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By Suzanne Jannese
Everyone knows that marriage takes work. That’s obvious. But a huge misconception is that only BIG things will derail your marriage: infidelity, addiction, adultery, etc. Quite often, you don’t see the little things chip, chip, chipping away at you once-solid relationship foundations when in reality, it’s those tiny things that eventually erode your relationship from within - without you even realizing it! - until years of petty resentments finally explode. Here’s a few tiny earthquakes to watch out for:
1. Not really talking. Wake-up call: Passing each other in the hallway and mumbling something about someone taking out the trash is not talking. If you don’t spend quality time talking about your lives - really, truly, deeply talking about your lives, beyond the small talk and trivialties - you aren’t connecting. And if you’re not connecting, you’re growing apart. Simple as that.
2. Farting in front of each other. You think I’m kidding? When you get the stage where you cut your toenails in front of him, can easily braid the hair on your legs, would need hedge-trimmers to clip through your public hair and think nothing of breaking wind loudly in front of him, you have long passed the comfortable stage. You’ve now reached the ‘roommate’ stage. Romance only dies when you let it. You need to keep the mystery alive and one way to do that is by closing the bathroom door. Knowing everything about another person, including their bowel habits, is not healthy. Get some mystery back into your relationship, STAT.
3. Re-stacking a dishwasher after he’s stacked it. We know you have good intentions (and that you just want the job to be done right), but when you do this, you’re undermining your husband. He’ll interpret this behavior as you thinking he can’t do anything or that everything always has to be your way. Also, if you continue to “re-do” all his attempts at housework, I assure you, he’ll stop helping altogether.
4. Spending more time on the Internet than you do with each other. Who gives a flying f*ck what Henry Dewhurst is doing since you left high school? Does it matter that he’s sailed around the world and now runs XYZ business in NYC? Nope. Hint: It’s not normal to spend more time looking at wedding photos of a wedding you weren’t invited to than you do with your family. So if you’re spending more of your life talking to people you used to know or even worse, have never met, than hanging with your spouse, what pray tell are you doing?! Ban iphones and technology from the bedroom (we know, it’s hard) and watch your sex life (and marriage!) miraculously improve.
5. Canceling date night over and over again. Yup, we all have deadlines. We all have draconian bosses breathing down our necks - and yes, there will always be good reason to cancel date night - especially if the sitter lets you down again. But do so at your peril because postponing one-on-one time is symbolic of where your marriage is in your list of priorities. If you’d rather attend a Zumba class than have a glass of wine with your husband, that’s a red flag. Your relationship is sacred; treat it as such.
6. Paying more attention to your kids than him. How many moms do you know who shower their kids with affection and give their husbands a quick pat on the back when he swoops in for a kiss? Remembering to stop and give each other actual physical affection - not just a requisite peck on the cheek - is the sign of a healthy relationship. When you spend day in/day out with someone, it’s easy to neglect them. The mundane goings-on of daily life take precedent and by the time you get the kids to bed and collapse on the sofa, showing any kind of affection feels like an extra chore. But here’s a secret: Do. It. Anyway. Affection, leading or not leading to sex, cannot be overstated.
7. Never quite losing the baby weight. It may be controversial, but letting yourself go physically when you get comfortable with someone is a sure-fire way to send you partner looking elsewhere. When they met you, you were 23 with great abs but three kids and twenty years later, well, things don’t quite look the same. We get it; life happens. But looking after your own appearance means you feel good about yourself which in turn, means they feel good about you too. The brutal truth is you need to move your ass off the couch and down to the gym. You cared about your ass before, so why not now? Becoming lazy after you’ve hooked your catch isn’t a sexy look for anyone.
8. Never saying ‘thanks.’ My husband often feels like he deserves a medal every time he puts a load of wash in. (Never mind that I separated the wash, put it in the dryer, and spent hours folding it.) I want to stab him in the eyes when he expects validation for a relatively simple task but I give it to him anyway. Why? Because at least he did it. And when he feels empowered, BONUS: he might just do something else, like grocery shopping or cleaning the fridge. By thanking him, I’m saying: “I see you, I acknowledge you.” Likewise, he should be thanking you, too. Otherwise there’s a tendency to start playing the ‘who did more’ game, which quickly leads to resentment. The more grateful you are, the more likely he’ll do more. Trust me.
9. Spending too much time with your side of the family. Yes, we all know the guilt-trip moms are capable of if you aren’t home to celebrate Thanksgiving but just for once, ask your other half what they would like to do for the holidays. By pleasing your parents more than your spouse, you’re slowly poisoning your relationship and we hate to break it to you, hubby’s probably had enough of your Dad talking about his golf swing and your Mom droning on about her recent knee surgery. Here’s an idea: Instead of going to Gram and Gramps, ask them to come stay and spend time with the kids while you two get away, together!
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