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How to Have a Closer Marriage {Why I Kill Spiders}

How to Have a Closer Marriage

When the spider dropped in front of me, I killed it.

Part of me hates doing this.

Spiders don’t hurt anyone. In fact, they serve a good purpose—they kill other insects.

Personally, I have nothing against spiders.

But they can make webs. And they bother my wife, Lisa. She hates them.

So I kill them.

Because I’m married to Lisa, I’ve made a prior commitment that her feelings outweigh mine on a lot of matters, and spiders is one of them. I don’t re-think this every time I see a new spider; because I’m married to Lisa, it’s already decided: if I see a spider in the house, I kill it so she doesn’t have to.

If Lisa’s dad had been an alcoholic (he certainly wasn’t), I’d kill all alcohol use in my life. I don’t have a “theological” problem with alcohol, but that wouldn’t matter; out of love for Lisa, if she was “sore” toward the potential devastation of alcohol abuse, I wouldn’t want her to worry. I’d just kill alcohol use and avoid it altogether.

If Lisa and I were on our second marriages and Lisa’s first marriage had been destroyed by excessive video game playing, I’d kill that too. I’d just think, “She’s going to be especially sensitive to that. Every time I pick up a controller, it’s going to resurrect a lot of bad feelings from her past. Rather than ask her to ‘reset’ those deep-seated anxieties, I think it’s best if I just kill that part of my life.”

The pursuit of marital intimacy requires agreeing to kill certain “spiders” that bug our spouse, just because they bug our spouse. These spiders may not be prohibited by Scripture. They may not be inherently wrong. But if they cause our spouse pain, that’s good enough reason to kill them.

The payoff is intimacy. You’re giving up something less—even a favored activity—to experience the blessing of becoming one. You chose a real person, so you’ve got to study him or her to find out what spiders get in the way of your mutual happiness.

In premarital counseling, I do my best to identify certain “spiders.” If you listen long enough, you can tell where people have been hurt, where they are particularly sore and sensitive. To love that person well, you’ve got to accept their vulnerability and protect it.

One husband mentioned how frustrated he got whenever his wife acted “scared” in the passenger’s seat while they were driving. “I’ve never been in an accident in fifteen years!” he complained. “What does she have to be afraid of?”

But if you delve into her history, you find that she’s been in three auto accidents on the freeway—none of them her fault. They were terrifying. She can’t not be afraid. It’s not an intentional slight against her husband’s driving, as much as it’s a natural and understandable reaction to past pain.

To be a loving husband, he’ll leave extra room between his car and every other car. He won’t weave in and out of traffic and he definitely won’t tailgate. That’s not in the Bible. It’s not in any marriage book I’ve ever read. But aggressive driving is a spider he needs to kill because of the particular woman to whom he is married.

Do you know what your husband’s or wife’s “spiders” are? As a date night activity, read through this short blog post and list several. After you identify them, resolve to do the humane thing for your marriage: hunt them down and kill them.

It’s one of the most loving things you’ll ever do.


Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com

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  1. I have “killed many sp…….s” (it killed me to read this article, because I have arachnaphobia) but I fought through it, because it was such good advice. But let me ask a “what if” question: What do you do if your spouse keeps bringing “sp….s” in the house? We seldom have problems, but when we DO, it is always about the same OLD thing! It is about how my parents treated her when we were first married (we just celebrated our 50th). So HOW in the world can I kill those sp…….s if SHE won’t let go of them/it ? I am never the one to bring it up, it is always when she is angry about something else (minor things) that I did, like interrupting her, or something like that. How can I get her to forget the past, and live in the present tense?

  2. In this case, I think the “spider” is represented by you “interrupting her or something like that.” If that’s what sets off the trigger of her remembering a 50 year old slight, then that’s what you have to kill–whatever reminds her of the past hurt. But you can’t, of course, make her forget anything. All you can do is try to remove the triggers.

