Arrogance almost destroyed my marriage.
We’d been married three years. Things started to go wrong on our honeymoon. I blamed my wife, and continued to blame her for almost everything that went wrong after that.
It didn’t take long for the passion that drew us together to cool off. We could be in the same room, but our hearts were miles apart, separated by a wall of ice that grew thicker every day.
For me, spending time together felt like an obligation. When I got home from a day at work, she wanted to talk or go walk together. I preferred to turn on the TV and tune her out.
We argued. We said things that hurt. I’d lose my temper and throw things. Sometimes I’d hit her.
I Discovered a Big Problem
We both knew that if this continued we’d end up divorced.
She asked me to go to counseling with her.
I’d been trained as a counselor. In my “professional” opinion, she needed help, and I didn’t. But she made it clear that our marriage wouldn’t last if I didn’t cooperate.
I don’t like ultimatums. But I didn’t want the failure of our marriage to be blamed on me. I agreed to go along.
We found a counselor we could be comfortable with. We spent time with him individually and as a couple. As we opened up about our marriage and how we felt about each other, I discovered I had a problem with arrogance. It wasn’t the only problem, but it was a big one.
I’d figured by my own calculations that I knew better than my wife on several subjects. In sum, I thought I was superior to her. Being “smart” gives a man advantages in a lot of situations, but when it’s accompanied by an arrogant attitude, it doesn’t score us any points in marriage.
I needed a new attitude. I needed humility.
Don’t Make This Mistake
Don’t mistake humility with seeing yourself as a loser. Humility is seeing yourself as you are.
Men can over-estimate their prowess. We can puff ourselves up like a rooster (perhaps you’ve been called cocky). Our talents can demand attention that wins promotions, awards, and applause. But when we mistake our appearance, our popularity, our knowledge, or our skill for the sum of who we are, we can become arrogant.
Character is what matters. Our character is revealed by the pattern of our actions, especially toward the people who are closest to us.
Humility is a valuable, but rare, character trait. Most men aren’t born with it. Researchers have discovered that humility’s greatest value may be its ability to help us form strong social bonds in romantic relationships. We need to develop humility if we want thriving, lasting love in a marriage.
Humility produces a generous love that doesn’t insist on having its own way. Putting arrogance and ego aside, love that includes the virtue of humility can kindle a smoldering marriage, thaw the icy heart of a spouse whose love has grown cold, and re-ignite smoldering flames of passion.
The Antidote to Arrogance
Humility is the antidote to arrogance.
When I realized that my arrogant attitude had injected poison into my marriage, I decided to try practicing humility. Humility and arrogance can’t fill the same space. I put my ego in check. I developed a more realistic view of myself and my place in the world.
Practicing humility was like strengthening a muscle. I had to exercise it. For my “workout” I worked on seven habits of humility. I used these with my wife:
- Admitting when I am wrong
Accepting correction and feedback with gratitude
Abandoning criticism of her and others
Forgiving when I am wronged
Apologizing when I’ve wronged her and others
Complimenting her in front of other people
Serving her generously
I was purposeful in practicing these around my wife. I’ve continued practicing these for over twenty years. These habits have made my humility muscle stronger, but even now I have moments of relapse into arrogance. The point is to keep working at it, because it works.
Re-kindling the Passion
The more I practiced these habits, there was less coldness between us. Our relationship warmed up. The fire that fueled our passion for each other was re-kindled. Practicing habits of humility together with other good habits is keeping my marriage hot.
If you see signs that your marriage is growing cold, take a look at yourself. What part is arrogance playing in cooling the flames of passion in your marriage? Which of these habits of humility do you need to practice more often?
This post appeared first on The Good Men Project.