Would You Take Relationship Advice from an Ancient Sage?

The ancient book of Proverbial wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures includes a surprising number of positive results when couples are securely attached. These include “blessed,” “consistent,” “content,” and 27 others. In this whimsical yet visually engaging poster, marriage therapist and cartoonist Erik Johnson provides an appealing info-graphic hoping to help couples know what to aim for in their relationship.

Here is a link to see the entire poster….

30 Proverbs on Love and Marriage Poster.


The Deadly Need To Control (8 of 8)

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This deadly need is perhaps the deadliest. Control freaks are never satisfied; they want to control either more and more of a person’s life (regulating others’ diet, job, leisure time, thought life, dreams, spending, etc.) or they want to control more and more people. Sadly, there are many people who put up with control because for them a bad relationship is better than no relationship.

Acquiescing to a controller hoping they’ll back down is like throwing meat to a lion hoping they’ll become a vegetarian.

Here’s what the deadly need to control sounds like.

  • “You should have done ___.”
  • “You should not have done ____.”
  • “My way or the highway.”
  • “I’m smart, you’re dumb.”
  • “I’m telling you what to do for your own good.”
  • “I’m just trying to help.”
  • “If you really loved me you’d do what I say.”
  • “The more I try to control you the more influence I have over you.”

Behind the need to control is fear that your needs will not be met.

The antidote? Live and let live. Let go of the outcome. Remember you’re not God. Exercise self control not spouse control.

The Deadly Need To Keep Score (7 of 8)

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Keeping score used to be called “gunny sacking,” stuffing collected hurts into a gunny sack. Since gunny sacks aren’t common items these days the notion goes by a new term, “victimhood.” By nursing grudges, rehearsing others’ maltreatment of us, and by keeping score we feel entitled, justified at lashing out, and empowered to be in a perpetual snit.

It sounds like this:

  • “I’m still mad about what you said to me in 1995.”
  • “For every hurt I feel from you I will hurt you back and keep the scales of justice in balance.”
  • “I am the victim here!”
  • “I offended you? Dream on, doofus. You are the perp, not me!”
  • “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me in to.”
  • “I feel bad and it’s your fault.”
  • “Forgive? Not on your life.”
  • “When you win more than me I go nuts.”
  • “I’m not hurting you; I’m just keeping things fair.”

Perhaps behind this deadly need is hate. If somebody somewhere in your past deeply wounded you rather than forgive them you may be hyper-touchy, easily slighted, and super sensitive to any and every real or imagined offense.

The antidote to keeping score? Quit taking the pulse of the universe. Let it go. Forgive. Move on. Get a new hobby. Release your offender from your prison of expectations.

NEXT: The Deadly Need To Control

The Deadly Need To Judge (6 of 8)

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Behind the deadly need to judge is grandiosity–feeling superior to others–or shame–feeling inferior to others. The bigger the mouth the bigger the insecurity.

It sounds like this:

  • “By putting you down I feel bigger, taller, better.”
  • “I have standards by which I measure others; and you don’t measure up!”
  • “They are bad, deficient, stupid, fat, ugly, they smell, and are a bane on humanity.”
  • “I’m not racist; I just don’t want them in my neighborhood.”

To quit judging others try this:

1. walk a mile in their shoes
2. consider how you’d be if you had their parents, upbringing, family, health, biology, and history
3. ask yourself if the person you judge is a stand-in for someone from your past that you hate
4. consider forgiving that person from your past
5. accept others the way you hope to be accepted

NEXT: The Deadly Need To Keep Score

The Deadly Need To Look Good (5 of 8)

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This deadly need isn’t only about hair color or flashy clothes. It’s about being fake, hiding behind a mask, putting on airs. It looks like this:

  • Saying, “I’m fine” even though your world is falling apart.
  • It’s being hyper touchy if someone dares to criticize you.
  • It’s flying into a rage when you make a mistake.
  • It’s putting yourself on a starvation diet for appearances.
  • It’s exercising obsessively to the neglect of other responsibilities.
  • It’s basing your reputation on what you own, where you vacation, the size of your house, car, portfolio.
  • Saying, “If the cosmetic industry says it, it must be true: I am how I look.
  • My worst fear is aging.
  • I’ll trade in my old spouse for a new, trophy spouse.”
  • Image management takes up most of my day.

Behind this need is low self esteem. Rather than being secure in who you are you think, “If I look good to others then I must be good.” Rather than being confident in who you are you rely on others’ approval to boost your self worth.

To let go of this deadly need, get real with someone you trust and tell them about you, your inner world, your struggles and hopes and fears. Risk looking bad: wear mismatched socks, leave the house with a stain on your shirt, let one hair be out of place. The world will not cease to function if you get real, if you don’t look perfect, if you join the rest of flawed humanity.

NEXT: The Deadly Need To Judge

The Deadly Need To Get Even (4 of 8)

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Revenge. Vengeance. Pay back. These are popular responses when others hurt us. The deadly need to get even sounds like this: 

  • “You did it first.”
  • “You deserve this punishment.” 
  • “I’ll show you how it feels!”
  • “An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.”
  • “It’s judgment day and I’m the judge!”
  • “It’s nothing personal, just business,” says the Mafia hit man to his mark.
  • “That guy cut me off; I’ll flip ’em the bird.”
  • “You cheated on me? I’ll key your car.”
  • “You cheated on me? I’ll put sugar in your motorcycle gas tank.”
  • “You cheated on me? I’ll cheat on you.”
Behind this deadly need is zeal for justice. Or anger. Or both.

