“I don’t know if I can keep going like this.” I never thought I’d hear my wife say that. After all, people like us weren’t supposed to have marriage problems. I was a pastor. We both came from good families. We had four beautiful kids. Heck, I spent time counseling others who were having marriage problems. And yet, here we were.
Over time, our marriage had moved into dangerous territory. We worked hard to identify what went wrong and began the long, slow process of restoration. Counter-intuitively, the things that destroy a marriage are often subtle, unintentional practices rather than single events. Sure, there are exceptions. But very often, the real issue is what we do subconsciously. Here are 5 subtle things that destroy a marriage and how you can change direction before it’s too late.
1. You stop dating.
Far too often, though, once we’re married, we put our relationship on cruise control. We’re busy. We’re starting careers and a family. She knows I love her. Heck, I married her, didn’t I? Why do we need to date?
But affection is like a flame. If we don’t tend to it, over time, it can dwindle and eventually extinguish. Dating your spouse is a way to intentionally fan the flames of affection. Make a habit of dating your wife. Regularly plan time together doing things you both love. It doesn’t have to be impressive, just intentional.
2. You live for your kids.
Your kids are important. But remember, your relationship with your wife came before your kids and it will last long after your kids move out of your house (hopefully). But far too many of us assume that being a good dad means giving all of my attention to my kids while taking for granted my relationship with my wife.
The truth is, you don’t “drift apart” from your wife. You develop rhythms that shape your affections. And if your rhythms are all focused on your kids, you may find that so too are your affections. Develop intentional rhythms of connection with your wife. This might be as simple as checking in each night as you drift to sleep, drinking a cup of coffee together on the porch Saturday morning, or taking the occasional walk. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just regular.
3. You keep track of everything.
Remember that time she did that thing that made you so angry? Of course you do. We tend to hang on to those things, even when we’ve said we’ve moved on. However, choosing to hold on to ways our wives have hurt us builds resentment and, as Nelson Mandela once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
You need to practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is not something you do because of how you feel; it’s a choice you make to let go of what you have a right to hold onto. If you want your marriage to be healthy, you need to practice forgiveness.
4. You don’t grow.
Think about the times you aren’t your best self. Usually, it’s when you’re tired or feel sick or anxious or angry. How you are doing personally has a direct impact on how you’re doing relationally, yet many of us are really bad at self-care and cultivating growth in ourselves. However, you can’t have a healthy marriage if you aren’t healthy.
I know you probably don’t feel like you have time. That’s OK. You make time for what’s important. Whether it’s reading, spiritual practices, counseling, or exercise, investing in your personal growth is an investment in your marriage. The better person you become, the better spouse you will be.
5. You don’t listen.Listening feels like love. So listen well.
The inattentive husband is so commonplace it’s a stereotype. But the sad truth is, often our wives are telling us what we need to know about the state of our relationships. We’re just too distracted or disinterested to listen. An unwillingness to listen well teaches our wives we don’t value them or care about what they have to say. This devaluation eventually leads to a breakdown in connection and a loss of intimacy.
Listening is hard but good work. We need to learn the habit of active listening: putting down our phone, looking her in the eyes, repeating back what she says, and expressing real concern for her concerns. Listening feels like love. So listen well.
Earn some points: Share this iMOM article with your wife: 5-Second Questions to Keep Your Marriage on Track.
Sound off: What are other subtle things that destroy a marriage?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “How was your day?” Practice listening well.