5 Subtle Attitudes That Hurt Your Marriage

“Even when you’re here, you’re not here,” my wife said when I asked why she was so frustrated with my job. After all, it allowed me great flexibility, so I never had to miss important events and could be home most evenings. But her statement, which makes me wince to this day, pinpointed the problem. It wasn’t what I was doing but my attitude in doing it.

We often coach our kids on their attitudes, but it’s easy to overlook how important it is for us too. Our attitudes in marriage shape our relationship for better or, unfortunately, often for worse. Here are 5 subtle attitudes that hurt your marriage.

1. Busyness

If I were to poll each person reading this article, you’d likely say, “I’m busy.” But an attitude of busyness is different than simply having a lot on your plate. It means you derive a sense of meaning and value from constantly doing. This can result in an inability to be fully present with any one thing or person. And being present to our wives is critical in building intimacy and connection.

So if you notice that busyness is one of your attitudes in marriage, try practices that intentionally slow you down, such as putting away your phone for a time each night, committing to setting aside 30 minutes for dinner, or learning to ask questions and waiting for her to answer.

2. Laziness

On the other end of the spectrum from busyness is laziness. Most of us wouldn’t define ourselves as lazy. We work hard, at the job and at home. We do all we can to provide for our families. But sometimes an attitude of laziness settles in as it pertains to our relationships with our wives. Maybe you’ve been married for a while so you kind of mail it in on the anniversaries that aren’t culturally significant. Or perhaps you’ve stopped trying to figure out date nights because it’s just too much of a hassle.

But nothing good comes from nothing. If laziness is one of your attitudes in marriage, you run the risk of creating a relationship that is out of shape and unhealthy. Put a little work in. Go the extra mile. Try something new to wow her. I guarantee if you fight the attitude of laziness in your marriage, you’ll see remarkably healthy shifts.

3. Fearfulness

What are you afraid of? Are you fearful of disappointing your wife? Do you fear failure as a husband or father? Are you secretly afraid that you won’t be able to provide well for your family? Whatever you fear will control you. But it will control you without your even knowing it. And this can wreak havoc on a marriage.

If you think fearfulness might be one of your attitudes in marriage, take some time to journal and/or set up an appointment with a counselor. Work to identify the things you fear. Acknowledging them is the first step in stripping fear of its power.

4. Discontent

Have you ever looked at your life and thought this isn’t what your life would be like at your age? Most of us have. Sometimes our lives are much better than we anticipate, but often, they aren’t. And in marriage in particular, it’s easy to find yourself discontented because your dreams of wedded bliss have been replaced by normal life with kids and work and arguments and hurt feelings. You look around and your friends seem to have more fun or money or sex or whatever. And as Theodore Roosevelt (supposedly) said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

If you think discontent is one of your subtle attitudes in marriage, try this little exercise. Begin making a gratitude journal about your wife in particular. Take time at the end of each day to write one thing about your wife that you are grateful for. Gratitude is the antidote for discontent.

Most of us who struggle with a poor self-image spend most of our time thinking about ourselves.

5. Poor self-image

Many men struggle to value themselves. Whether it’s the voice of a disapproving father in their head or their constant need to compare themselves to others or simply their own critical inner voice, lots of men have a poor self-image. The problem is that what seems to be mostly a personal problem quickly spills over into your relationship with your wife. Ironically, most of us who struggle with a poor self-image spend most of our time thinking about ourselves. We’re unable to think about how to love our wives well because we’re so focused on ourselves. And when we do think about her it’s often so that she will help us feel better about ourselves.

So if you think poor self-image could be one of your subtle attitudes in marriage, it’s time to put some inner work in. See a therapist, meet with your clergy, do something proactive to begin dealing with your poor self-image so you can stop thinking so much about yourself and start thinking about your wife.

Sound off: What other attitudes do we carry that hurt our marriages?

Huddle up with your wife and ask, “Are there any attitudes you notice in me that concern you?”