To let go of this deadly need:

  • adopt the golden rule, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” How do you want others to respond when you goof up, make a mistake, say something you regret?
  • (for the spiritually minded) turn your offender over to God who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” 
  • Consider the following: If you meet one jerk it’s bad luck. If you meet two jerks it’s cause to wonder. If you meet three jerks look in the mirror and ask, “Why am I a jerk magnet?”
  • Let others’ irritations, offenses, and aggravations roll off your back. 
  • Shock your offenders by being nice to them (if your life isn’t at stake).
NEXT: The Deadly Need To Look Good

The Deadly Need To Be Right (3 of 8)

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There’s truth to the old joke, “You can be right or you can be happily married; you can’t be both.” Signs that you have a deadly need to be right include:

  • You argue about piddly stuff.
  • You always get the last word in.
  • When you argue with your spouse you quote dictionaries, Wikipedia, and other “authorities.”
  • There are no gray areas; everything is black or white.
  • You feel superior when others are wrong.
  • You feel inferior when you’re proven wrong.
  • You ignore evidence that you are wrong (stick to a beliefs despite evidence to the contrary).
  • You catch others making inaccurate statements.
  • You correct others’ inaccurate statements, mispronunciations, facts, dates, times, costs, etc.
  • You often say, “Because I said so!”

The motivation behind this deadly need is insecurity. Somehow your brain connects being wrong with being bad, flawed, or insignificant. When your sense of worth is wrapped up in being right you end up very alone. Nobody likes arrogant braggarts.

To let go of this deadly need practice saying, “I could be wrong about this.” And, “You are probably right about this.” Quit saying, “You’re wrong about this!” And, “I’m right about this.”

NEXT: The Deadly Need To Get Even

The Deadly Need To Know (2 of 8)

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Curiosity is normal and natural. It’s why kids ask “Why?” a million times. It’s what’s behind great discoveries, great inventions, and great explorations. But too much curiosity can damage relationships. It sounds like this:

  • “Who’d you talk to? How long? What did you talk about? Did you talk about me?”
  • “What did you dream about? Why?”
  • “Why did you do that dastardly deed? That answer doesn’t satisfy me, try again!”
  • “I have Googled this disease (conspiracy, fear, issue) to death.”
  • “My biggest fear is feeling ignorant, stupid, and uninformed.”
  • “I wish I was God; then I’d be omniscient.”
  • “My favorite Wizard of Oz character is the Scarecrow looking for a brain.”
  • “If I were in the Garden of Eden I’d gladly eat from the tree of knowledge!”

Behind this deadly need is anxiety. The belief is, “If I just get enough information I’ll be protected from harm, I’ll avoid all unpleasant surprises, and I’ll be ready when upset happens.” The problem is, information doesn’t make anxiety go away.

To let go of this need: quit checking computer histories, phone records, mileage on cars (verifying your partner went where they said they went). Ask the “Why?” question once or twice; if you don’t get an answer, drop it. Make a list of things you don’t know and won’t try to find out, let your partner keep secrets, stay out of their head, go on an information diet, and wean yourself off the deadly need to know. Don’t treat information–or your partner–like an anti-anxiety drug. Embrace uncertainty. Try a little ambiguity for a change. Accept life’s paradoxes, mysteries, and conundrums.

NEXT: The Deadly Need To Be Right

Seven Deadly Needs (1 of 8)

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If I had to guess at the number one cause for couples coming unglued it would be “unmet needs.” When the disappointment of unmet needs reaches a tipping point couples split. When each party’s needs are met couples stick together. “Met needs” seem to have replaced the traditional glue that holds couples together: financial necessity, kids, and vows.

So the solution most often given to the vexing problem of unmet needs is, “Meet your partner’s needs. Speak their love language. Fill their emotional bucket. Make deposits into their emotional bank account. Be kind and loving and generous.” I know. I give this advice.


This advice backfires if one or both partners’ needs are excessive, unreasonable, or, as we’ll describe in this blog series, DEADLY. If you have any of the following needs the solution isn’t for your partner to fill them. Rather, the solution is to let go of that need.

2.  The Deadly Need To Know
3.  The Deadly Need To Be Right
4.  The Deadly Need To Get Even
5.  The Deadly Need To Look Good
6.  The Deadly Need To Judge
7.  The Deadly Need To Keep Score
8.  The Deadly Need To Control
NEXT: The Deadly Need To Know


Remarriage and Exes (8 of 9)

The topic of remarriage makes some people uncomfortable but the challenges need to be discussed. Better a little discomfort now than catastrophe later.

  • How generous will child support be?
  • Does the paying partner pay less than minimum (which is illegal), over the minimum (which is generous), or exactly what the judge ordered?
  • How generous will spousal maintenance be?
  • Does the payee pay their ex less than minimum (which is illegal), over the minimum (which is generous), or exactly what the judge ordered?
  • How chatty should exes be with each other? Just as there are dangers at perpetuating WW III, there are also dangers when exes stay too cozy with each other.
  • How will the remarried partner feel when their ex dates or gets remarried?
  • How much influence does an ex want over who their ex dates, who they choose as step parent for the children, and who they invite into their home?
  • How much contact will a divorced person want their next spouse to have with their ex spouse?
  • Does the remarrying partner have secrets from the new partner which an ex could clarify?
  • How many ex partners does the future mate have? If your beloved says, “I’ve been married before” do you have permission to ask, “How many times? To who? Can I talk to them?”
  • How curious will the new spouse be to learn what went wrong in their partner’s first marriage?
  • How tolerant will a new spouse be to their partner’s “fudging” on Parenting Plans? Playing loosey-goosey with a legal document is fraught with peril even if, “We get along so well we don’t need to follow what’s written.”
  • How skilled will the remarried couple be coping with an ex who is determined to sabotage their happiness, sue their pants off, and hassle them endlessly over Parenting Plans?

NEXT: Remarriage and Seven Stages of Blending