Five Toxic Tumbles That Cripple Relationship

I love going to the County Fair. It is the undeniable cultural experience of the summer, isn’t it?


The Fair is where you stuff your face with all manner of culinary confections that you’d never eat anywhere else. It was the Fair that gave us deep-fried Twinkies® and the world’s largest donut. And every time I go, I feel compelled to take it all in. But the sadistic thing about the Fair is that the food isn’t the only bad decision you’re going to make that day. You go straight from grease-eating to roller-coastering.

The rides at the Fair are kind of like Disneyland, only without all those pesky safety features. You pack your stomach with fried carbs and lard, spin it around on a Carnie Special and then top it all off with a gigantic turkey leg and funnel cake. Is it any wonder I’m half doubled over before I get back to the car? I usually feel less than fair by the time I’m leaving the Fair.

A few toxic decisions are enough to ruin what was supposed to be a great time. The same is true of our marriages. As we look at the keys to a marriage rehabilitation, we first must tackle the FIVE TOXIC TUMBLES THAT CRIPPLE RELATIONSHIP:


Are you willing to admit you can be a little bit selfish at times? When I want my way, with little or no regard for the cost to others, I’m about to take a nosedive over the stumbling block of self-centeredness.

2. BITTERNESS (Hebrews 12:15)

Mark Twain once said that, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die.” Maybe you were hurt or wronged, and have a right to be angry. Maybe your woundedness isn’t your fault. But bitterness will cripple you if you carry it around. It will choke the life right out of you.

3. ARROGANCE (Proverbs 16:18)

This is pride that won’t admit when it’s wrong—that holds onto a grudge. I know people who would rather get a divorce, lose a job or a friendship than humble themselves. Proverbs 16 says that, “Pride comes before a fall.” Arrogance literally tumbles you.

4. SHAME (Genesis 4:1-6)

Shame is different than guilt. Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” Shame says, “I’m wrong AND defective—unredeemable.”  Shame is destructive. It shuts us down. It’s crippling effect holds healing at bay. Shame is like camouflage to the real cancer in our lives, and it injects a powerful toxin into our relationships.

5. FEAR (I Timothy 1:7)

This is the worst of the toxins. Fear rushes over us like a black wave. Fear blows into our lives as a bitter wind. We do strange things when we are gripped by fear. And it is fear that is the enemy of faith.

Why do wives withhold affection from their husband? They’re afraid of being hurt.

Why do employees do less than their best? They’re afraid of being taken advantage of.

Why do dads disengage from their families? They’re afraid to look stupid or that life will be less fulfilling by investing at home.

Why do we avoid God and run from His love? We fear that God’s plan will not be as life-giving as the one we might come up with on our own. But like each of the previous toxins, this fear trips us up from really catching our stride in life. It tumbles our relationships.

What we need is a supernatural installment of peace in the midst of our distress. The truth is that God’s love is impervious to panic; His love always casts out fear. We need only recognize that:

…God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?

Hebrews 13:6 (MSG)


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The “I Do” Promises

Marriage can turn into a score-keeping battle of wins and losses. Like it or not, conflict happens in every relationship. It’s coming your way.


And while it’s true that there’s no controlling whether conflict happens, you can control what you will do when it shows up. The Bible gives us some powerful principles that can heal a broken marriage. It gives us a roadmap that will keep a strong marriage strong, and make it stronger. They are a call to commitment—to promises. I refer to them as the “I Do” Promises. Try them on for size and see if they just might rehabilitate the most precious relationship in your life.


In conflict, there are war-tactics and there are peace-making tactics. Which you choose will determine whether you win or lose in the end. You can insist on winning the battle, but you’re going to lose the war. Here’s the delusion: we think by winning the little conflict, we’ll prevent ourselves from losing the herculean struggle. Often, we win the little hill and lose the mountain range.

Insist on coming out on top of daily arguments and you’ll forfeit the life-long objective of love. We have to make the promise to our spouse—to ourselves—that we will build and not break in our marriage.


There’s a gap in every relationship. It’s the gap between what you expected was going to happen, and what actually happens: reality.

Some of you like it when your spouse screws up because you see your chance to be right. You love to believe the worst, just so you can win. But couples who stay in love for the long haul have made it a habit to assume the best about each other. They are generous in their assumptions.

…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.

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

This isn’t about deluding yourself that you married the perfect person. Of course you didn’t. But hey! They married an imperfect person too: YOU! You don’t have to pretend there’s nothing ever wrong in your relationship. Just choose to focus on the good instead.