  3. Gary,

    I understand the association that you are attempting to create between killing spiders in our spouse’s lives and the benefit it has to our relationships. I agree that there is merit to this discussion, but to a point. To kill each and every “spider” our spouse creates along the way in our marriage, especially with respect to things that we may find enjoyable at times–goes way too far in my opinion. I will use an example of video games, as referenced in the article. Ex. If someone likes to play video games, we should “kill it” in order to prevent the possibility that our spouse may not appreciate it due to how it partially affected one of their prior failed relationships. If we pursue this type of mindset, it presumes that it is better to change one’s identity than create an expectation for your spouse to act maturely and we lose an opportunity to help them grow out of the wounds of their pasts. What if you have children who want to play video games? Should they also be taught to not play video games as a result too? I am not talking about alcohol consumption or other addictive/destructive habits. I have never been drink and do not drink more than probably 5 individual drinks (if that) spread across the year. I agree with the potential ramifications that it can have to a person and their relationships. But to apologize for every little thing that our spouse decides they don’t care for us to do (not that it is bad to do) and to allow them to have the power and expectation over us, that we should stop or we are not being supportive enough is a passive argument that I belive can hurt marriages more than help them grow closer.

    To attempt to kill everything that your spouse finds unpleasant sets an unrealistic expectation in the marriage. What if you disagree to kill something or even become unable to kill something due to a disability? Does that give your spouse sufficient reason to divorce? In the case for wives: We are to respect our wives, take care of them, and help them grow closer to God with us. According to this article, the level that this advice goes to is not supported or referenced in the Bible and I hope it is not being distributed to couples as premarital counseling, because I think there are potentially destructive consequences that this advice promotes. Ex. Someone feeling like they have to give up or lose their identity in order to be supportive of their spouse. Ex.2: Someone taking advantage of their spouse by creating “spiders” that don’t exist.

    1. First, when you get into the area of disability, that’s going WAY past the intent of this post. Of course I’m not suggesting we ask someone to “kill” something that they literally can’t. Second, I use this concept with premarital counseling to help each prospective spouse understand what intimacy will cost them. if there is a favored “spider” that isn’t a biblical problem, but a problem with their partner, I want them to see whether the relationship is worth it. This is a discussion I would prefer take place BEFORE marriage so that each person can see what they’re signing up for.

      On the other part (your first few paragraphs), let me speak generally: I believe the pay-off for intimacy is so rich (speaking from experience) that it’s worth dying to some solo pursuits. If it’s a minor annoyance, well, I’m not talking about those. But if I do something that truly irritates or hurts or wounds my spouse, I’m choosing that activity over intimacy and oneness with my spouse (using those words interchangeably). It will always be a block in our relationship. I would prefer to live in a kind, generous marriage rather than hold on to a selfish pursuit and remain that much distant from my wife. Since I believe marriage is designed to make us holy even more than to make us happy, learning to sacrifice and serve is at the heart of a God-honoring marriage. And learning to sacrifice and serve is at the heart of what I believe God wants me to become. So yes, I’m willing to kill even “legitimate” spiders.

      1. I liked the idea of willingly killing spiders for our spouses and thought about showing the articles to my husband. But my next thought was the same as Wes’. Early in our marriage I changed everything about myself that my husband did not like. After 10 years I was so unhappy felt unlockable. I was never good enough.

      2. In response to both Gary and Evan, I agree that the condition of our spouses should come first before our needs/desires. However, my point is that there is a benefit or value to helping your spouse work through their spiders rather than potentially creating a situation (similar to what Becky had mentioned) of bending to so many “spiders” that have to be killed that you feel controlled/damaged in your relationship or worse, that you have to lose things that allow you to relax and maintain your personality that attracted your spouse to you to begin with.

        What you refer to as a “kind, generous marriage” depends on your definition. If you feel compelled to kill a piece of your identity any time your spouse decides to take issue with something you enjoy, I think that can hurt more than it helps over time. I think avoiding issues versus thoughtful dialogue to find solutions only sweeps issues under the rug and over time, it can lead to potentially larger martial issues.

        I am in agreement with Evan’s reference about treating your wife as Jesus loved the church. However, although I serve my spouse as the Bible commands, I think this advice solicited goes a step further and attempts to create an unnatural relationship, which puts our wishes to kill “spiders” into the hands of fallible people instead of considering what is honoring to God. Ex. If my spouse enjoys speaking her native (foreign) language with her parents (which I do not understand), is it right for me to “kill” something she enjoys and identifies with because I may feel insecure about it (especially if they mention my name :)? Should I make her feel like she needs to give it up to make me happy? I think we should value and discuss our differences to find a mutually respectful solution that honors God vs setting an unhealthy expectation and precedent for marriage. I would die for my spouse and I love to serve her, but I am very glad we do not feel compelled to call each other “selfish” each time we may not like or appreciate something. I am glad we are able to discuss our feelings and find solutions to work better together.

