  11. Getting married too young

Many who read Dobson’s list of Marriage Killers may have questions about No. 9 and No. 10. A business failure can understandably have an impact financially and otherwise on a marriage. But business success? How could that hurt a marital relationship? Dobson observes, “It is almost as risky to succeed wildly as it is to fail miserably in business. The writer of Proverbs wrote, ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread’ (Proverbs 20:8).”

“Edward Fitzgerald said it another way: ‘One of the saddest pages kept by the recording angel is the record of souls that have been damned by success.’ It’s true. Those who profit handsomely sometimes become drunk with power and lust for more! Wives, husbands and children are forgotten in the process.

During the holiday season, perhaps you and your spouse could review Dobson’s list of marriage killers and see which ones, if any, threaten your relationship. Susan and I have done that and have agreed to work on No. 1: Over-commitment and fatigue. In fact, she said she would sit down and talk about that sometime this week, after she completes her Christmas shopping.

(I look forward to the discussion, since I’ve hardly seen Susan during the past three weeks. I suspect she camps with her own sleeping cot and Coleman stove somewhere near the toy department at ShopKo.)

What a woman! What a hectic week! What a season for rejoicing!

Merry Christmas from the Barlows.

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