I almost ruined my marriage. I take full responsibility for it. My wife would probably say the same thing, that she almost ruined our marriage. There wasn’t an affair or some huge break of trust. What we’re both realizing is that we each have complete control over the relationship.
That is, we both have ownership of the relationship.
We were doing five things that were guaranteed to ruin our marriage. Here they are:
1. They believe it is a team effort
“We have to meet halfway.”
“Just walk in their shoes for a day.”
“See the world through their eyes.”
These are all statements that us counselors have been saying for years and honestly it’s just not true!
Each of us has a responsibility to let the other know what we need and want. Also, we can each change the entire dynamic of a marriage by changing our mindset toward personal responsibility.
2. They divide chores
Dividing chores equally is a recipe for the ruinage (is that a word?) of a marriage. Each partner has unique qualities, likes, and dislikes. For example, my wife has a nose that can smell something a mile away. Therefore, when the trash develops an unpleasant odor, she hates it and would rather not take out the trash. For her, it means a lot if I take it out. If we equally divided the task, she would be miserable.
Further, there are times when one person works more or works less outside of the home. Also, we each have preferences. For example, I really like a clean kitchen and my wife really likes a clean bathroom. When chores are always divided, it builds a system that is more like a ledger.
3. They don’t have sex
Sex has a profound way of healing and hurting. Yet, it is not the act of having sex, but what each partner ascribes as meaning. Sex can mean any number of things to someone, here are just a few:
Am I loved?
Am I sexy?
Am I attractive?
Are we going to stay marriage?
Am I safe?
Do I have value?
Are they having an affair?
Does s/he care about me?
Is s/he creative?
Do they care about my needs?
I’m tired, does s/he even notice that?
Working through why a partner wants or doesn’t want sex, inevitably taps into deeper issues within the relationship.
4. They don’t find things to do together
I wasn’t into sailing when we first got marriage. In fact, I had several very negative experiences sailing prior to becoming an adult, including being capsized in the middle of the ocean.
However, my wife’s family had a sailboat. I’m not a strong swimmer and despite being raised on the water, I usually don’t like going for a dip. However, something remarkable happens when you join a spouse in an activity they love. You see a different side of them, create a situation where you can be vulnerable, and show that you are interested in something that drives them.
5. They stop dating
So many marriage researchers and counselors talk about “dating your mate.” It can be really hard to do, especially if you have little ones. However, here are a few things that happen when you start regularly dating your spouse again:
You are forced as a couple to talk
You have to find things to do that you can agree on
You create new experiences to talk about later
You start to remember why you first fell in love
You build a sense of adventure and exploration
What you are going to ruin
Every couple is on the brink. No matter how solid our relationships are, they can fall apart. The gravity of a divorce should give us pause to explore what we are doing to ruin a marriage. We each need to take ownership of our own needs and wants. We need to divide chores less equally and more functionally. We need to have sex more and work through the difficult conversations. We also need to find things to do together and date more often.
Marital satisfaction drops after the first child and usually does not recover until the last child leaves the home, if at all. In order to grow and flourish we need to stop ruining our marriages and start taking responsibility for the type of relationships we want.
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a husband, father, author, and the owners of Mental Wellness Counseling a Traverse City, MI Counseling Practice. He is also a business and marketing blogger. He now loves sailing!