I’ve always hated when people warn how “hard” marriage is. My idealistic, fairytale-fed self always believed that if you prayed and waited for the right person, and married your true love, marriage would be relatively easy. Then I married the wrong person. Divorced. Married the absolute right person, and as it turns out, marriage is indeed still hard. Because unavoidably, we live in a challenging world. Even strong Christians are broken people navigating a fallen world that’s becoming more chaotic and complex by the moment. Throw some relationship baggage into the mix, with a side of some inherently bad behaviors and we can decidedly say that every marriage is prone to attack. So at the very least, we should try avoiding what I consider the top ten marriage killers that are oh so easy to make.
Marriage Killer #1: Stop Praying Together
Going to church together is not enough these days. Or ever, really. I know it’s hard for busy couples to designate time to pray and/or read the Bible together, but this one really is a game changer. When we come together in prayer, our demeanors change. Our defenses come down, and our differences and sources of tension all seem to decrease in the light of the Holy Spirit. By being vulnerable and sharing our prayer needs, we also leave feeling closer and more connected than we began. Also of note, the sight of my husband praying is a huge turn on. Who knew.
Marriage Killer #2: Habitually Going to Bed Alone
I get it. We’ve all been awake enough after the kids go down to squeeze in those last two episodes before bed. It’s truly a thrill. And then the hubs says those dreaded words, as if in slow motion echoing eerily from the kitchen. ”Do you want to go to beeeeeed?” The answer is no. No we don’t. We underestimated how late in the afternoon we could viably chug espresso and we haven’t had this much alone time since last year’s root canal. And nothing. Nothing in this world would make us happier than finishing This is Us” with nothing besides our blankets and glass ‘o pinot or peanut butter gelato. This is hard even to type….but the thing to do is…go to bed, with the hubs. This has nothing to do with sex (that’s point #5) It’s all about intimacy and staying connected. There’s something mildly sacred about ending the day together and being able to whisper goodnight or “I love you,” even if it’s a semi-conscious slur after a rough day. Some couples with younger kids barely have enough time to share a meaningful exchange throughout an entire day. Staying up without your partner only exasperates (and sometimes create) feelings of disconnectedness, isolation or stress in a marriage.
There’ll always be extenuating circumstances we’re he’s determined to finish watching the game til the bitter end and you’re cross-eyed in exhaustion, but as a rule, I really believe bedtime should be a shared activity.
Marriage Killer #3 Not Making Enough Time For Each Other
For working couples with lots of young kids, the idea of spending regular quality time together seems like an absolute joke. I remember being so psyched and desperate to leave for date nights in those days, I literally bawled in my car after the babysitter cancelled. “Are you SURE it’s the flu?” I realize taking tennis lessons or weekly wine tastings might be out of the question for many reasons, but there’s always simpler, easier activities to do together, like walking the dog after dinner, volunteering on the same church ministry, learning to cook your favorite restaurant meals at home (I’d rather eat dirt than this one, but I heard it’s popular with the domestic crowd!) Scheduling regularly occurring activities together not only ensures you connect on a level that doesn’t include kids, budgets, chores, etc. but it gives you something to look forward to.
Marriage Killer #4 Let Your Sex Life Fizzle
Sex is of course a delicate and complex subject. People have all different levels of sex drives and methods of expression. But in a general sense, I believe happy, healthy couples should be habitually getting it on. There are obviously peaks and valleys and little plateaus in everyone’s sex lives. Things can shift before and after babies are born, and during intensely stressful seasons of life. But as a rule, I’ll always believe our sex life is not only one of the greatest indicators of our relationship health.
If you or your partner haven’t been feelin’ it “lately,” or just an overall lack of sexual enthusiasm for each other, there’s almost always an underlying reason. Feeling underappreciated. Not understood. Not supported. Not connected. The list can go on forever, right? My biggest encouragement would be… get it on anyways. This doesn’t mean we should transmute into emotion-less sex robots or trade our feelings for dutiful sex. I’m talking about a simple perspective change. Instead of focusing on all the ‘why nots’ to justify why you aren’t feeling it, try focusing on all the “why’s.” If you focus on your husband…why you married him, why you love him, and all that he does for you and the family (hopefully we can all find some!) … how you are the one woman he chose to be with, for life, it really can change our moods. Sex is a powerful unifier. Try not to let the enemy creep in by convincing yourself most married couples only have sex a few times a month and that all married sex eventually fizzles.
