4 Ways to Make Your Marriage Work

Nurturing marriage can be compared to the upkeep of a home. For example, mold on the bathroom floor left untreated will eventually consume the entire house. I know a family who lost all their possessions and risked their health due to mold in their rented home. They had to move.

Of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse we’ve already covered –

  • criticism
  • defensiveness
  • stonewalling

This next one is the most toxic of all.

Dr. John Gottman names this horseman, contempt. Contempt attacks the good will of the other. It’s a continual attitude of opposition. It holds onto resentment as if it’s driftwood in an ocean storm. It’s buying into the illusion that your partner is your enemy. It’s experiencing your marriage as a battlefield.

Grudge-holding takes on a life of it’s own. Like a horse with blinders the narrow view of negativity blocks the positive qualities of the spouse.

Contempt is not only the biggest destroyer of marriage, it destroys one’s own soul.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. . .

Here’s what contempt looks like:

  • Cynical comments
  • Cruel jokes about spouse
  • Sarcasm
  • Name-calling
  • Eye rolling
  • Sneering

Angel of Acceptance is Forgiveness.

The second half of John 10:10 gives clarity to Christ’s purpose to give us a full and abundant life. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

There’s nothing in our humanity that makes us more like Christ than when we forgive our spouse.


A clean heart and continual attitude of forgiveness is the pathway to a full life and to connection in marriage. It’s recognizing our own need for God’s grace so we can give it away to our spouse.

Forgiveness is the only antidote to contempt. A marriage cannot survive without forgiveness.


Here’s what mental thoughts of forgiveness might be: 

  • I’m willing to see you as a person of dignity and worth.
  • I’m willing to examine my own heart when we have conflict.
  • I consider you a gift from God.
  • I cannot grow my character without you by my side.
  • I’m in need of God’s forgiveness and am willing to receive it and give it freely.

What are the four ways to make your marriage work?

  1. Replace criticism with vulnerability and empathy
  2. Replace defensiveness with openness
  3. Replace stonewalling with listening
  4. Replace contempt with forgiveness

There are many products on the market to remove mold from your bathroom. Acknowledge resources to remove the contempt from your marriage. 

Questions to Ponder

In what ways have you experienced forgiveness from your spouse?

How have you granted forgiveness?

How does contempt show up in your relationship?