Arsenic poisoning can be gradual, with initial symptoms including headaches, confusion, and drowsiness. But if the poison continues to be ingested at dangerous levels, cramping, convulsions and the shutting down of vital organs can take place. Eventually, the victim(s) experience coma and finally die.
It sounds traumatic because it IS traumatic. And yet if one was to conduct a post-mortem on broken marriages, they would discover that many couples had been sipping a concoction of one or more poisons which eventually led to a marital coma and death.
Read through these three “poisons” to a marriage. As you read through this list, ask God to reveal to you any poisons you have been ingesting which have no place in the body of your marriage.
There’s a subtle line between a complaint and criticism. John Gottman has done some excellent research on this and you can read about it here. A complaint focuses on an issue. A criticism adds negative words about your spouse’s personality or character. Criticism assigns blame. “What’s the matter with you?” “You’re so selfish!” “You’re just like your mother/father.”
In marriage there will always be issues to complain about. It may be a negative and hard conversation, but as long as the focus stays on the issue and how it makes you feel, you will both be productive in working toward understanding and resolution. But when the complaint turns personal (“You’re just like your mother/father!”) the poison of criticism has been injected into your marriage.
The average person thinks 70,000 thoughts a day. In the midst of all those thoughts can fly toxic thoughts about our spouse that can seed our minds with poison. If left untreated, that poison seeps into our attitudes, actions, words and tone of voice bringing pain and destruction. We question our spouse’s motives for their behavior or decisions. We diminish their God-given beauty and value. We allow thoughts of other people/romance to invade space in our minds that should only be occupied by our spouse. You know what we mean….
The Bible says to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) The only one who can control what you think is you. When toxic thoughts shoot into your mind like poison darts, deflect them, reject them, and replace them with truth. “I will assume the best motives and intentions of my spouse.” “I choose to see and treasure my spouse from God’s perspective of their worth.” “I reject any and all romantic or sexual thoughts of other people. I choose to allow my affections to only go to my spouse.”
Marriage is intimate and we are vulnerable in our marriage because our spouse knows us well and we know them. It is inevitable that there will be offense done to you (and by you!) both intentionally and unintentionally in your years together. Some of it may be little, weekly offenses that over time can toxify a marriage if left unforgiven. Some marriages suffer the pain of betrayal that immediately threatens the very survival of the relationship.
Unforgiveness in marriage will not only poison the relationship, but it is as though the one who refuses to forgive takes the poison! Unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the offender, it eats away at the offended and creates behavior and thoughts which they find abhorrent in themselves.
The only way to peace and healing is to choose to forgive. You may not feel forgiving, but you are choosing not to hold the offense against your spouse any longer. You are letting go and leaving it with God. The greatest example set for us in this was Jesus. The Bible says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) Let that grace of forgiveness permeate your choices and marriage to protect against the toxins of unforgiveness.
The antidote to arsenic in your marriage is up to you. Choose kindness over criticism, tenderness over toxic thoughts, and forgiveness over offense…and you will build your marriage!