    2. Video games are most definitely addictive..and marriages have ended due to this widely spread and unrecognized addiction..and that you’re associating video games with someone’s identity is concerning..in my opinion.
      Unfortunately I think the points in this article are things that are obvious to happy couples..
      And those who need to be told these things are probably the ones who would do something selfish like take advantage of their spouse (who is trying to make the marriage happier) by “creating spiders”…this relationship..in my opinion..is doomed..
      It takes two people who want the relationship to work, to actually make it work..

  4. What if the spider is intimacy itself? I have a painful past when it comes to intimacy – including losing my virginity to rape, mild sexual abuse from my first boyfriend, and being raised that sex was “bad”, just to name a few. I have been seriously manipulated in my life over sex. I have always been mistreated when it comes to intimacy. Now as an adult, I love my husband but the very suggestion of it makes me almost furious, insulted. As a Christian woman, I am constantly beaten over the head that sex is a wife’s biblical duty, but I feel it is a husbands biblical duty to put his wife’s needs first. I am insulted by preaching that says wives must fill their husbands sexual “need” while my need is the exact opposite. Thoughts?

    1. I’m so sorry, Mrs. S, for the hurt and sin that has assaulted you. We come into marriage broken in various ways, and your hurt is legitimate and obviously deep. For my part, if there was a legitimate biblical request my wife wanted of me, but I was unable, because of past hurt, to provide it, I would aggressively seek out counseling to move in that direction. Nothing I can say here can address your situation the way it deserves to be addressed, so I hope you’ll consider that option

  5. I almost forgot to mention that I am a Christian, married, and have been happily married for 10 years (and with children)! And yes, there is more than one perspective to promote a healthy and respectful marriage between you and your spouse. So, hopefully my comment passes moderator approval, because I would like to hear your response in discussion to my personal beliefs, if there is a follow up. However, I would prefer for the response to be supported by scripture, if a reply is made in regards to martial advice. Thank you.


    1. Wesley,

      Congratulations on being happily married for 10 years! I believe that Ephesians 5: 21-33 and Philippians 2:3-11 would support Gary’s argument. Ephesians 5 says that the husband is to love his wife the way Christ loved the church. Jesus died for the church, so the husband is to follow the role of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:3-11 outlines what this looks like: In humility valuing others above yourself. Jesus had every right to be treated like a king, yet He chose to be a servant or a slave. He set the example for us, in John 13:15, Jesus explains to His disciples why he washed their feet. He says He did this to set the example that we are to follow. So If I’m a husband and I follow Christ, then I should obey Him by following His example to be a servant or even a slave to my wife, laying my life and desires down for her. If I can follow Jesus in this way and my wife follows Him in submitting to me, then we will glorify Christ and reach the world for Him.

  6. Love this article, and so true. My husband and I used to “bicker” during long trips of 300+ miles…because I would keep asking him to slow down, not tailgate, etc., BCS I WAS FRIGHTENED. He would get angry, we would argue, bad feelings would ensue. Our last trip he said to me, “I’m going to set the cruise control to 65 and we will just relax and take our time this trip.” I was so relieved and happy that I almost started crying. I felt overwhelming love for him, bcs I knew he was doing that bcs he realized I didn’t want to pick at him, I was just scared. We had a great trip, it was like honeymooning again…we were both thankful!

    1. Dear Karen, I had experienced the very same situation a few years back. In my youth, I was a race car driver where I was taught to “go fast, and tailgate other drivers (it is called “drafting”). It was very difficult for me to Loose this frame of mind, even though she reminded me several times. Then one day, she was brought to the hospital, with severe hypertension, I’m talking in the high two’s to low three’s ! It was my rude awakening right there that IF I did not make changes in my life, I was going to loose. her. Now years later, I never hear a complain about my driving…..only about my dead parents’ treatment of her when we were first married. Now, if I can find a way to eliminate the ” triggers”, it will be a perfect marriage ! Problem is, ANYTHING can be a trigger, even if it does not include me !

