Long ago, before we figured out that whatever is making our marriage sick cannot be cured by marriage counseling, our marriage counselor asked the following question: “What do you imagine the perfect marriage would be like?”
Needless to say, we were stumped. While marriage is something the vast majority of the population will experience, few people claim to have achieved perfection at it. My friends and I are not among that few. We had no idea what a perfect marriage looked like, let alone how to achieve one for ourselves.
Later, like the proverbial bolt from the blue, it struck me. The specifications for a perfect marriage would have to be reverse-engineered from a truly lousy one.
All that remained was to figure out how to have the most miserably dysfunctional marriage possible in order to discover what a perfect marriage would be like. After considerable thought on the matter, here are ten steps to take in order to have a terrible, dysfunctional marriage:
1. Get angry all the time with each other. Whether it is appropriate or not, just get mad and vent your anger on the other person. Overreact to small provocations. Take out your frustrations with things outside the home on your immediate family. Try to ‘win’ every fight/discussion. Be sarcastic--and verbally abusive, too. Use anger to get out of tasks/situations you’d rather not be in. Make venom and bile part of your family’s daily menu. Provoke your spouse to get them angry—pass it around! Damn the emotional damage it causes, full speed ahead with your wrath! And always, Always, ALWAYS hold a grudge.
2. Take your partner for granted. Hold the belief that they’ll just always be there. Make sure that it seems like you don’t care enough to appreciate their efforts. Don’t bother asking them to do you favors or help you out—tell them to do it with an attitude that says, “Be damned if you don’t.” Certainly, try to place no emphasis upon what your spouse believes to be important. Make no effort to seek their input before making plans or spending large amounts of money. Criticize their efforts harshly if they do not meet your expectations—regardless of the circumstances or extenuating factors—because the only thing that matters is results, to hell with intentions. Most important of all: if you make an error, never EVER admit to it, let alone apologize, because to apologize is to lessen yourself and to elevate your spouse higher than they deserve.
3. Try to spend as little time as possible with your spouse. Try to ensure that through your words and behavior your spouse understands that you’d rather not have them around or that you’re annoyed/embarrassed by their presence. Avoid them and always make sure they know it’s their fault that they are being avoided.
4. De-emphasize communication. Proper communication makes appropriately vituperative fighting far more difficult and makes it less likely you will remember to take your spouse for granted. Communicating also counts as spending time with your spouse and should be avoided for that reason alone.
5. Never compromise. In a genuinely dysfunctional relationship one spouse is always right and the other is forever wrong. Compromising means that you are unsure as to which spouse you are. Don’t make that mistake.
As you can see, just mastering the first five of our ten steps to dysfunction would make your marriage an almost perfectly miserable place to be. Come back later this week for Part II and see how deception, abuse, adultery, public humiliation, and children can help you make things even worse.