Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes work – constant focus – to avoid exhaustion that can lead to big problems, even quitting the race. A muscle ache, tendon twinge, or bruised foot that you could ignore in a short sprint will add up to become a serious problem during a long marathon run. So, just like a long-distance runner, pay attention to the small things. Here are seven serious mistakes you can make that will add up to big trouble in your marriage marathon.
Probably the number one offense is simply taking your partner, and your marriage, for granted. If you expect things to stay the same, day after day, year after year, without you working hard or doing anything at all, then you’re deluded. Yes, you can coast in your relationship for a short time, but not over the long term.
Complacency takes many forms, but they are all linked by the idea of that expectation that your spouse, your relationship, and you yourself will not change over time. It’s important to accept that you and your partner will both change, for many reasons, and that your relationship, which is the sum of the two of you, will also change.
Whether you believe it or not, your complacency will communicate itself to your spouse, consciously or subconsciously. They will sense that you have, in some ways, stopped making an effort. There are plenty of reasons you might do so – increased stress at work, midlife crisis, illness, boredom – but ultimately it is your responsibility to cultivate a state of mind where you see your relationship in new ways all the time, and celebrate that renewal.
Laziness is a close cousin to complacency. Complacency might be seen as a kind of emotional laziness. Another danger is actual laziness, which means not doing any kind of work in your relationship at all. A marriage requires plenty of chores and unpleasant tasks, from cleaning toilets to paying bills to taking out the garbage. Don’t shirk your share of the work. The message you send by not pulling your weight is that you don’t really care enough to make the effort.
Laziness takes other forms, too, such as not making an effort or spending the money for holidays and vacations. Plan and take some trips with your spouse, even if you just go away for one night on a road trip to some nearby town. Both of you need to have some adventures to share and talk about.
Neglecting your health
Another type of laziness, but concerning your own body. We’ve all heard the jokes about “letting yourself go” after you get married, as though somehow romance and dating were all a game. You work really hard and try to “win” by getting somebody to marry you. Then you quit trying once you’ve accomplished the goal.
Don’t do this. Not only is your health important to you – it is also important to your spouse. Partly it is simple attractiveness. A healthy, active person is more lively and attractive than someone out of shape. You don’t have to sculpt your body into some impossible form, but you should get some exercise each day, whether at a gym or just out walking or bike riding. Exercise keeps you fit, but it also changes your brain and keeps you in a better mood, which is certainly important for your marriage.
Visit your doctor regularly and take care of your health. Your spouse is the one who will probably have to look after you if your health fails, so try to minimize the burden on them by staying healthy. Eat right, get exercise, and see the doctor.
Neglecting your mind
Just as you can fail to take care of your physical health, so you can also neglect your intellect. Keep your mind active by reading a book now and then, and perhaps by learning something new. Take a class, any subject at all, whatever you’re interested in. Go see a serious movie now and then, and talk about it with your spouse. You want to not only keep your mind active and exercised, but you also want to continue to be an interesting person for your spouse to talk to.
Anger is part of every marriage, and can’t ever be completely avoided. Rows and fighting can even be healthy now and then to clear the air between you and to express bottled up emotions. It doesn’t matter that you fight sometimes, but it does matter how you fight. Try to stick to some general rules when you argue with your spouse. Don’t cruelly attack their personality or their physical appearance or temperament – things they can’t easily change. Don’t shout things like, “You always do this!” or “You’ll never change!” Focus on what actions your spouse took that angered you, and express your anger about that. Don’t lash out at your spouse by calling them names – lazy, stupid, fat, mean, asshole, whatever.
This one is a no-brainer. Don’t cheat on your spouse. Although adultery is not always a guaranteed marriage ender, it is very tough to bounce back from, and some marriages never recover from it. If you feel you are in danger of cheating, get some help. Find someone to talk to about it – a trusted friend or family member who will keep things confidential. Even a professional therapist can help you sort things out.
It’s important to regularly check in with your partner about how you are feeling and how your marriage is going. Failure to communicate with each other can lead to all sorts of troubles over time. It’s best to build in a regular time when you check in. Taking turns to talk while the other partner just listens and says nothing is a good way to do it, and it can be done in just a few minutes in the car or in bed before going to sleep at night. It is vital for you to know what’s going on in your spouse’s mind and heart, and though you may think you can read their mind after all these years, you might be surprised. Work with your spouse to stay connected.