While big problems like affairs and major life changes are serious threats to the stability of marriages, there are also bad habits and mistakes that can cause the connection between spouses to erode, and eventually lead to major issues in the relationship. Sometimes, these things happen so gradually, it takes things getting to the brink of collapse before we notice what we’ve been doing wrong all along.
Here are a few of the most common mistakes married couples make, damaging the quality of the relationship over time:
1. Not Having Sex
Intimacy and connection are essential to the long-term success of a marriage, and one of the best, most powerful, and satisfying ways to build and maintain that intimacy is having sex. It may no be the end all, be all of marriages (as some would propose), but it is hugely important.
Unfortunately, some couples allow themselves to become complacent about their sex lives. If they aren’t in the mood or aren’t feeling very sexy, they just ignore it. Plenty of other problems can impact your sex life as well, from health concerns to hormonal changes, having kids, or arguments that damage your connection to your spouse – but no matter the reason, the health of your marriage suffers when you and your spouse are not having sex.
Whatever you have to do, and whatever small steps you have to take, it’s important to keep this part of your marriage on track. It can be tough, especially if it has been a long while, but even making the effort will start to draw you back into an intimate, physical relationship with your spouse.
2. Letting Yourself Go
Related the entry above, letting yourself go is also related the complacency people can fall into over the course of a long-term relationship. This happens in part because of the nature of growing comfortable with someone, and partly because of a focus on loving a person’s personality and what’s on the inside (rather than external appearances).
While you should absolutely be building your connection to your partner based on who they are (and not just how they look), physical attraction still plays an important role. To keep your sex life alive and well, you simply have to be attracted to one another, but age, stress, kids, and many other factors can make us worry less about looking and feeling our best – and taking our spouse’s physical interest for granted.
This could be related to the clothes we choose to wear around the house, neglecting to exercise, not paying attention to eating healthy, not shaving or bathing… The list could go on and on, but it all boils down to one point: just because you’re married, it doesn’t change the need to be attracted to your mate. If you both keep this in mind and make an effort to remain attractive for one another, maintaining the spark in your marriage will be that much easier.
3. Neglecting Time Together
This is the single most important thing for married couples: spending time together alone – away from kids, without staring at the TV screen or just being present in the same room, but truly spending time together without distraction. This is the time that love and connection truly grows – when you’re spending time sharing your thoughts and feelings with one another, when you’re laughing and smiling, enjoying each other’s company, when you’re opening up about your dreams and fears.
In the hustle and bustle of life, we often forget how important these times are, or assume that the time we spend with our spouse reading, watching TV, or taking care of kids is the same as spending time connecting. It’s not.
4. Mismanaging Money
Money is one of the most common causes of disagreements in marriage. Whether it’s not having enough, arguing about what should and should not be purchased, or one of the biggest fight-starters, making purchases without the other spouse knowing about it – people are just tense about money. We’re all guilty of it from time to time, but for couples, it can lead to resentment and anger in other areas of the marriage as well.
For both of your sake, keep a budget! Sit down together and decide what income is disposable, what you deem necessities, and really crunch the numbers to get an accurate picture of your family finances. Now, even more importantly, stick to the budget you create. If you make a plan and don’t deviate from it, you’ll know that the bills will be paid and the dollars accounted for, and there won’t be any surprises when it comes time to balance the books. This is something you’ll both have to commit to, but the stress relief will be noticeable right away, and you may even end up with some extra money at the end of each month!
5. Forgetting Small Kindnesses
This is another one for the complacency category, but unlike the others (spending time, sex life, staying shape, etc.), this is much easier and much simpler to maintain. It’s all about showing affection and reminding your spouse that you care.
If we aren’t feeling particularly connected, if we’re frustrated, or if we’ve simply started to take our spouse for granted, small signs of affection can fall by the wayside. But to keep each other engaged in the relationship, a little bit of sweetness goes a long way!
When you sit near each other, just reach out and touch your spouse’s arm. Hold hands when you walk together. Say thank you when they help out, and remind them what you love about them when you think about it. Bring them little presents or their favorite snack, do them a favor just because, let them know when they look nice – anything to be sweet and kind.
That little bit of flirting and affection makes a difference, not only in the bedroom, but also for self-esteem, keeping each other in the front of your minds, and maintaining positivity and happiness in your household!
6. Constant Criticism
No one likes to be nagged or talked down to. We all make mistakes, and being berated for them only makes us feel worse – and more likely to shut down and resist changing for the better. Many of us know this in the back of our minds, but when you live with someone, spend day after day sharing a bathroom and a kitchen, have joint finances, etc., it’s easy to let frustration and anger get the better of you. Criticizing and talking down to your spouse, however, is a recipe for anger, sadness, and ultimately, a terribly damaged connection between the two of you.
You can still address things that bother you, just be mindful of the way you’re speaking – talk about problems calmly, try to understand where the other person is coming from and how your own opinion might be skewed. As two adults who love each other, you can sort out issues without anger or attacks. It takes practice and self-control, but the results will be so much more effective than constantly criticizing each other.
Please, please take these things into account, because even in small doses, the bad habits listed above can chip away at the strength and happiness of your marriage. Be aware of how you’re treating yourself and each other, and don’t let these common mistakes hurt the connection you have to your spouse.