5 Habits You Don't Realize Will Ruin Your Marriage
- Arlene Pellicane ArlenePellicane.com
- 2016 9 Nov
There we were standing in front of our new home, grinning with a bright red SOLD sign for a picture. The excitement of moving into a great house had temporarily eclipsed the stress of packing three weeks before Christmas. I couldn’t see one thing wrong with the house.
But then we moved in.
The sink began to leak. The ceiling fan and light needed repair. Unpacking was overwhelming. The dream home ended up needing some elbow grease and hard work.
That’s like marriage, isn’t it? We go into marriage with a bright red SOLD sign - we’ve gladly moved out of the old house of singleness to the castle of married bliss. Prince Charming and the Princess ride off into the sunset, but then wake up 100 mornings later, realizing some elbow grease is required to keep a marriage - not just a house - going strong.
A house left on its own falls into ruin over the decades and so does a marriage. Ruin is defined as “the physical destruction or disintegration of something or the state of disintegrating or being destroyed.” Here are five habits that can easily creep in unnoticed, slowing eroding the foundation of your most important relationship:
1. Disrespect and a lack of love become the norm.
In Dr. Emerson Eggerich’s book Love & Respect, he writes that when a husband feels disrespected, he has natural tendency to react in ways that feel unloving to his wife. When that wife feels unloved, she reacts in ways that feel disrespectful to her husband. This “crazy cycle” goes on and on, causing a relationship to disintegrate. Wives, don’t wait for your husband to act lovingly to you, bringing your flowers or speaking words of tenderness. Give him unconditional respect. Husbands, don’t wait for your wives to show respect, give her unconditional love. Shower her with tenderness, no matter how moody or mean she may be.
2. Down time equals screen time.
How much quality time do you spend each day with your spouse? Sitting across a dinner table while both of you texting does not count. Being in the living room together while one person checks email and another person watches TV does not count. Whether we’re checking our phone, playing video games, or watching a movie, constant screen time poses a huge threat to meaningful connection in a marriage.
When my husband James and I were dating 19 years ago, we could literally spend hours sitting close together on the sofa, talking and cuddling. This was before kissing! I don’t expect you to spend hours snuggling up to your spouse, but what about 15 minutes of talk time on most days? We have no trouble giving our phones or tablets 15 minutes of undivided attention. Let’s shift that attention to our spouse.
3. Children come first.
I have two children in elementary school and one in middle school. When I’m an empty nester someday, I want to be close to my husband. I don’t want to spend 20 years hyper-focused on my kids, centering my whole world around them, just to be staring at a stranger (my spouse) after the kids leave home. I don’t think you want that either.
Children seem needier so we can pour our energy - too much energy - into meeting their every need and want. But make no mistake. Having a child-centered family is not healthy to your baby, toddler, child or teen. The best gift you can give to your children is a rock-solid, loving relationship with your spouse. The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:24 that a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. You are one with your spouse, not with your children. In God’s design, your children are destined to leave you and create their own families. Your spouse is the adult you’ll be with for the rest of your life, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.
4. Laugh less, kiss less.
Most people get married to a person they have fun with. No one you’ve met has laughed their way to divorce court. The joking, teasing, flirting, and smiling at one another can wane as the years go by. Working hard, paying bills and having kids can extinguish romance and laughter in a hurry. That’s why it’s important to schedule fun activities and spend time together so you keep creating inside jokes and happy memories.
When I interviewed sex therapists Dr. Cliff and Joyce Penner for my book 31 Days to a Happy Husband, Joyce said, “If there was one key to leave you with, it would be to kiss passionately. It has to do with ‘I love you’ and it feels so good - it’s going to keep my pilot light on so I can get more turned-on on a regular basis. We love kissing.”
My friend jokes she’s afraid to kiss her husband passionately each day for fear he’ll think it’s the go signal. If you can relate, make it clear to your spouse that you’d like more kissing to be part of the home improvement plan. It will lead to more intimacy, but it won’t always be the go signal.
5. Always think of yourself first.
If you want to be unhappy, keep asking yourself “What has my spouse done for me lately?” We live in a “me-first” world that has influenced the home. It’s natural to behave selfishly. It’s unnatural to act as a servant. Yet the Bible clearly tells us that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. If you want to ruin your marriage, consistently evaluate situations by asking “Is this good for me?” When you are lobbying for yourself in a marriage, no one wins.
But if instead you ask, “Is this good for us?,” you will act more generously to your spouse and that goodness will certainly boomerang back to you. When you make the decision to serve your spouse and consider his or her needs as important as your own, you move from being a victim in your marriage to a victor. The victim says “I’m not being treated fairly.” The victor says, “I’m going to out-serve you. God will bless me when I’m blessing you.”
What home improvements will strengthen your marriage? Today’s a great day to get started. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can roll up your sleeves and put some elbow grease into your marriage. As you approach your marriage prayerfully and with purpose, you’ll watch it transform from shaky to stable, good to great. Being aware of bad habits is the beginning. Taking action to swap out bad habits for good ones is your next step. Having a happy marriage is worth the effort.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She has been a guest on the Today Show, Family Life Today, The 700 Club and Turning Point with David Jeremiah. Arlene and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children. Visit Arlene’s website at www.ArlenePellicane.com.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: November 9, 2016