Most people can’t help but gush when they see an elderly couple walking hand-in-hand through the park or mall. You know keeping the romance alive through the ups and downs in life couldn’t have been easy. There’s no doubt it took them a hearty recipe of hard work, patience, and understanding to make things work. If you’re wondering how you can have a strong, lasting relationship like this, then take a look at these ten habits that might be standing in your way.
- Living beyond your means: Finances can put a strain on any marriage. It’s important to take the time to evaluate your spending habits.
How to fix it: You should start by analyzing your finances. Living beyond your means doesn’t just mean being in debt; it can also mean not hitting your long-term savings goals, especially for retirement. If you determine you need to spend less, then make the necessary cuts to your budget. Living within your means will take away unnecessary stress on your relationship.
- Not acknowledging your faults: No one likes to admit they have faults, but an unwillingness to be honest about your own shortcomings can create distance between you and your spouse.
How to fix it: Marriage is give and take, and you have to be willing to meet your partner halfway. Acknowledge when you are wrong and have messed up. This will be a sign of selflessness and maturity. Work together to understand where one another is coming from, and be patient through disagreements.
- Blaming your spouse: It can be easy to blame the person closest to you for the problems that come up in life, but assigning blame rarely has a positive outcome—especially in a marriage.
How to fix it: Whenever you feel yourself wanting to assign blame for a situation, stop and ask yourself, “Do I bear any culpability?” In doing so, you may find areas to improve in your own life that will better your relationship.
- Being passive aggressive: Sometimes we fall in the trap of expecting our spouse to read our mind and getting frustrated when they don’t—even though they’re likely just as oblivious as we sometimes feel.
How to fix it: The first step to combatting passive-aggressiveness is to self-reflect on the underlying reasons that you may feel animosity. When you acknowledge the reasons, you can work through them, first on your own and then with your spouse. Avoiding passive-aggressive behavior will make your relationship much healthier and honest.
- Breaking promises: Trust can be damaged in a marriage when promises are broken.
How to fix it: Evaluate the promises you make and why you make them. Is there a deeper reason why you aren’t fulfilling your word? Make sure to communicate before and after making a promise: Before, identify and be open about what obstacles could arise to get in the way. After, if you do break a promise, then be open, honest, and ask for forgiveness.
- Making everything about you: One of the great responsibilities of marriage is recognizing that your needs do not always come first. In fact, you can derive far more happiness from making your life partner happy than making yourself happy.
How to fix it: If you’re having trouble putting your spouse first on the things that matter to you, then start by putting your spouse first on the things that don’t matter as much to you. If you can make your spouse feel special without sacrificing your own interests, then you’re already on the right path. Start small and work bigger. This is one of the surest ways to strengthen your marriage.
- Escalating fights: In the middle of a heated argument, it’s easy to say things in anger that escalate the situation and that you regret later.
How to fix it: Sometimes the best thing you can do for an argument is to put it on pause. Give yourself and your spouse the chance to walk away, clear your heads, and come back together in a better state of mind to have your say. There’s no need to rush.
- Taking your spouse for granted: It’s easy to slip into a routine and take a spouse for granted.
How to fix it: When you find yourself struggling to appreciate your spouse, make a list—mentally or on paper—of everything they do for you and all of the ways they enrich your life. Don’t be afraid to tell them what’s on your list!
- Assigning motivation to your spouse’s actions: When your spouse takes an action that you disapprove of, it’s so easy to assign a motivation: “It’s because you don’t think before you act” or “You let people walk all over you.” These efforts to interpret behaviors come across as judgmental.
How to fix it: Learn to listen. Ask them why they did what they did or how they feel. Once you think you understand, restate it to them to make sure you have it right. “If I understand correctly, you feel . . .”
- Comparing your spouse to someone else: No one is perfect in life; there’s always someone who’s going to be smarter, funnier, better-dressed, and more driven than you and your spouse put together. Not only is it unfair to compare your spouse to someone else, it’s irrelevant.
How to fix it: When you find yourself in this mindset, ask yourself: “Is this quality that I’m judging in my spouse a deal-breaker for our relationship?” If the answer is no, it’s probably not worth mentioning.
Marriage is hard work, in part because it’s less about finding the right person and more about being the right person. It’s important to work on developing small habits now that strengthen your marriage later. For more help on how to develop a lasting marriage, please visit us at hart-legal.com. Our California office will give you the support and resources you need.