Bragging Rights in Marriage?

Young couple arguing

Bragging about one’s self can bring about feelings of pleasure similar to the pleasure enjoyed from chocolate, money and even sex. That’s what researchers at Harvard University have discovered. You can read more about their study here. Whether it is online bragging or in the context of marriage, boasting about one’s self can be so enjoyable for the boaster that they fail to see the unintended consequences to their relationships.

It’s important to do a heart and conversation check of ourselves to be sure that we haven’t fallen prey to the pleasures of bragging. In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul provides several descriptions of love and one is that it “does not…boast.” This is the only place in the entire New Testament where the word is used and it simply means to talk conceitedly.

C.S. Lewis called bragging the “utmost evil” because the root of it is pride. Once pride settles in, it opens the door of our character to any number of vulnerabilities and sins.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you evaluate your heart and speech:

1. Bragging is About Me, Not Us

At the heart of bragging is the intent to turn the attention on ourselves. “Look at me.” “Be impressed by me.” And often it is fueled by our own insecurities, even in marriage. We don’t want our shortfalls to be the focus of attention, so instead we parade our accomplishments.

Bragging can also be our desire to “power up” on our spouse. If we can sufficiently elevate ourselves, then we have sufficiently demoted our spouse.

What do we brag about? Some things include: how busy we are; pressure we carry; successes at work; exercise accomplishments; how often we have been “right” in an argument; even spiritual accomplishments like Bible reading or Bible knowledge.

2. Bragging Divides

Have you ever been attracted to a braggart? If so, it wasn’t for long. Though braggers want connection, the unintended response is separation. And in marriage, there is nothing unifying when one spouse is touting their accomplishments.

The boasting may not even be a comparison with one’s spouse. But the ongoing practice of self-elevation isn’t attractive and it isn’t loving.

People who brag are insecure when challenged. They can’t let themselves be wrong. As a result, healthy and constructive criticism is nearly non-existent, and isolation is the result.

3. Confidence is Different Than Bragging

It can seem like a subtle difference—to talk about how busy one has been, or accomplishments at work, home, or elsewhere. But describing what has happened for the sake of connecting is different from promotion of one’s self.

When one is confident in their abilities they appropriately give acknowledgement to God’s involvement. They aren’t afraid to be challenged because they know that they may be wrong. And a confident person seeks to elevate the people around them, because love promotes others and not self.

So as you look at your marriage and the conversations you have with your spouse, are you focused on self-promotion or spouse-promotion? Work on being unified by elevating your spouse as you build your marriage!

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