Have you ever wondered to yourself, if this marriage is supposed to be so good, why do I sometimes feel so bad? If so, your marriage has probably fallen victim to one of several predictable sneak attacks. These sneaky saboteurs creep up on us and slowly drift into our relationship without so much as a whisper. And before we know it, we have fallen victim.
In our series, we are exposing six common saboteurs in marriage and how to combat them. We want to dive in on how you and your partner can solve these common, yet sneaky, issues.
SABOTEUR ONE: BUSYNESS
So much of marriage is consumed with “doing life.” We check off to-do items on (unromantic) lists that reappear over and over. Quality time as a couple is often spent together in front of the TV, or exhausted on the couch after kids have gone to bed. Did you know that nearly a third of us take work home at least once each week? And more than 70% of us do work related tasks during the weekend? These numbers speak for themselves when it comes to reasons why busyness is on our list of saboteurs.
Regardless of the reasons, most husbands and wives agree that they are too busy. The good news is: we can change. In fact, out of all of the problems that sneak up on us in marriage, busyness is one that can be changed most easily.
The solution? Strip away nonessential “urgent” demands until your schedules reflect the value of marriage. Marriage rarely makes it to the urgent list and ends up a low priority. Rearranging your priorities is an essential step. Once you have made time for each other, be sure to spend that time constructively – don’t surf the internet or read in isolation. Try to develop a hobby together, or a shared activity you both enjoy.
Once you have come up with a solution, remember that busyness is not a problem that is instantly solved. It’s an ongoing challenge. Commit yourselves to battle the busyness monster indefinitely, as a team.
SABOTEUR TWO: IRRITATION
With our current pace of life, and the busyness monster we just discussed, this often leads to a character most of us would rather not acknowledge – irritability. When we are busy and stressed we can become cranky and grouchy with our partner. Likely, you didn’t start out this way in your relationship. When couples first marry they are usually the epitome of kindness and sensitivity. But somewhere down the line this changes. This happens without any effort on our part – a side of us is revealed that is testy, touchy, and downright irritable.
Most of us convince ourselves that grouchiness is a temporary condition that will go away as soon as we pay that big bill, finish our chores, meet that deadline at work, or throw the party we’ve been stressing over…etc. You get the point. But, over time we realize our rationale is wearing thin, we gradually learn we can’t even convince ourselves, let alone our spouse, that it’s temporary. So what can we do?
It begins – and ends – with paying special attention to how we treat our partner. Imagine if your home is bugged and on camera for 48 hours. Every conversation and action you have is recorded. Feeling nervous? And worse, you now have to sit down and watch yourself – and see how you spoke and reacted to your partner over this time period. It’s a frightening thought for most of us!
Luckily, you won’t have to endure this. But in order to change your grouchy ways you need a method of monitoring your interactions. We need this because awareness is curative. Recognizing what you are doing, when you are doing it, and how it makes your partner feel is enough to curb a grouchy attitude.
Work on increasing your awareness by keeping a journal for a week and record the things you say. You may realize that certain circumstances will make you more irritable. You can also invite your partner to give you feedback. However you go about it, raising awareness is the key to keeping irritability under control.
SABOTEUR THREE: BOREDOM
Boredom is one of the most silent of all marital saboteurs and sneaks up on many. Walking through the motions of our daily lives can become routine, and let’s face it, can be downright boring. Passion levels can drop off, and vitality and enthusiasm dissipate. Every marriage passes through these doldrums, but there are ways to stop it.
When couples stop and take a look at why they are bored, they tend to find that their relationship is one-dimensional. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, but generally over time you will find that your boredom is because the most interesting parts of your marriage, and your partner, are asleep.
You can find a solution in waking those sleeping parts of your partner and yourself. What did you and your partner love to do that you no longer do? Whatever it is, schedule some time together to do it. This can be sports, adventures, taking up an old hobby, or cooking a meal together.
By waking up and rediscovering the parts of each other that make you connect, you will be well on your way to curbing boredom. And when you break through the boredom barrier, you will discover you are more capable than you thought, and will spark a vitality in your marriage that you never knew was there.
SABOTEUR FOUR: DRIFT
Many couples complain, and even quit marriage, because they have drifted apart. These unions don’t break because of a single, cataclysmic event. They break after years of slow erosion. Do you find yourself looking for alternatives to being with your spouse, or do you depend less on them? Have you quit sharing details of your life or has your sexual interest waned? If you are answering yes, it’s time to get vigilant.
- First: Begin by reordering your priorities. If your work, your church, or even your child’s needs are taking precedence over your spouse it’s time to set new standards and put your relationship on the top of your list.
- Second: Make specific requests of your partner for help in some area, even if you don’t need help. It can be grocery shopping, or yard work. The goal is to work on something together.
- Third: Reverse your drift by sharing more information about your daily routine. Even mundane experiences. When you share, you become closer.
- Last: We urge you to save up and schedule a weekend away from home together. Go someplace special that you loved early in your relationship. If you can’t go away for a night, try an all-day outing.
Most couples who have drifted apart still care deeply for each other, yet they often feel so different. You don’t have to let the increasing gap grow wider. Pull your partner closer to you and be intentional about enjoying meaningful connection again. You will be surprised at how quickly you can close that gap.
SABOTEUR FIVE: DEBT
If your marriage is feeling the strain of trying to carry increasing accumulations of debt, you can begin lightening your load starting today. The first step is to recognize how much money you owe. Once you get a solid number, you can take one of two avenues: increase your income, or reduce your spending. For most couples it’s easier to do the latter.
Sit down with your partner and make a plan on where you can reduce your spending. We learned a valuable lesson early in marriage when we discovered we spent less by simply not using our credit card. When you pay with a credit card you don’t register the pain of actually letting go of cash. Whether it’s eating out less, buying less “wants” or simply putting a pause on impulse purchases, you need to find a specific way to spend less and pay down your debt.
Another suggestion is to become accountable to someone who not in your relationship. This may seem somewhat embarrassing, but by having someone step in that you both respect, you will likely stay on track. Getting out of debt will be one of the most rewarding things you will accomplish as a couple. So stick with your plan.
SABOTEUR SIX: PAIN FROM THE PAST
One of the hardest things that can sneak up on a marriage is pain from the past. Many of us have old wounds from a painful past that we carry. This can be anything from abusive past relationships, abuse in any form, trauma as a child, and beyond. Sooner or later this pain will impact your marriage if it is not dealt with.
Emotions may be buried, but they are still alive and lurking below the surface. This can negatively impact your current relationship. Research reveals that spouses who had a negative bonding experience with parents often have difficulty or may even avoid getting intimate in their marriage for fear of failure. This is only one example of many ways pain from the past can affect your current marriage.
If you are suffering from any pain from your past that is hurting you or your marriage, the road to recovery requires healing; healing for you and likely your relationship, too. We cannot begin to do justice to the steps you will need to take in this direction; there are too many personal variables. We strongly encourage you to seek the help of a competent counselor who can walk you through a healing journey.
Saboteurs in marriage can sneak up on any of us. The key is to be vigilant and stop them in their tracks before they leave a permanent impression. If you’d like to learn more about the saboteurs in marriage and how to stop them, check out our book I Love You More.