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7 Habits You’ll Find in an Unhealthy Marriage

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Do you sometimes keep a tally of all the things you do around the house? Washed six loads of laundry, prepped dinner, cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen counters… Just the other day I found myself rattling off all the things I had done as my husband made his way to the couch after a long day of work. I felt my blood boil as he threw his feet up to relax. How dare he?! I had completed at least 10 household tasks that day and he had done, well, none. The laundry was waiting and it was his turn.

Although my feelings may have felt completely rational in the moment, certainly more than laundry contributed to my resentment. The underlying issue lurking below the surface was that I’d been keeping score. It was one of a few unhealthy marriage habits we’d fallen into. Here are 7 more to watch out for in your marriage.

1. Telling White Lies

If you’ve ever seen an episode of I Love Lucy, you know that Lucy is no stranger to the white lie. In one of my favorite episodes, Ricky comes home from work and asks Lucy what she did that day. Lucy makes her iconic deer-in-headlights face and responds, “Nothing much.” She chooses to leave out what she actually did: buy an expensive vacuum cleaner after Ricky told her not to purchase anything else.

Rarely do we tell white lies with the intent to deceive. In fact, white lies are often used to avoid things like hurt feelings, confrontations, or uncomfortable conversations, but even these “helpful” little lies erode marital trust.

2. Putting Work or Kids First

It is incredibly easy to put our career or kids before our husbands, especially when those things ask for our attention with screams or cries. Our husbands are capable of dressing themselves. They also aren’t holding us to project deadlines or calling on us for work presentations. When something needs to be pushed to the side to make some space, it is often the guys who get the shove.

My husband and I have found some small ways to keep our marriage a priority. We have regularly scheduled date nights and a “no work after kids’ bedtime” rule. We also keep our kids on a strict bedtime schedule to ensure we get an hour or two of “just us” time before going to bed ourselves.

3. Complacency

Quality time is my love language. My husband knows the way to my heart is a device-free evening of talking and laughing together, but after spending most of his workday on the phone, the last thing he wants to do is more talking. I know it’s not because he doesn’t love me, but because he doesn’t see it as necessary for the sake of our marriage. It’s easy to think that if our marriage is fine, we can coast.

But that’s how we fall into the complacency trap. Just because “all is well,” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to pursue one another in love. Complacency in marriage opens the door for more problems to enter, like taking each other for granted, not being your best self in your relationship, and overall laziness!

4. Spending Freely

It’s no surprise that many marriages end in divorce because of money problems. Just in these four years of marriage, my husband and I have had more disagreements about money than anything else. I enjoy a Starbucks latte while I am out running errands. Although my husband thinks drive-thru coffee is silly, he doesn’t badger me about a five-dollar treat. However, if I were to buy a $200 purse, that would be another story!

Disagreeing on money is not a sign of an unhealthy marriage. It’s a sign that we are two individuals. Since we often disagree on how our money should be spent, we try our best to stay on the same page with communication. Avoiding the urge to spend freely helps us both feel like we respect the limits we’ve set as a couple.

5. Inciting Conflict

My husband is our resident garbage man; if the trash needs to go out, he is usually on top of it. I say “usually” because one week just a few months ago, my husband had a lot going on at work and thus, his garbage duties escaped him. I took out the trash every day that week and each time I threw the bags into the bin outside, my resentment bubbled up a little bit more. I couldn’t wait to tell him how he had failed to perform his task that week. Over the weekend, I found myself picking little fights every chance I got.

Conflict is healthy, but that doesn’t mean we should pick fights or allow unresolved anger to bring us to the point of explosion. If the only conflict resolution happening in your marriage is through heated arguments that seem to come out of left field, your marriage may have this unhealthy habit!

6. Avoiding Conflict

Just like inciting conflict can be unhealthy, so can avoiding conflict! Fighting is not a sign of an unhealthy marriage. If you and your husband are constantly dodging one another when there’s conflict on the horizon or your marriage often feels like one long walk on eggshells, it’s likely you are chronic conflict avoiders. Working through problems with your husband is important for growing your partnership, building trust, and getting a peek into his heart!

Find a healthy way to approach conflict with him, like 10 Ways to Fight Fair With Your Spouse. It may feel awkward at first, but with a little practice, healthy conflict resolution will begin to happen naturally.

7. Withholding Intimacy

It’s not uncommon for a spouse to withhold intimacy from the other as a form of “punishment.” Has this ever happened in your marriage? It can be something as small as your husband refusing to hug you after an argument or something as big as your objecting to sex until he finishes the to-do list he’s been putting off for weeks.

Essentially, withholding intimacy is manipulation; it says your love is conditional and must be bought with the price you name.

Are there any unhealthy habits in your marriage right now? How can you help heal your marriage in those areas?


Have you ever told a white lie? If so, why? Did you think it was a “helpful” lie?

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