Communicate. Don’t evacuate. Focus on restoring the relationship. Don’t just walk off or run away.

If you get so angry that you shut down, stop talking and take off, you need to know you’re in dangerous territory. When you harbor resentment and refuse to reconcile, you are giving bitterness permission to wire your relationship with explosives and handing it the detonator. Promise to talk and not walk.


Establish a “NO-BULLY-ZONE” in your marriage. We have them in schools. Why not put one in your house?

When you have conflict with your spouse, make sure neither of you ever leave the discussion feeling as though you’ve lost. Admit your own desire to be right and commit to never bullying your spouse into submission. Taking conflict to that level will destroy your relationship.

Love isn’t about pulling someone up to be where you are. It’s about climbing down off your high horse, descending beneath your loved one and lifting them above you. Love is about believing, not belittling. It’s about giving not taking.

Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!

I Corinthians 13:4-8 (CEV)

You have a choice today: You can fight to win… and lose. Or you can choose to fight right… and win. Pour grace on your spouse. Extend forgiveness. Give of yourself. The “I Do” Promises will rehabilitate what is broken. They will reconcile your relationship. They have the power to rebuild your love.


Subscribe to and receive the brand new e-book from Marcus and Jen Jones, “The Five-Minute Marriage Mentor: the Pocket-Guide to Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage,” ABSOLUTELY FREE.

Five Decisions To Rehab Your Relationship

A lot of people I know are miserable in their marriage. Love didn’t turn out they way they’d hoped. Ever been there?


There is a marriage fantasy that many of us buy into at one point or another: we actually think we’re a living, breathing Disney movie. Every guy thinks he’s a prince. Every woman thinks she’s a princess. In the theatrical release of our relationship, there’s usually an evil stepmother in the mix. But we hold on to hope that if the dragon can be slain, and the love song plays at just the right moment, the prince and the princess will fall madly in love and everyone will live happily ever after.

But real life doesn’t work that way (unless you really DO have an evil stepmother or a pet dragon). Our marriage can become deeply broken. The dream can be shattered into a million pieces. And we’re left regretting having spent money on the Disney ticket. Our marriage needs rehabilitating in a real-world way.

Jesus said:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

Five decisions can radically rehabilitate your relationship:


Somewhere between 40-50% of marriages end in divorce, and many more that stay together are just miserable. I’ve had plenty of couples tell me in desperation that they just want out—they want a new marriage. Maybe you’ve said those very words.

I’m going to tell you something pretty scandalous today: You DO need a new marriage! (You just don’t need a new spouse in order to get one.) A new marriage is possible without having to get a new husband or wife. It starts with seeking out something new: a new outlook, a new commitment, a new perspective on the differences that have built such a wall between you.


Some of us we simply need to rediscover the value of our spouse. Remember when you were dating? Remember when he was funny, not annoying? When she was persistent, not a nag? When he was smart, not a know it all? Go back to where you started and start expressing encouragement in those things. Because let’s face it, if you are not encouraging your spouse, you’re probably discouraging them.


I hate being wrong; I hate to lose. Ask anybody. But I’ve learned the hard way that when I insist on my own victory and make it all about MY win, I actually end up losing. But when I choose to lose – when I help my spouse win, or my kids win—I end up winning right along with them.

Think of your marriage as a team sport—not an individual one. My team is my wife and four kids. I have to ask myself, “What do they need to win?” One of the most spectacular plays in all of sports is baseball’s sacrifice bunt. Sometimes the winning choice is to choose to lose.


When you take from someone, it drives them away from you. When you give to them—selflessly—it draws them toward you. That’s just how it is.

I don’t think we look at our wedding rings often enough. Those little bands have a tendency to become an overlooked part of our hand. But we should pay more attention I think. Wedding rings are a reminder that this marriage thing is not about you. It’s about loving them. So give selflessly.


What is the worst sin a marriage can suffer? It’s not what you think. It’s unforgiveness. When you hold on to your hurt, you perpetuate the pain.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Colossians 3:13 (NLT)

Beginning again isn’t easy. I’m not pretending that it is. But believe me, unforgiveness is a toxin that will end your marriage even if you never file the papers. Set your self free. Forgive.

You can’t fix the problems if you’re trying to fix the blame. Make the commitment now. Make the five decisions that will begin rehabilitating your relationship.


Subscribe to and receive the brand new e-book from Marcus and Jen Jones, “The Five-Minute Marriage Mentor: the Pocket-Guide to Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage,” ABSOLUTELY FREE.