By Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D.
It’s not enough to rely on a marriage license to hold your relationship together. Relationships need time, effort, energy, attention, and nourishment in order to thrive. Think about it like this: Your “first child is your relationship” and this relationship “needs as much care and attention as a human infant.”
It’s not enough to say that spouses “shouldn’t” walk away from their marriages or “shouldn’t” divorce. The reality is that many unhappy spouses do walk out the door, and marriages do wither away and die a slow death.
Read through the following list and see if any of the behaviors mentioned apply to you and your marriage. Each behavior represents a “land mine” of trouble in a marriage:
1. “If your partner isn’t complaining, everything is probably okay.”
It’s important to keep communication channels open and to take the time to routinely listen to your spouse and talk deeply about any issues or concerns. Don’t take for granted that all is well if your communication has dried up.
2. “If you let your appearance go, it’s no big deal.”
No one likes to feel that their mate doesn’t think they are worth the time and effort to look their best. Being taken for granted in this way won’t keep your romantic and sex life sizzling.
3. “It doesn’t matter that you’ve stopped doing the little romantic things to show that you really care.”
When a partner stops making romantic and thoughtful gestures, the mate often concludes that the partner’s love is lessening. The mate then feels taken for granted, and romantic feelings may dull.
4. “Now that you’re married, you don’t have to express appreciation or say ‘thank you’ as often.”
When a partner doesn’t show appreciation or say “thank you,” the mate can feel unimportant and taken for granted. The mate may start thinking, “She’s only married to me for my paycheck” or “He doesn’t value my contributions to the marriage.”
5. “If you’re too busy (work, hobbies, friends, etc.) to spend quality time together and share some fun activities, it’s okay because you’ll make it up to your spouse later on.”
People can’t be “put on hold” for week, months, and years. Neither can relationships. If you take your spouse for granted in this way, you run the risk of losing your emotional connection and discovering that when you’re finally ready to devote time to the relationship, your partner doesn’t want to be with you.
The commitment you and your spouse made to each other at your wedding is unlikely to be enough to sustain your marriage at a high level of quality over a period of years. If you want more in your marriage month to month, you have to give more – consistently and continuously.
Remember, your relationship is like a garden. You have to care for it consciously and consistently if you want it to produce fruit. And we all want the fruit of love in our marriage, don’t we?