The Destroyer of Marriage (and every other relationship)

Ego. It’s only three letters, but it’s powerfully destructive. Part of it’s power lies in it’s ability to be somewhat invisible.

We had an aspen tree in our backyard that was tall and beautiful. It happened to be the only mature tree in our backyard at the time. It was also the only source of shade on a hot day. It was the only tree my kids could climb. It was the only tree we had that turned yellow in the fall. Above the surface it looked like a strong healthy tree.

Looking out the kitchen window at the tree, my husband asked, “Has that tree always leaned that far?” It had always leaned a little towards the west due to the strong winds that come in from the canyon from time to time. But had it always leaned that much? It was only after digging up a photo from 5 years earlier that it became obvious that the tree was leaning significantly more. It had happened so gradually it was difficult to detect a difference. 

And then one day, a very light wind came through and the tree just tipped over. It’s not uncommon for trees to get blown over in our neighborhood from the winds, but this wind was hardly strong enough to keep a kite in flight. Confused we walked outside and that is when we noticed for the first time that the decaying trunk. Something had been stealthily eating away at the trunk for some time, but the tree looked fine, it was just leaning more than usual, so we never suspected it.

Many relationships look fine from the surface, but what’s happening below the surface matters. What makes a marriage work? Not “work” as in the ability to endure each other for 50 years. What is it that makes a good marriage between two imperfect fallible humans?

A marriage works when both individuals are more invested in their marriage than in their ego. A good marriage is created when both individuals in the marriage are willing to sacrifice their egos so that they can confront their own shortcoming and mistakes. It won’t work if only one person is confronting their ego and the other isn’t. And it won’t work if one person is willing to confront their ego only if and when the other person confronts. And it won’t work if one person confronts their own issues and also confront the issues of their spouse for them. Good, strong, happy marriages are built when two people are able to tolerate the discomfort of honestly seeing their own short comings and mistakes and taking responsibility for them. If not, it may look good from the surface, but below the ego is at work slowly (sometimes quickly) eroding away the roots.

December 16, 2019

Time writing this article: 1 hour

Total time writing on this blog: 168 hours