In football, wins and losses are determined before the whistle ever blows. I learned this playing in community college. Football was a job. Every day you watched film. You analyzed and dissected footage from the previous game and the upcoming opponent. If you weren’t in the film room, you were on the practice field or in the weight room.
By the time Saturday rolled around, you knew the opponent like the back of your hand. Tendencies. Strengths. Weaknesses. Everything. And more times than not, the team with the better game plan won.
The same is true for marriage. In America, even the most optimistic studies show half of all marriages end in divorce. And when determining the cause of divorce, the tendency is to look at the marriage. Similar to gameday in football. No one sees the countless hours spent in the film room and on the practice field. It’s all about gameday.
Could this also be possible with marriage? I believe so. There are tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses nurtured long before wedding day. And they will impact your marriage tremendously. You might be in high school or college, not even considering the thought of marriage, but you are preparing now. You are in the film room. And your preparation (or lack thereof) might determine the outcome of the game (your marriage) before it ever begins.
So, here are 8 ways to ruin your marriage long before you say, “I do.”
1.) Quit everything you start.
If you want to destroy your marriage before your wedding day, quit everything you start. Doesn’t matter what you quit. It just matters that you never learn the practice of perseverance. Whenever the “new” wears off an activity or relationship, just give up. When a coach yells at you, throw in the towel. When school becomes difficult and requires too much time and energy, walk away.
This may seem ridiculous to a teenager or twenty-something, but you must understand the habits established now go with you into marriage. And marriages that stand the test of time are built on perseverance. Every marriage is hard. Not one is devoid of sacrifice, fighting, and strong storms.
And if you make a practice of quitting, this will be your default when dark clouds hover over your marriage.
2.) Make social media your default method of communication.
When it comes to marriage, few things are more important than good communication. And the popularity of social media and cell phones is creating more and more teenagers and twenty-somethings who are lost when it comes to true communication. You see, communication creates connection. Connection is the foundation for intimacy. And intimacy is the essence of marriage.
“So, what’s your point, Frank?”
Glad you asked. Social media creates a false sense of connection. It is a form of communication, yes. But it is not the form of communication that leads to intimacy. That comes through face-to-face interaction. Looking into the eyes of another person and sharing your feelings. And it is disturbing to imagine a generation of men and women entering into marriage with social media as their primary form of communication.
Marriages can’t survive without intimacy. Intimacy isn’t possible without connection, and connection isn’t possible without good communication. So, if you want to ruin your marriage long before it begins, deal with conflict through text message and build all your relationships through Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram.
3.) View love and feeling/emotion as equals.
You won’t find this on a list of top reasons people get divorced, but many times lying underneath the surface is this enormous misconception.
“We grew apart. We just don’t love one another anymore. We fought too much. He or she changed after we married.” These are commonly stated reasons couples divorce. But they are often a symptom of a deeper problem. The deeper problem being love and emotion are seen as equals.
Americans base decisions on emotions and feelings. If it feels good, do it. But love isn’t primarily about feelings. It is primarily about commitment and action. The kind of love God models on the cross.
This is why Paul says, “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:7-8). Your emotions and feelings will change. The love you have for your future spouse never will. True love can’t change. Because it isn’t a product of something that changes. It is a product of someone who never changes…God.
4.) Don’t pursue purity. No one else does.
Hey, everyone else is doing it. Sex is normal. In fact, when I was in high school and college, purity was looked down upon. It was a sign of weakness.
So, I bought the lie. I sacrificed my purity on the altar of popularity and peer pressure. And I am still paying for it. There is a reason God creates sex with boundaries. He is not trying to rob us of something. He is trying to prepare us for something. Until marriage, sex was purely physical for me. Lust consumed my life. I struggled with an addiction to pornography (you can read about that struggle here).
When I got married, everything changed. Sex was more than physical. It was also emotional and spiritual. For the first time, I experienced sex the way God created it. But I carried into marriage years of baggage. Baggage that consisted of layers upon layers of impurity and lust. And, trust me, they aren’t easy to remove.
So, if you want to destroy God’s design for sex and intimacy, don’t value your purity. Don’t fight for it. But take my word. If you buy the lie now, it will impact your marriage later.
