Probably the number one problem undermining marriages today is complacency. People meet, become fascinated by each other, fall in love, get married, and then gradually start taking each other – and their marriage – for granted.
This is not a shocking secret, either. Ask most married people today what the leading problem in relationships is, and they’ll agree it’s complacency. But people seem to be complacent about complacency.
The main problem is that modern marriage – indeed, modern life itself – is exhausting. So it’s hard to find the energy to do anything special, anything above-and-beyond, for their marriage. We all have our jobs, our families, pets, chores, and other responsibilities, and they take all our time, or at least they seem to.
Unfortunately, for all too many people, the end of complacency comes with a shock, when their spouse drops a bomb: “I want a divorce” or “I’m in love with someone else.”
Don’t let this happen to you.
So, What’s the Solution?
The fundamental way to fix many marriage problems is through good communication. By learning how to communicate well, and honestly, with your spouse, you will stop many marriage difficulties even before they start.
Because ignorance of your partner, a lack of real intimacy, causes many of these problems. If you don’t know how your partner is feeling, what’s on their mind, how things are going at their job, what their dreams are, then it’s all too easy for trouble to set in.
Learn How to Talk to Each Other
Unfortunately, that takes work, like any other skill.
A good way to talk that doesn’t take too much time is a regular “check in” where you each take turns talking while the other person listens and says nothing. It’s not a conversation, not a dialogue.
It’s a monologue where you freely share what’s on your mind and in your heart and your spouse just listens. Then, after you’ve spoken for a few minutes, they take their turn and you just listen. You’d be surprised what you can learn about your spouse, even if you’ve been married for years, by just listening to them for two or three minutes! I should say especially if you’ve been married for years.
The way it works is you just get a timer – an hourglass with sand in it that runs for a couple of minutes is fine, but most modern phones have timers built into them and you always have your phone with you – and each take turns talking. You can do this anytime it’s convenient for both of you, on the couch, or at the breakfast table, or in bed before going to sleep at night.
Say What’s on Your Mind
When it’s your turn, talk about what’s on your mind. Talk about how you’re feeling today. Talk about things that happened to you recently, both good and bad.
Don’t talk to your spouse. Talk in front of them, as though you were letting them listen to your inner monologue. Let them share your thoughts and feelings, whatever they are.
It doesn’t matter whether those thoughts and feelings have anything to do with your spouse, either. You’re just getting used to talking to each other.
The privileged glimpse you get inside your spouse’s heart and mind during this kind of sharing is a great gift, and also a powerful weapon against complacency. When you regularly hear details of your spouse’s humanity, when you understand and share their triumphs and their tragedies, both small and large, then it’s much harder for you to take them for granted.
The Grateful List
Another good way to prevent complacency is to make a list of all the things about your partner that you are grateful for. Not just the chores he or she does, but the qualities about them you admire.
Write them down. Make a list and then make a point of telling your partner what you appreciate about them. Read the list and really think about everything on it. This will help remind you that your spouse is a special, wonderful person and that you’re proud of them.
Thank them for the work they do, the chores around the house. Tell them you love them. Don’t just reflexively say it as you’re heading out the door to the office. Say it while looking into their eyes.
There’s an old joke about “letting yourself go” once you get married. Don’t do that. I don’t mean you have to go to the gym every day or run a hundred miles a week. But take some care with your personal appearance and grooming. Keep yourself healthy – your attitude towards your own health is often a good indicator of your attitude towards the health of your marriage.
Be sure to tell your partner that they look good, too.
Good communication and appreciation of each other are an excellent foundation for your marriage, and with a little effort, you can ward off complacency and strengthen the foundation of your relationship.
Do you feel you two are starting to drift apart? Running out of ideas on how to relate better with your spouse? Check out my Mend the Marriage program to get you started on the right path!