Here at TOBB, we talk a lot about parenting philosophies, motherhood issues, and the nitty-gritty of hot topics. But often missing from our discussion are our partners in crime: husbands and wives. In honor of my own husband and the crazy first 15 months of parenthood, I wanted to draw attention to ways in which a marriage can unknowingly suffer. I’d like to say upfront what this post is not. First, I am not a psychologist, counselor, religious leader, or social worker. I am married and haven’t been for particularly long, about 5 years. In those 5 years, I’ve learned more from my mistakes as a wife and my miscommunication with my husband than what I’ve taken from any motivational marriage article, book, or conference. Throw a baby (or children) in the mix, and even the best marriage, mine included, will weather some tough times. There are many ways to hurt a loved one and to allow a marriage to suffer. My list avoids the big ones (cheating, addiction, abuse, etc.), but focuses on those daily culprits that many of us allow to fill the void between two people. So if you want to hurt a marriage, to cause those seeds of unhappiness, doubt, and pain, these are eight ways that will definitely do it:
- Be too busy. There should be (nearly) nothing more important than your spouse. But how many of us are guilty of playing on the phone or reading email, confusing necessary (but not time sensitive) tasks with the urgent, and filling our days to the brim?
- Put other relationships ahead of your spouse. As parents, we are called to love and care for our (sometimes very needy) children. We have friendships that need attention and extended family relationships to support. But all of these relationships do indeed take time, and more so, take time away from your significant other.
- Communicate negatively. Our interactions, whether intentional or not, verbal or nonverbal, communicate something. What does the tone of your voice tell your spouse? Does it communicate that you’re impatient, irritated, tired, or angry? Or does it communicate support, love, and patience?
- Hold grudges. When your significant other does something that rubs you the wrong way, do you hold it against them? It can be all too easy to nurse a grudge against a loved one, especially if you don’t expect them to retaliate. What does holding grudges teach our children about the world and making mistakes?
- Ignore his or her needs. Do you find yourself avoiding intimacy or speaking and interacting with love because you’re: a) tired; b) thinking about something else; c) too distracted to see your spouse’s need for attention? I truly believe this one will hurt a marriage more than any of the others listed above. Think of how a child craves a hug and loving words on a daily basis. Do you do the same for your spouse?
- Support monotony. Want to really hurt a marriage? Then try to avoid having hobbies, interest, or dreams together. There is nothing worse, in my book, than when spouses become more like roommates than lovers. There is something, however, magical and uniting that happens when a couple dreams and tries new things together.
- Never spend time alone. Do you make it a priority to spend time together sans kids? Or does alone time tie for last on the To Do list? I get that it is tough to have an official date night, but when the kids are asleep or away from the house, how do you spend your time? With your spouse or separately?
- Avoid actively listening to your spouse. Do you REALLY hear what your sweetie has to say? Do you listen with your ears, eyes, and heart? Or do you halfheartedly offer support and are often too distracted to really hear them?
Marriage is a tough gig, no doubt about it. Caring and loving on a 24/7 basis for years and years is ridiculously difficult. And although I am guilty of many of the issues above, I see my relationship with my husband as my number one priority. Our love and support for each other is the foundation on which we have and raise children, and to treat it as any less would be against our vows. So let’s turn this positive: how do you show your significant other that you love and support them?
Kate and her husband, Kirk, met at Walt Disney World while lifeguarding at the same hotel. He offered to cook her dinner that night, and well, things haven’t changed much since. Although they are both guilty of committing many of the mistakes above, their marriage has survived countless moves, grad school, new jobs, and a baby.