My wife Ashley and I hosted a marriage conference this past weekend. We love doing those kinds of events, because we get the opportunity to connect with couples and hear about their joys and their struggles. I met one man who’s trying to keep his marriage intact and he told me a heartbreaking (but familiar) story. They weren’t trying to hurt each other, but they didn’t seem to know how to stop doing it.
He and his wife both brought some baggage and past hurts into the marriage, and while they do love each other, they just can’t seem to move forward. It’s like there’s a dark cloud following them around and they can’t seem to break free from it. As I talked with him, I started realizing that they had taken on some common, unhealthy “habits” that were holding them back. .
This happens a lot. No couple wants their marriage to be dysfunctional, and yet, many couples live in perpetual dysfunction. They operate like two blind people learning to dance with each other…they keep stepping on each other’s toes! It doesn’t have to stay that way.
If you’re one of the millions facing constant struggles in your marriage, your first step is to change your habits. If you’ve taken on any of these 5 common habits below, work to stop them and replace them with more productive practices. Don’t lose hope! Every marriage goes through struggles. You can get through this.
5 habits that keep marriages stuck in a rut:
1. Criticizing (or “nagging”) each other.
The tone of your words will set the tone of your marriage. When you’re frustrated, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of speaking negatively to your spouse. When they’re not doing what you think they should be doing, it’s a natural tendency to “nag” them or respond with sarcasm or criticism. These habits are understandable, but they NOT helpful. Work to speak with encouragement and a warm tone even on those days you don’t think your spouse “deserves” your encouragement.
2. Using sex as “leverage.”
When a marriage gets into a rut, there’s rarely intimacy inside or outside of the bedroom. A bad habit that can form is when sex is used as “leverage” meaning it’s given only as a “reward” for certain behaviors or withheld as a “punishment” for other behaviors. This can slowly sabotage the trust and intimacy in your marriage. For more on this, check out our new video series on sex and marriage.
3. Avoiding meaningful communication with each other.
When couples get into a “funk,” they usually start pulling away from each other. Even when they in the same room with each other, they may still be in two different worlds. Their communication is surface-level (when it’s not angry). Pulling away is a natural response when we feel misunderstood, angry or hurt, but those are the moments when we need to run towards each other. Make communication a priority. Open up about your feelings in a way that isn’t blaming the other spouse. Share your heart. It’s a big first step towards rebuilding the intimacy and trust in your marriage.
4. Confiding in other people instead of your spouse.
When we feel disconnected in the marriage, there’s a tendency to find that connect somewhere else whether through close friends or even through someone of the opposite sex (which can lead to a sexual or an “Emotional Affair.“) In these vulnerable moments when you’re tempted to find emotional connection with others, surround yourself with people who will give you wisdom and work to reconnect with your spouse.
5. Fantasizing about a life without your spouse.
Once you get into a negative mindset about your spouse and your marriage, eventually you’ll most likely entertain some fantasies about how much better life would be if you were single or married to someone else. If you are to this point, I’d encourage you to get some help through professional counseling or one of the retreats for couples in trouble offered here.
For more tools to help you build a stronger marriage and family, please connect with me on Facebook by clicking here and check out our newest book, “Marriage Minute: Quick & Simple Ways to Build a Divorce-Proof Relationship” which is now also available on iTunes as an ebook download for iPhones, iPads and all Apple devices by clicking here.
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