  7. Just a quick note….To the above poster who mentioned losing one’s identity for the sake of killing spiders for your spouse…You touched on video games. That was an issue in my marriage for quite a while. It caused me pain because I felt that my husband enjoyed his games more than he enjoyed spending time with me. Actually, it was one game series in particular. He also had a collectible card game he enjoyed and spent nearly $100 on every month. That hurt because I was never thought about (no flowers, no cards….and I wasn’t even interested in store bought…always have been a woman more interested in “side of the road” flowers and hand written notes…). Finally, my husband realized how much it was causing me pain and he gave up the card game entirely (all I was asking was a cap on the $$ he spent), and the video games? Well, I enjoyed them too so those stuck around, but the game series that he spent SOOOO much time on was gotten rid of and has not re-entered our life since (over 10 years now…). He still plays games, and in fact has picked up that collectible card game again to enjoy with our sons…but now he makes sure to keep the money in check. So, I guess in a way he booted those ‘spiders’ out of the house…or made them cages so to speak for my sake instead of killing them outright, but that was fine by me. I didn’t want him to change who he was, I just wanted him to realize that he was putting time and money into these things and I was left feeling abandoned and alone. Those things seemed to mean more to him. And I bet most women feel the same….all good things in moderation. 😉

    I just wanted to make sure that a woman’s side of the video game thing got out there…from someone who’s lived it 😉

    1. Amanda,

      Agreed, most things done to excess can have negative consequences for others and their relationships. You made a good point about the issues that can stem from unhealthy addictions. I think you both made a good decision for your marriage by discussing the issue. I think you were reasonable in honestly sharing how you felt about the level of video game playing had on you. I bet he appreciated that you didn’t set the expectation for him to give up his hobby outright, whether or not he voiced it. But I am also glad to hear that he was able to return the favor by lessening/eliminating what made you feel uncomfortable as he found appropriate. I am glad that you were respectful in allowing him to make his own decisions. I hope the romance returned after he made his decision and used some of those extra savings/time to buy/pick you some flowers. Since it seems that you saw his video game playing as a part of the reason for a decrease in romance within your relationship for that period (or that was my interpretation at least).

      The main theme I took issue with in this article is: “The pursuit of marital intimacy requires agreeing to kill certain “spiders” that bug our spouse, just because they bug our spouse. These spiders may not be prohibited by Scripture. They may not be inherently wrong. But if they cause our spouse pain, that’s good enough reason to kill them.” Applying this text to men (as one example): I don’t believe that men are called to be passive followers, but they need to be courageous leaders that are capable and willing to engage and resolve issues vs avoiding or hiding from them. I think either spouse would gain the respect of their other half by engaging them about an issue they are experiencing rather than following the aforementioned suggestion to kill something that may make us happy/them unhappy and avoid the issue altogether as a proposed successful result to the situation encountered.

      1. I agree. I have many spiders from childhood that involved violence, alcohol abuse, and abandonment. I had difficulty trusting anyone, including my husband, which led to a very difficult marriage our children witnessed. After 29 years of marriage, we went to counseling and the source of my fears (unloved, being abandoned, fear of abuse which made me very controlling) a lightbulb moment after several sessions occurred for both my husband and I. He finally understood what my triggers were (I didn’t have any clue either why I was like that) and he responded to that. He began calling me regularly to say hi snd I Love you, he went to the gym while I was at work and not when I came home, he talks to me more and spends less time on the computer and more with me. It has changed our entie relationship and our children’s lives as well who witnessed this transformation and can apply to their marriage. I began to trust him more, and he began to trust me. He mom was extremely critica l so I started to compliment him when he mowed yhe lawn and made our yard look like a park or how heis able to fix anything…it has changed him too. Our mutual efforts in elevating each other in our weaknesses has brought us a better life. It was our mutial choices to put each other first that broke our past and made a new future. Thank God He brought us to that healing rather than let our marriage be destroyed by our past.

        1. There isn’t much a man loves more than a compliment Dianne, it really gives a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, but just as anything else, moderation is key. Whether it be eating, drinking, sports, hobbies and so on, if there is too much of anything, then the problems begin. I don’t believe I have ever heard a compliment from my wife, EVER ! Yet, she will tell everyone else, just how great a guy I am. She’ll say to her sisters, or friends: oh, he’s SO helpful, he does the dishes, vacuumed, did his own laundry, etc. etc. However, she has this thing that prevents her from saying anything nice directly to my face. It’s like she’s afraid it will go to my head, so she says nothing at all. I have to ASK her if I look OK to take her out somewhere, then she won’t elaborate, she’ll just say “yes, fine”…….. it totally puzzles me, especially when I always compliment her, EVEN if she happens to look tired or whatever,