5.) Make everything about you.
If you want to destroy your marriage long before it begins, place yourself at the center of the universe. Take someone’s refusal to meet your needs as a personal attack.
Before marriage, I was insanely selfish. I looked after number one. Everything was about me, me, me.
But marriage shattered my selfish bubble. I have my wife to blame for this. She is the opposite of selfish. And she has convinced me that selfishness drains the life out of marriage. Because it does.
You see, God created marriage. Because of this, the more your reflect his character in your marriage, the more your marriage will flourish. And God is the anti-thesis of selfish. Think Jesus. And Philippians 2. Jesus is the personification of selflessness. He came to earth, taking the form of a servant, so we could have life.
Is this counter-intuitive? For sure. But believe it. Life is found through humility and taking the form of a servant.
So, go ahead and make yourself the center of the universe. But you won’t find life there. Not in your current situation. And certainly not in your future marriage.
6.) Constantly compare yourself to other people.
“I wish I was taller. I wish I was prettier. I wish I was more athletic.” Raise your hand if these thoughts have ever crossed your mind? I am certainly guilty. We live in a comparison culture, don’t we?
A great day can suddenly turn sour with one scroll through your social media timeline. You post the perfect picture and no one likes it. Two pictures later, your best friend posts his or her perfect picture and it blows up. “You are so pretty/handsome. You are amazing. You are a beast. Swag.” Why did their picture get the likes and not mine? What was a great day is not so great anymore.
The comparison culture is incredibly toxic. It will drive you to be someone God never created you to be. It will convince you God messed up or loves another person more simply because they are more handsome or athletic.
Until you learn to be comfortable in your own skin life is going to be a struggle. And if you allow comparison to seep into your future marriage, it will suck the joy out of it. There will always be couples with a “better” marriage just like there will always be people prettier or more athletic.
As long as your life is consumed by comparing your looks and talents to others, your heart will be consumed with discontent and failure. The same is true for your marriage.
7.) By default, don’t trust anyone.
The mantra of our justice system is “innocent until proven guilty.” But we all know this is a farce. The opposite is actually.
“I am going to assume you aren’t worthy of my trust. I am going to assume you are guilty. Now earn my trust. Prove me wrong.”
In America you are seen as naive and weak if you place yourself in a position to be hurt. But what if Americans have it wrong? What if it is more dangerous to never to be fully known than it is to be vulnerable and take the chance you might get rejected?
Vulnerability is virtually non-existent in our culture. That’s not up for debate. And this creates an enormous problem when it comes to marriage because vulnerability is the gateway to intimacy. This might explain why so many marriages end in divorce.
Divorce often stems from a lack of intimacy. A lack of intimacy often stems from refusing to be vulnerable. And refusing to be vulnerable comes from culture’s default position of not trusting others.
So, if you want to set your future marriage up for disaster, by default, don’t trust anyone. Believe the worst thing possible is to put yourself out there and get rejected. Put up walls. And make people break them down by earning your trust.
8.) Turn to anything or anyone other than God for acceptance and affirmation.
If you want to set your future marriage up for failure, fill the voids in your life with anything other than God. Find your worth in your looks or popularity. Find your value in athletics. Find your identity in relationships.
Here’s why this is so destructive to marriage. If your worth is a product of something external, your future spouse will bear a weight that will eventually crush them. Your future spouse will be responsible for your joy and peace and, in essence, will become your pseudo god.
And humans are terrible gods. They can’t establish your worth. They can’t fill your voids. They can’t complete you. Those weights are reserved for God. And only he can bear them.
If you are incomplete now, you will be incomplete after marriage. The “I dos’” won’t change that. So, take the weight off other people and place it on God.
The beauty of God is that he never gives up on us. He can clean up the worst mess. He specializes in restoring order from chaos. Maybe your marriage has been a mess. It’s never too late to make a change. God can and will restore your life and marriage.
For everyone else, I understand marriage might not be on your radar. But if you believe marriage is in the cards for you at some point, understand your actions now are shaping what is to come.
Prepare well. Practice hard. Because gameday will be here before you know it.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!