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!

3 Envy Protecting Questions

envy in marriage

Love…does not envy. Have you ever thought about what it means to not envy? Envy is one of the most subtle and destructive attitudes that can undermine your marriage.

Envy is “resenting what someone else has and wanting it for yourself.” It can take root in our heart and mind in a variety of subtle ways.

For example, envy can take hold when we see our spouse getting more or nicer gifts than us at holidays. When our spouse has more intimate family relationships than our family of origin and we resent those relationships because our family was never close . We can envy that they get to go out on business meals or trips while we stay home. We can envy our spouse’s spiritual gifts. We can envy the number of friends they have compared to us. Envy can slide in when our spouse has a closer relationship with one of our children and we resent that intimacy

Once envy takes hold in your heart, the Bible says it yields “disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16) Here are three questions to ask to discern if envy has taken hold in your heart.

1. Do I complain or affirm when my spouse is blessed?

Being happy for your spouse is an attitude to be cultivated. When they get to go out for a nice dinner while you are home with the kids…again…do you complain at them about how you wish you could do that sometime? Does resentment well up in you because you aren’t afforded those opportunities?

Or do you still affirm your spouse and express how glad you are that they were blessed like that? You may not feel like affirming them, but actions trump feelings and often the feelings will follow. Choose to reject complaining and instead affirm your spouse’s blessings.

2. Am I content or am I comparing?

Comparing what we have or don’t have with someone else sets the environment for envy to settle in our heart. We can compare:

  • How our friend’s spouse helps at home vs. our spouse’s helpfulness
  • Frequency of our sex with that of others we know or know about
  • Gift and flower giving in others’ marriages compared to ours
  • The financial freedom other couples have compared to our day-by-day survival

Contentment is a choice. It’s a choice to affirm others’ blessings. It’s a choice to say, “God is good—all the time.” Contentment doesn’t rule out talking about some of these issues with our spouse (i.e. sexual frequency, gift giving, etc.) where it may be constructive. But ultimately contentment is about trusting God and his provision. Comparison can breed resentment and envy.

3. Am I thankful or ungrateful?

Ungratefulness is fertile soil in our hearts for envy to take root and grow. Thankfulness is a powerful tool for weeding envy from our hearts. Here are a few places you can start right now. Be specific as you think, write, or pray through each of these:

  • Be thankful for who God has made you to be
  • Be thankful for what you have
  • Be thankful for the spouse God has given you
  • Be thankful for your spouse’s abilities, personality, positive traits
  • Be thankful for opportunities God has placed before you

Find 5-10 tangible things about which you can be thankful each day. Thankfulness is cultivated.

How else have you seen envy slip into marriages? What ideas do you have for combating envy? Make the necessary steps today to get rid of envy as you build your marriage!

Five Keys to Kindness

Photo by Krystal Healy Photography

Photo by Krystal Healy Photography

Love is…kind. We’ve all seen it: when one spouse takes a verbal swipe at their partner with others around. Or when it’s obvious that a person is more about being served than serving in their marriage. The lack of kindness in a marriage can quickly dissolve the ties that bind.

For some, the unkindness shown in marriage cannot be undone. Many an unkind spouse has been served divorce papers and had to live alone because they chose not to right the wrongs of their behavior. Others have stood beside the casket or by the grave of the one who bore the brunt of their unkindness. Either outcome is filled with regret.

Og Mandino wrote, “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” We agree, and believe that should be lived out first and foremost in our marriages.

In the “love” chapter of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13), the Apostle Paul writes that “love is kind.” Here are five keys to keep in mind as you seek to bring kindness each day to your spouse as though it may be your last.

1. Kindness Is A Choice

It’s easy to be kind when we feel like it. When we’ve had a good day, our endorphins are pumping, the sun is shining and life is good we can easily feel and act kind to our spouse. But if the boss has growled, we feel sluggish, the kids have whined, and it’s poured rain we feel bad for ourselves and therefore we don’t feel or act kind.

But kindness isn’t based on how we feel. It is an act of love toward our spouse. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross, but acted out of love for us. Make the decision to build your marriage by choosing to be kind regardless of how you feel.

2. Kindness Is Proactive

Kindness is not contingent on how our spouse has treated us. That would be conditional love. Instead, kindness is something that you initiate on behalf of your spouse.

Ask yourself: what would my husband/wife enjoy? What would they appreciate? Whatever it is, simply do it to practice kindness.

What is their love language? (touch, words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, acts of service) How can you “speak” their love language? For us, one of us desires quality time which entails eye-to-eye conversations. Kindness is shown by providing that as much and as often as possible. The other enjoys physical touch so a mindful squeeze of the hand, hug or spontaneous kiss is an act of love. You get the idea.

3. Kindness Is Still Honest

We have seen spouses that have refused to be honest in their marriage in the name of being “kind.” It is OK to speak the truth in marriage and do so with kindness and love. Part of practicing truth with kindness is choosing the best timing for your spouse to hear what you have to say. It also includes framing the conversation so that the focus is on the issue, and not name-calling or demeaning your partner.

4. Kindness May Require Sacrifice

Sacrifice means doing things that you personally don’t enjoy. If your spouse loves having their feet rubbed and you dislike touching feet, proactively offering a foot rub can be a loving act of kindness. You may want to ignore this point because you know what it means for you! But step up and serve your spouse the way Jesus served you.

5. Kindness Doesn’t Keep Score

Lastly, telling your spouse all the kind things you’ve done for them erases all of the kind things you’ve done for them. Just as love keeps no record of wrongs, it also keeps no record of rights. Lovingly show kindness without expecting commendation or recognition. Your kindness should be a regular and normal part of your marriage.

What have you or your spouse done to show kindness in marriage? Share them below and lets help each other as you build your marriage!