No one sets out to sabotage their marriage. Couples walk down the aisle with stars in their eyes and love on their minds—but the reality of living with another person day after day is not always the rosy picture we envisioned at the altar. Marriage is wonderful, fun, and amazing, but it also takes intentional work. Here are four easy relationship mistakes people make that can undermine your marriage.
1. Don’t look for ways to spend time together
The couple that plays together stays together. It sounds simplistic, but still holds a great deal of truth. Yes, we all have different interests, skills, and hobbies; and no, husbands and wives don’t need to do everything together. However, some of our interests from our single days may need to take a back seat so we can look for activities both spouses can enjoy together. Need a place to start? Consider active hobbies, like biking or tennis; many community centers and clubs offer book clubs, Bible studies, or classes in photography, cooking, etc; or you can start with a regular date night. You can also make a list of ten hobbies you each enjoy (or would like to try) and see where you find overlapping interests.
2. Look for intimacy substitutes
Marriage is designed to be the most intimate of relationships, both physically and emotionally. When we turn to other outlets to fill those needs, our marriages suffer. Substituting physical intimacy with pornography, for example, creates barriers in the marriage that are difficult—sometimes impossible—to overcome. Pornography can set up unrealistic expectations of what sex should be: it is always available, never dependent on the other person’s mood or needs, and often unrealistically exciting. And most sobering, it is responsible for 56% of divorces.
Emotional intimacy is equally important in making a marriage work, and today’s technology makes it a greater challenge than ever. Social media makes it easy to connect with people all over the world but may make it harder to connect with the person sharing our home. In fact, according to recent studies, social media sites like Facebook are listed as a contributing factor in up to 2/3 of divorces. Status updates and “likes” can become substitutes for real, relationship-building conversations with our spouses; old flames may suddenly seem much more interesting in the middle of an ongoing argument. Social media doesn’t have to be taboo, but clear boundaries should be in place.
3. Fight via text
Fighting over text is tempting, but letting our thumbs do the talking is dangerous. First, despite the plethora of emojis available to us, tone is difficult to communicate in a written message. What one person means as an innocuous statement may be interpreted as a condescending slam by the other. Body language speaks louder than our words ever could. It is invaluable in any conversation but especially necessary in handling conflict.
Second, fighting via text (or e-mail) creates a written record of the conflict. Let’s be honest, we all say things we shouldn’t when we’re upset. When we argue face-to-face, the memory of that mean thing my husband said in anger will eventually fade; but if we argue via text, it is there forever. Anytime I am a little frustrated with him, I can return to that text string and see his faults and mistakes right there in black and white.
Conflict isn’t fun, but it is a reality in any relationship. For more tips on how to fight better, check out these ideas.
4. Keep a running list of unmet expectations in your head
Unmet expectations are a relationship killer. Many frustrations start with “he should have known” or “why didn’t she see” or “he knows better”—but is that true? Have we clearly communicated our needs, or do we assume the other person knows/thinks/believes/understands the same way we do? For months, I was angry with my husband for putting his lunch dishes in the sink instead of the dishwasher when he came home from work. I was convinced he was saying, “Dishes are your job, not mine.” When I finally confronted him (ahem, exploded at him) about it, he was baffled. He was trying to stay out of my way while I made dinner (something I prefer to be left alone to do), and figured we could load up his lunch dishes when we cleaned up after dinner—something we do together. I had to laugh as months of built-up angst melted away. Talking about our expectations provides opportunities for growth and intimacy instead of testing our husbands to see if they can read our minds. It may even help us to see where we have unknowingly let them down, too.
In what ways have you realized you have unintentionally sabotaged your relationship with your husband?
Katy Epling is a writer and speaker who loves to share about motherhood, special needs parenting, faith, and more. She and her husband Jon live in northeast Ohio with their three wonderful children.