I talk often with couples who are struggling in their marriage. But the things they’re dealing with often have nothing to do with the pain of tragic issues like affairs, addictions or abuse. They usually describe their struggle with phrases like this: “I feel we’ve grown apart and we feel stuck. The feelings of love are not there anymore.”
There are many factors that get in the way of a good marriage, but most often, they are small, unnoticed things that make their way into the relationship over time. Therefore, more often than not, all you need are small adjustments to get you back to the marriage that you once had or you desire to have. To avoid getting to the place of feeling distant and stuck, here are some relationship killers to be aware of that I believe are the biggest threats to your marriage.
Family priorities. In any area of our lives it’s important to know what the priorities are, and this especially applies to marriage. The top relationship stress for most couples has little to do with the relationship and much more to do with the relationships they are closely surrounded by. The role of your siblings, parents, in-laws, and friends all shift the moment you say, “I do,” because when you get married, you become one. You have made the choice to put your spouse above all others—whether you realize it or not. A spouse in a marriage cannot possibly feel loved or respected if they don’t feel they are a priority—and a simple lack of priorities can cause your marriage to struggle tremendously. With all the demands we all face daily, married couples can find themselves being pulled in every direction by everyone except toward each other—so making each other a priority has to be intentional. If you’re going to have a healthy and happy marriage you’ll have to learn to choose one another above all others.
Lack of communication. I’ve written on this subject many times before but it’s one of the key components of a healthy relationship. The scary thing is that the average couple invests in quality conversation only a few minutes a day. If you’re not aware of your priorities, it’s easy for life to get busy and cause you to stop connecting with the one you love. Always remember a lack of communication produces mistrust. But the opposite is true as well. Start communicating and it will build trust between you.
Stress. I heard a statement once: “Bring your best love home.” Sounds great but it definitely takes a lot of work. It’s really easy to take your stress out on your spouse. If you’re not careful, you can get into the habit of holding things in until you’re in the safety and comfort of your home and then exploding. Healthy couples allow their stress to pull them together, by relying on each other, sharing it with one another and being there for each other.
Technology. I often hear, “I just wish he would put his phone down,” or “She lives on Facebook.” It’s so easy to lose hours on a device. From constantly checking your text messages or social media newsfeeds, you can find your time slipping away instead of investing it into the person you love. It might be time to unplug, disconnect, shut down and invest in your spouse.
Selfishness. This is an area where we all can make some adjustments. In any close relationship, but especially in a marriage, there can be a huge ongoing life lesson in resisting the negative effects of selfishness. Both you and your spouse have areas where selfishness definitely can hinder your connection and your relationship—but remember, you can only change you, and not your spouse. So, allow God to help you grow in those areas. Guard your heart so that you don’t allow yourself to become bitter, but instead, grow and become better.
Unforgiveness. I’ve written blogs about the difference between forgiveness and trust, but there’s also a difference in forgiving vs. forgetting. They are not one in the same. When we fail to realize that, we hold onto our hurts for a very long time. And eventually, those hurts begin to destroy our lives from the inside out. But forgiveness is not about excusing the other person, it’s about freeing ourselves to receive healing from the God who forgives us time and time and time again.
Strategic boundaries. We can be doing all the right things, while still failing to keep out the things that are harmful to a relationship. Having a strategy to protect your relationship is vitally important. In your mind right now, draw a circle around your marriage. Decide that you’re going to guard your own emotions, your interactions, and the way you spend your time to protect your marriage.
The past. I posted a quote on Facebook the other day: “If you don’t let your past die, you will never truly live.” I believe this is not only about ourselves, but also it applies to defining your spouse by their past rather than by who they are today. The past may impact our lives, but it will only control our present if we allow it to. It’s important to be real with one another about your past, but more importantly, to respect one another’s past by seeing what God is doing in your lives today. Forget what is behind so that you can move toward with what is ahead.
Dishonesty. Why is a small lie just as dangerous and distractive as a big lie? The reason is that they both have the same impact on your intimate connection. Honesty in marriage is like the chain that holds you together. The moment you start removing links in the chain, it causes a separation. If you’ve made mistakes in your marriage or you’ve been hiding things from your spouse, now’s the time to be truthful and talk openly. A relationship built on dishonesty is truly no relationship at all. Speaking the truth starts the healing and restoration process.
Pride. It’s real important to be aware enough to recognize your own flaws and shortcomings in your relationship before fixating on those of your spouse. However, pride can make that really hard to do. It’s so much easier to point the finger and shift the blame. But here’s the real reason why pride is a relationship killer: The moment you let go of your personal responsibility, you have let go of your relationship—because no matter what the issue at hand, it always takes two.
I hope all of these points were something you can start implementing today. If you want a better marriage, it’s time to consider what you allow into your relationship that kills the connection between you. My prayer is that God would continue to give you the wisdom to recognize these patterns and to be mindful of the small stuff by protecting, nourishing and prioritizing your marriage.
If you’d like personalized help, I always offer an initial free coaching session. If you’re interested just click on this link and it will take you to my coaching page. https://www.margiemcdaniel.org/life_coach_minneapolis/