4 Types of Baggage That Can Ruin a Marriage (and 5 Ways to Heal)

4 Types of Baggage That Can Ruin a Marriage (and 5 Ways to Heal)

4 Types of Baggage That Can Ruin a Marriage (and 5 Ways to Heal)

I have been blessed to attend dozens and dozens of weddings through the years. (I’m in singles’ ministry!) Never does the beauty of a blushing bride or the look on her groom’s face when she appears get old. I get butterflies as I think of the exciting journey they are about to embark upon. The joy of marriage is not talked about often enough! There is something wonderful about having a partner to do life with, to share experiences with, or to bounce ideas off of.

However, the twists and turns of life can often leave wounds. Our life experiences can help us to grow in wisdom and maturity, which are beautiful attributes that will enhance marriage. But life experiences can also cause gaps in our emotional bank. We all have a past that we bring into marriage. Recognize the baggage we carry into the marriage and learn how to find wholeness through this beautiful marriage journey.

Here are four types of baggage that, if ignored and left to fester, can ruin a marriage.

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1. Abuse

1. Abuse

Get ready for some sad statistics. Every year Child Protective Services works with approximately 6.6 million children with allegations of abuse in the home, including physical, sexual, mental, and emotional. It's been found that 1 in 5 women in the United States have been raped, as well as 1 in 71 men. And 1 in 3 women have been victim of violence by a partner. The list goes on and on.

Abuse is everywhere. Whether it stems from a dangerous or unhealthy childhood or a recent relationship that went terribly wrong, both men and women can bring the baggage of abuse into the relationship, leaving a wound that can last a lifetime, if not addressed. 

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2. Finances.

2. Finances.

College credit cards, a previous divorce, medical bills, or simple mismanagement of money can all result in heavy financial baggage.  It takes only a matter of moments to ruin a credit history by obtaining too much debt load, applying for too many accounts, or over-utilizing credit cards, just to name a few scenarios. However, it can take months and years to rectify poor credit.  Financial history usually isn’t a relationship deal-breaker, when you talk about it honestly. But poor spending habits or inability to learn better money management can be weighty in a marriage.

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3. Past Relationships.

3. Past Relationships.

Rarely does someone enter marriage today that has not been involved in a previous relationship of some sort, even if it’s just a junior high sweetheart. Many of us have experience wounds from a deep relationship (or marriage) that failed. We felt like failures. We were hurt and angry. And if we aren’t careful, we get the idea that someone must pay! We don’t do so consciously, but subconsciously we repeatedly make our spouse prove to us that they won’t do the same hurtful things that a past partner did. Or we compare.  If there is a marriage set-back through a disagreement, we sometimes drudge up a past relationship and how the previous partner “did the exact same thing.”  We must be careful with the past.

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4. Childhood.

4. Childhood.

Whether we had a childhood that was bursting with laughter, joy, family devotionals, and regular vacations, or we were riddled with the pain of abuse, death of a close family member, or other trauma; our childhoods shape us.  And those experiences can bring baggage into the marriage.  Traumatic childhood experiences can leave us with obvious pain and wounds, even into adulthood. Perhaps less obvious is a positive childhood.  If we were blessed with fantastic parents who created a healthy home environment, that is an awesome gift we’ve received. However, we have to be careful that we don’t make a habit of comparing our childhood experiences with the performance of our spouses.  Our husbands may not mow the lawn as faithfully as our dads once did or make the money that afforded a more comfortable lifestyle. Your wife may not be the dynamic cook or seamstress your mom once was.  Let’s be careful that we allow our childhoods to shape who we are without exerting baggage they may have created.

Now that we’ve uncovered some of the pitfalls of the baggage we bring into marriage. How do we find wholeness over the baggage?  Here are some helpful tips:

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1. Communicate.

1. Communicate.

Our spouses don’t know the whole story. They don’t know about the intricate details of our relationships, pasts, or childhoods. Even when we explain some of the trauma we’ve experienced, it’s still hard for our spouses to fully comprehend what that may have caused us emotionally.  We must communicate. Do not ignore the elephant in the room that is causing disagreements, rage, lack of sexual empathy, depression, or even more. Tell your spouse how you are feeling. Tell them that nightmares have suddenly surface from a decades-old wound. Talk about how a certain behavior triggers a reminder for you of a past hurt.  Don’t assume that your spouse already knows what you are feeling. The more you talk about that dark thing, the more light of healing is shed on it. 

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2. Seek help from outsiders.

2. Seek help from outsiders.

There are wounds that sometimes, we are simply not equipped to handle. Trusted pastors, licensed counselors, or sexual therapists are not only a good idea to begin the healing process, but they’re also are often necessary. All meetings are private, and they have been trained with skills (and anointed for the task) that you can implement into your day-to-day life. I’ve also found that just being able to talk through baggage offers great release from its burden. There is no shame in recognizing you need help beyond your own expertise. 

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3. Be patient.

3. Be patient.

Healing takes time. We are an impatient people, aren’t we? We want an instant everything, but the human spirit isn’t a dial we can turn to a higher level of performance. We need time and the presence of the Holy Spirit, daily working on the wound, to bring healing.  Healing will come. In the meantime, it may mean that you have to have more discussions about a topic than you think are necessary. It may mean that the healing you thought would take weeks actually take years. Issue grace and be patient in the process (for both you and your spouse). 

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4. Forgive.

4. Forgive.

If you have suffered a wound, forgive your offender. Forgive yourself for a past failure that still haunts you in your marriage. Forgive a parent who wasn’t around. Forgive your spouse if he/she hasn’t handled the marriage the best or the communication has been strained or the response wasn’t as loving and compassionate as you had hoped. Forgive God, if you are carrying bitterness about the death of a loved one or a failed marriage. And if you are carrying bitterness against God about the death of a loved one or a failed marriage, choose to trust him. Forgive today, and forgive every day. Forgiveness is a daily choice we make. The more we practice it, the more freely we can give it. 

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5. Take classes together.

5. Take classes together.

Because of the explosion of technology and the church’s cognizance to address the practical needs of its congregations, there has never been more access to life skills classes. Whether you are carrying a financial burden due to lack of money management techniques or the wound of a sexual assault, there are classes both online and in person in many communities around the United States. Further, there are fantastic overnight marriage retreats or conferences held at churches that will allow you grow. Many are low-cost, but even if they aren’t, it’s worth the sacrifice of saving money or hosting a garage sale to invest in your marriage. 

Jennifer Maggio has been married for more than 15 years. She and her husband share 3 beautiful children. She is a national author and speaker, who founded a national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She has written 4 books and has been a frequent guest in media venues, including Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk Radio Show, The 700 Club, and The New York Times. For more information, visit jennifermaggio.com. 

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