Marriage Killer #5: Keeping Secrets
My husband is the most transparent, honest, Boy Scout I’ve ever known. He won’t so much make a $10 Amazon purchase without discussing it with me first, and he’s the first to spill the beans about anything and everything he’s done, feels or wants. Period. I am the exact the opposite. I’m the kind of wife who may or may not break her husband’s vintage Steelers glass and not mention it until days later (okay weeks) at a more convenient moment. The kind of wife who fails to mention she bumped in an ex at the gym (I mean why create drama when there is none, right?!) Or maybe hide the kid’s disobedience to make sure he stays in a good mood for date night. You know, typical suburban mom normalcy. But what I’ve learned with the help of my husband and a few good marriage seminars, is that secretiveness is actually not normal. Secretive behaviors might seem harmless enough, but they can cumulatively lead to a lack of intimacy. We keep secrets because of fear that our partners won’t be able to love us through the truth without realizing that personal shame, humiliation, and recrimination have already occurred, and that’s what provoked the desire to keep the secret. Secrets create a barrier to connecting and builds an atmosphere of mistrust.
Marriage Killer #6: Putting The Kids First
This can be especially hard (like beyond) if you find yourself in a blended family, as the dynamic changes so much. But even for traditional nuclear families, this can be a challenge. Putting our marriage first sounds easy, in theory, but there are so many instances where this placard causes major strife in family life. If we start prioritizing the kids’ needs over our husband’s, even if it’s something seemingly innocent like spending more time and energy on kids while forgoing quality time or romance with our hubs, our relationship will suffer. We of course love our kids more than life, but our husband is the most important relationship, after God. It can be hard when we feel our kids absorb every last ounce of energy we’ve got daily, but we shouldn’t leave nothing for the man God’s given us, for life. After all, these suckers are all gonna be outta the house some day, and all we’ll have is the marriage we’ve hopefully sown into well, to experience decades of happiness.
Marriage Killer #7 Letting Your Partner’s Flaws Influence Your Behavior
I remember being in counseling years ago with husband #1 (life’s a joyous journey!) and the sweetest 80-year-old therapist said “Honey, Instead of trying to change your husband, try being the spouse you want him to be. Then the change will come.” In the moment, I wanted to punch out grandma and scream to high heaven but now that I’m a much more mature and relaxed version of myself (I snort lavender) I realize the power of this truth.
It’s easy to justify our own bad habits, and behaviors when your spouse is letting you down or “failing” in a certain category of your marriage. You start wondering things like, “Why am cleaning this house every day like slave, when he doesn’t lift a finger? Why am I killing myself at the gym when homeboy hasn’t exercised in years?” But no one wins this way. I’d be a fat lady with moldy baseboards with this mentality. If we justify our actions based on our spouse’s current level of performance, it just feels yuk. But when we decided to set the standard and live in whatever way we wished our partner would, despite their actions, we become less of a victim and equipped with a mission. Your marriage will one hundred percent improve this way.
Marriage Killer #8: Nag Instead Of Pray
I have many a horrible wifey quality. I can be reactive, and very selfish, especially when it comes to our entertainment programming (No we are NOT re-watching the X Files tonight) and many others too incriminating for print. However. I will say I have never, and will never, be a nag. I refuse to become that sitcom wife hen-pecking her man to pick up his laundry or mow the lawn. Or constantly whining that he isn’t more present with the kids, or actually liste-okay nuff said.
In these moments I simply tell myself, I’m not I’m not gonna let this man turn me into a nag. So instead, I pray. I pray daily, asking the Lord to change my husband’s heart and attitudes on XYZ, and to give me grace, understanding and patience. I can’t even express how much this has changed my general satisfaction in all relationships.. We all have things about ourselves we’d like to change. I honestly don’t know how my husband tolerates my flakiness. But I do appreciate when he shows love and patience instead of barking at me and pointing out yet again, how many times I’ve lost the cordless phone in the past month.
Marriage Killer #9: Festering
I am a terrible communicator. I hate conflict and confrontation and when problems arise I pretty much surrender to my Cancerian ways and burry my head in the sand. Preferably with a glass of chard and my dance show. But as it turns out choosing to push down our feelings, ignore or minimize the problem and assure ourselves we won’t become resentful only leads to one thing: festering. This habit makes for a temporarily peaceful house in the moments of conflict, but a lackluster marriage, overall.
As the ever humorous Lord would have it, I have married the most prolific, communicative man ever to walk the green Earth, who literally makes a living performing conflict resolution. So, the second my passive aggressive, avoidant ways start to surface, he calls me out. He gently forces productive conversations instead of just hoping our offenses disappear. And they always will. If you find yourself in a similar boat…afraid or hesitant to talk through arguments and/or share your feelings, try praying for the desire and the ability to change. It can be difficult and awkward at first, but learning to communicate instead of pouting, or telling yourself things like “I shouldn’t have to explain what’s wrong,” is seriously so freeing. Sometimes it’s marriage-saving.
Marriage is hard, but it’s also one of single greatest blessings in life. No matter where you are in your marriage journey, your relationship is worth worth whatever amount of effort and energy we invest to make it better. xo
For more on marriage health, check out my post “Marriage Need a Pick-Me-Up? Do These Four Things.”
For more on marriage help, check out Gary Chapman’s book “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.”
This is a great teaching on marriage by Joyce Meyer.