I recently battled with one of the deadliest marriage killers out there.
This killer takes down more marriages than adultery and financial stress combined. I’m not talking about busyness; although it’s on the list, but not the most lethal. Sexual dysfunction or porn addiction definitely increase their percentages yearly but are still not numero uno. This killer is stealthier and often overlooked, and thus the most dangerous of them all.
What is it? Bitterness. The carbon monoxide of marriage death has always been bitterness. It seeps into hearts and gradually asphyxiates the mind and then the marriage. Without knowing it, one or both spouses die inside and walk away. Typically, they walk away for a secondary reason, but the root cause is usually bitterness. Here’s how it happened to me.
At first, I didn’t know bitterness was doing its work on me because I’ve always assumed this was not one of my sin issues. I was self-deceived and wrong. One day, my wife gave me feedback over an area I was getting slack in, and instead of embracing her feedback to make me better, I left the door open for bitterness. And, it took root. Eventually, my marriage started to go backward day after day.
This is how bitterness chokes love from a marriage:
1. Bitterness distorts perception.
As bitterness spread, my heart’s emotional environment tonixified until I viewed my wife’s existence through a cracked lens, which caused me to see her negatively most of the time. Even her kind actions I perceived through ill will, so she couldn’t seem to win at anything in my eyes.
2. Bitterness spreads quickly.
Not surprisingly, my negative view of my wife compounded, so nearly everything she said and did annoyed and frustrated me. Each interaction confirmed my false conclusion about her: she was harmful to my heart. Such a big lie, of course, but bitterness seduces. Our conversations were then layered with my passive aggression and argumentative comebacks. Bitterness could not be contained.
3. Bitterness prefers concealment.
Bitterness doesn’t want you to know it’s hosting inside you. Throughout this season, I tried to figure out my problem. Why was I pulling away from my wife and growing indifferent? But, my prayers hit the ceiling and my mind got cloudier. Now, I see that bitterness is like any parasite as it avoids detection. For me, I blamed my actions on the typical benign excuses—stress and busyness—while bitterness kept eating my insides.
4. Bitterness is contagious.
What’s worse? My kids started mirroring my behavior towards each other. They abnormally feuded and argued over just about everything. When they came to me for wisdom or mediation, I just picked a side and made it worse. It was viral. Our house became one big furrowed brow, because of my unchecked bitterness.
Marriages die slowly from undetected and unconfessed bitterness. Fortunately, my wife and I had a breakthrough. One night, in desperation, I approached her with my emotional confusion and she wept. She asked me what was causing my feeling towards her and what we should do. My only answer was, “Let’s just pray and ask God.” We prayed.
She placed her hands on my head and heart to cry out to God. Instantly, the Holy Spirit revealed my sin—bitterness. I begged her forgiveness and grieved uncontrollably. Like our Heavenly Father, her grace was vigorous. Everything was new.
Bitterness is cured only by exposure and repentance. This killer hates the light, so bring it the surface and own it. And then decide to turn from it in true sorrow. Bitterness will flee in defeat.