ROB JENKINS: How to ruin your marriage without even trying

Having a good marriage is a lot of hard work. But having a bad marriage is easy. You just need to do three simple things:

• Misplace your priorities. A successful marriage requires both partners to put each other first. To ruin yours, just start putting other things ahead of your spouse — or better yet, put everything ahead of your spouse.

The list of things you can prioritize over your marriage is virtually endless: career, friends, sports, television. Even good things, like exercise and volunteer work, can become disproportionately important, if you let them.

For that matter, an awful lot of people put their kids first. Of course the Bible doesn’t say we should leave our parents and cleave to our children; it says we should cleave to our spouse. But if you really want to ruin your marriage, make sure your spouse knows that the kids are numero uno.

• Admire other pastures. There is perhaps no truer statement than “the grass is always greener.” As human beings, we’re constantly convinced that other people somehow have it better than we do.

Married people often assume other people’s spouses are superior to theirs — more attractive, more fun, lower maintenance. This is obviously what leads to most affairs. Of course, people almost always find out, once they’ve jumped the fence, that the grass wasn’t nearly as green as it looked. But this is a great way to ruin your marriage, not to mention your life.

It’s not just about other people’s bodies, either. Sometimes what we really long for is someone else’s life — their house, their lifestyle, their marriage. We assume — usually incorrectly — that other couples have fewer problems than we do just because their problems are different or less obvious. If you want to be miserable, that kind of thinking is a good place to start.

• Sweat the small stuff. We all know the old saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” In a marriage, not everything is small stuff — but most of it is.

In particular, most of what annoys us about our spouse is incredibly minor: leaving the toilet seat up, throwing socks on the floor, not putting dishes in the sink, buying too many shoes, snorting when they laugh.

The trick is to take all that small stuff and roll it into a big ball. Presto! It’s not small stuff anymore. It’s now officially a “big deal,” and therefore sufficient reason to throw away 15 or 20 years of marriage. The fact that the big ball of stuff won’t hold together without a lot of effort, or that its individual components can’t be seen without a microscope, is irrelevant.

See how easy it is to ruin your marriage? These are all things we all do anyway, as a matter of human nature. So just go with the flow. Don’t fight it. Your marriage will be over before you know it.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less and on Amazon. E-mail Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @FamilyManRob.