  8. What if the spider your spouse presents is infidelity and states has dealt with stress by having sex with others throughout life as an adult. Continues to cheat and lie and yet still promising he wants to be better and stop but continues the behavior. How do you step on that spider successfully. he is also verbal and physical at times, and I know in order for this to stop he must want to change. I have prayed for him for 5 years now with no change in his behaviors

    1. In this case, the infidelity is HiIS spider to kill, not yours to accept. I would never tell a woman in your situation to just put up with this. You need a church to walk you through likely separation and perhaps even divorce. Unrepentant adultery is tragic; added to abuse, it’s explosive and you’ll need experienced counsel to help you walk through a very difficult season. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, and I pray you’ll seek the help you need and deserve

    2. Gary is correct ! Your husband (and I use the term loosely), is giving you LAME excuses to CHEAT on you, and wanting you to feel sorry for him, as he is SO overstressed ! Let him go to the gym and do 40 bench presses with 250 pounds of weights, THAT will reduce his stress ! Or, let him go for a 5 or 6 mile run, then he will be too darn tired to go out and fornicate. You have been more than Christian about this, if it had happened once, and you forgave him, you would be a good person. But, time and time again? Now you can only be called “foolish”, if you stay with this Adulterer.
      Do your homework, research which groups would be best suited to your needs, if you can save or otherwise come by some cash (maybe joint savings?) Talk to an attorney, it is WAY too late for the clergy (that should have happened after the first incident of his). Do you feel comfortable about locking him out of the house? If yes, get a Restraining Order, and when you are ready, have the police come to your home just after he gets out of work. They will allow him to pack his clothing & a few personal items, then they will send him on his way. Oh, and have a Locksmith change the locks, during the time when he is at work. When he arrives home, you have the choice of either facing him, or NOT. If you decide to face him, just say you are ” Relieving a little stress in your life”. May God guide you in your actions.

  9. When I tried to share this article with my fiance, he brushed it off and said I only found something online that supported my perspective. My spider is “other women” in my fiance’s life. My father had an affair on my mom when I was in High School and it really messed me up. I was never able to trust a boyfriend, until I met my fiance. The main thing I loved about him was that he was loyal and I could trust him. We had been dating 7+ years when he finally proposed. Less than a month after he proposed he decided to go out to dinner with a co-worker without telling me beforehand. When I finished working out earlier than usual that night, I reached out to him and couldn’t get a hold of him. I called, left a voicemail, sent text, and no response. He finally called me on his way home, but was very vague about where he was and who he was with. I finally flat out asked him who he was eating dinner with and he disclosed it was “another women.” I completely lost it and told him he wasn’t allowed to text her or go out with her alone ever again! I couldn’t believe after 7+ years that he had never once did anything like this and couldn’t understand why he did if after he proposed?? He acted like I was crazy and told me I couldn’t tell him who to be friends with and it was fine if he spent time with other girls who he was friends with. I tried to talk to him about my “spiders” and how spending time with any “other women” to me was like cheating or could lead to cheating. We would talk and things would get better, but as soon as I hear her name I loose it again and I’m right back to that night I caught him. I later found out she was at another dinner previous to the night I caught him and he failed to tell me she was there then too. It was only when I started asking about other times that it finally came out. That’s when I put my foot down and said I would be devastated if he invited her to our wedding b/c I couldn’t image seeing her face on OUR special day.

    I left town this weekend and while I was already gone he told me of a work party that he wanted to go to. I asked if she was going to be there and if so to please call or text when he got home. Not too big of a request…it’s not like I asked him not to go or told him he couldn’t go. The next morning comes around and no text or call from him. Of course I was upset and didn’t talk to him until I returned home. I finally brought it up that I was upset and his response was “You need to decide if you really want to marry ME b/c [it seems like] you’re trying to change me into what you want, not who I am. How can I explain to him about my spiders and convince him to kill them for me?

    1. Nicole,

      This is going to be difficult for you to hear, but if a fiancé is making you this miserable and is so callous toward an understandable concern arising in part from your past, why do you think he will be any different as a husband? He’s clearly not willing to change his actions or relationships in a way that isn’t hurtful to you. If you go through with this marriage, the angst you feel as a fiancé will continue as a wife. If you don’t want to live with this insecurity and uncertainty for the rest of your life, then you need to seriously reconsider this union.

  10. Either learn how to put them outside or tell your wimp of a wife to grow a vagina and get over it, because it’s either a few spiders or several more bugs in your house per year.

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