Marriage Mistake #8 – Letting My Spouse’s Bad Behavior Control Mine

If we allow the bad behavior of someone else to change ours, then we’ve lost control—not gained it.

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The Mistaken Game

My husband and I have had a game that we carried from our childhood into our marriage. No, we don’t play “Ken and Barbie” into all hours of the night, nor do we hold “who can belch the loudest?” contests either!

You see, it’s the age-old game of “Tit for Tat.” I’m sure you remember it. If it’s hazy, just watch your kids for a minute or two and I’m sure they’ll provide a much-needed trip down memory lane!

One of your kids slaps, pinches, or simply touches your other child, and the victim feels compelled, even duty-bound, to hit the other back.

Allow me to try to illustrate what this has looked like for me and my husband on many an unfortunate occasion.  Let’s say I had a really bad day. If something could go wrong, it did. My kids might’ve been extra needy, messy, rebellious, or all of the above! Even worse, I might’ve worked extra long and hard with clients who were extra needy, messy, rebellious, or all of the above!

Then, let’s say that as evening rolled around, Gary and I would finally take our golden opportunity to relax. But instead of pleasantly chatting, let’s say he criticized me for how little I picked up around the house that day.

It’s the proverbial slap across the face to a battle-worn veteran.

So I think, I can’t believe this guy’s nerve!
Then I decide to “Tat” him back by saying, “Well, if you’d help out a little around here, maybe it wouldn’t be so cluttered!”

This gives me an instant rush of justification and an intoxicating high that comes from venting my stress and frustration. But, of course, Gary is now the offended one.

So, can you guess what comes next? (Probably! But let me fill you in any way).

In my effort to set my husband straight (which was my child-like or immature wish at the time), our game of Tit for Tat ends up igniting a long and heated argument. Just what we wanted at the end of a long, hard day!

The Effort to Change . . .
Even though my husband and I both have known better than to play this game, very often (especially when overwhelmed or tired) we pull it out and play a round or two. It’s a foolish game that makes losers of both players.

So why do we get sucked in? I think it’s because of our mistaken sense that we can control someone else. But the reality is, if we allow the bad behavior of someone else to change ours, then we’ve lost control—not gained it.

We’ve become dependent upon what the other person does, which is ugly and childish “codependency” pure and simple.

I’m not going to say that Gary and I have this one down yet because we don’t. But we have conquered the first stepbeing aware of the lie we’re tempted to buy into. This also means we more quickly remind ourselves of the truth. After reading this, I hope you do too!


“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)


This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Messy Marriage

Featured Image by Denise Husted from Pixabay


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