Most of us are on our best behavior when we enter a relationship. Fights are rare, we’ll drop everything to take a phone call from them, and we can’t imagine our feelings ever changing. But fast forward to five years into marriage, and things have become a lot more comfortable, maybe even too comfortable. Once we’ve walked down the aisle and signed the marriage certificate, we don’t hold ourselves up to the same standards we did while dating.
We take our spouses for granted, disrespecting them in small ways and before we know it, our once idealistic marriage is heading for a divorce. When a marriage breaks down, it doesn’t always come from a huge event like an affair, it can be more like Chinese water torture, where we wear each other down slowly and painfully over years by adopting bad habits, or not giving our best selves to the relationship. If you’ve noticed your marriage is in a slump, consider whether you are guilty of the following behaviors.
You’re More Critical than Kind
Throughout the course of a marriage, there will be many occasions when you feel the need to criticize your spouse. No matter how well-intentioned the advice is, if it’s delivered unkindly, it will be more hurtful than helpful. Practice being kind, even when you’re frustrated, and your spouse will be more receptive to your advice.
Too much nagging can cause your spouse to shut down and turn your voice into something they don’t look forward to hearing. Some issues are just too insignificant to let yourself get mad about. Is it really the end of the world that the toilet seat was left up? If you refrain from complaining about the trivial things, your partner will be more likely to take you seriously when you have something important to critique.
Your Partner Never Has Your Full Attention
There’s so much to do during the day, that by the time dinner is over and we’re sitting on the couch, it’s tempting to just bury our heads in our phones and only give our spouse half our attention when they’re trying to talk to us. And with a growing number of people eating dinner in front of Netflix or keeping their phones out at the dinner table, it’s no wonder couples can start to feel disconnected.
If your spouse has something they want to tell you, put your phone down and give them 100 percent of your attention. You may think you can split your attention evenly, but no one likes to talk when they feel like they’re competing with a TV show or video game. It’s a small gesture but it will show your partner they’re important to you and you care about what they have to say, which builds closeness and prevents resentment.
You Involve Other People in Your Problems
Don’t betray your spouse’s confidence by spilling your personal issues to your friends, relatives, or worst of all – on social media. It’s embarrassing and childish to disparage your partner to other people, and won’t help resolve the situation. If your partner finds out you’ve been complaining about them to your family, they’re going to feel uncomfortable next time they’re expected to attend a holiday dinner. Your friends and family aren’t likely to be objective and will harbor negative feelings towards your spouse even after you have reconciled. Unless you’re seeking professional advice or are in a situation that’s abusive, keep your personal problems between you and your spouse.
You’ve Checked out around the House
Offering to help your partner shows sensitivity and awareness. It’s easier for a person to accept help that’s freely offered than to have to ask for it. If your spouse is always the one who knows what needs to be done around the house, what items need to be picked up, whose birthday is coming up that needs to be planned for, then it’s time for you to pitch in and take some initiative.
Even if you’re happy to tackle the to-do list your spouse gives you, they still had to spend the time and energy figuring out what to put on it. Pay more attention to the daily requirements of running the household and the next time you see the pile of laundry growing, or notice something needs to be repaired, take care of it before your spouse has to ask for your help.
You’ve Stopped Complimenting Your Partner
When you first started dating your spouse you probably piled the compliments on while discovering all the things that made you love this person. How often do you give them a sincere compliment now? Often, when we wake up next to the same person for years, we forget to express our appreciation for the things that drew us to them. People are motivated by praise, and that’s especially true when it comes from people we’re close to.
Try to give your spouse a sincere compliment multiple times a day, especially if you’re going through a rough patch. Tell them they look sharp in their outfit when you’re getting dressed in the morning, or let them know how much you appreciate their willingness to listen after a difficult conversation. Complimenting your spouse won’t only increase their confidence in themselves, but they’ll be more likely to repeat behaviors you offer sincere appreciation for.
Marriages are hard work. It takes a lot of mindfulness to prevent ourselves from slipping into the bad habits that cause our spouses to feel unappreciated and unloved. While we can’t change our partners, we can recognize how our own behaviors may be contributing to stress in our relationships and work to resolve those issues. If you’re guilty of any of the above bad habits, start eliminating them today and replace them with behaviors that will nurture your relationship and draw you and your spouse closer together. If you have any questions about family law, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free consultation.