Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Habits that Hurt Marriage

Sometimes it's tempting to get so focused on the goal that once you achieve it, you forget to maintain it. Dieting is the perfect example of this. It's easy to become obsessed with eating right and exercising in order to attain your ideal weight. Once you attain that weight, however, it has to be maintained. If you revert to your old eating/exercising habits because you've already achieved your goal, you will obviously regain the weight. Healthiness has to be maintained; it can't just be achieved. Flexibility is the same way. If you work really hard to become flexible, you have to maintain it day in and day out.

Something similar can happen in our crazy wedding culture. The Wedding becomes the goal, instead of a healthy, sustainable marriage. The truth is, healthy relationships take work. They need to be maintained. They require reflection, adjustments, compromise, forgiveness, understanding.

It's so easy for me to take my marriage for granted. I mean, it's not going anywhere any time soon. We signed a contract! (And, more importantly, we've built a life and a history together.)

But that kind of nonchalant attitude will only set me up for heartbreak. The universe has a way of changing things in an instant; we should never take anything for granted. And in terms of what is actually in our control, Matt and I need to make sure that we pay attention to how we treat each other and that we continue to build rather than corrode our marriage through our daily actions.

The question for me is: "What habits do I have that hurt rather than help our marriage?"

One immediate answer is: I constantly offer up advice or correction about how to interact with our son, Henry. I imagine that that kind of nagging takes a serious toll on our marriage. It probably wears on Matt's confidence and joyfulness. I need to get into the habit of refraining from saying anything unless it is absolutely necessary (and, alternatively, I can bring up things later as a point of discussion about how we choose to parent rather than as an in-the-moment correction).

As I type this, I also feel compelled to acknowledge the deeper problem related to my personality (over-analytical, self-righteous at times, judgmental). Working on those parts of my personality would certainly strengthen my marriage.

Do you have any habits that hurt rather than help your marriage?

Today on Feeding the Soil: My love/hate relationship with running.

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Anonymous said...

I think it is a good idea to have identified your nagging issue with Matt. Make sure that the "how we want to parent" part isn't actually "how I want to parent", and keep in mind that Matt needs to, and will, form his own relationship with Henry independent of yours. There is nothing you can do about it, and trying to control that relationship too much is hurtful and an insult to your husband. Let him be silly, disorganized, loud, or whatever it is that you're not liking. There are lots of ways to "parent", and there is no way you and Matt will be on the same page 100% of the time. Nobody is.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's good to recognize these things in ourselves that are harmful to our relationships, and so hard at times to remedy. I know that at times I can be a little too critical of my husband - whether it be how well he cleans, when I should just be thankful he helps at all rather than telling him how to do it the "right" way. I can see how I need to quickly change my attitude because once baby comes, I don't want to be telling him how to parent the "right" way either.

Anonymous said...

What you're describing is gatekeeping and is a serious issue with new moms. It's very detrimental to your husband and his relationship with Henry if you harp on eveything he does when he's with his son. (Imagine someone doing that to you!)

If you noticed him doing less with Henry, it could be because of gatekeeping. If he's doing the same amount, then you're lucky. A lot of moms gatekeeper and so dads back away from childcare and interacting and that's how it is until the kid's 18. Mom's done all the childcare and is of course resentful, but the outcome would most likely be different if she nipped her gatekeeping in the bud.

Just because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong.

I know I can do the same thing with my husband, so what I do is leave the room if he's doing dishes or something I might criticize him on. Then I just know the dishes got done and wasn't being bitchy about him not putting the bowls in there "correctly."

Unknown said...

While perfectionism is far from a personal problem of mine, being present with my partner is. I get so distracted (tv, video games, wedding blogs) that even as we are planning our wedding together, I find myself missing what he is saying and not being present in the moment. I can only imagine that this will get worse, as the distractions in my life are bound to increase. Traits, like being a good listener and attentive to whomever you are interacting with, need to be continuously maintained. Thank you for the post, it is good to remember that the reason behind it all--the wedding, the kids--is the love you have for the people in your life.

Shannon said...

This is such a great post. I think I'm too emotional and have a hard time thinking/reacting rationally when I have been hurt emotionally. Over reacting doesn't help the situation at all, and I'm learning that my husband hears my issues more when I'm calm and can explain them rationally. He tunes me out when I'm a crying/fit throwing emotional mess. I'm working on it. Like you said, life will always be a work in progress.

Liz said...

I have the same problem! I'm getting to practice letting him do things his way because we only have a dog at the moment, but it's definitely something I'm worried about for when we have a kid. I've been reading a lot about Montessori recently and somewhere (michael olaf, I think?) I read something along the lines of "if you notice the child doing something "wrong," like slamming the door or not sharing or whatever, DO NOT CORRECT the child in the moment. Make a mental note, and then have a lesson with the child at a neutral moment." I've been trying to incorporate this idea into my marriage - if my husband is doing something I don't like, instead of correcting him, which I'm sure is horribly annoying and makes him much less likely to be amenable to my suggestions, I make a mental note about it and then try to bring it up later, if I still think it actually matters. I bet it's a lot harder with a baby, though, especially if you've been doing most of the research. :)

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Liz! I love the connection you made to Montessori. That makes a ton of sense!

Also, I find that if I wait until later to address something, I often forget about it, which means it didn't really matter to me in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I've learned a lot about marriage in my marriage preparation class. We learned about communication. It was fascinating to learn that communication is key in any marriage. We also learned a lot about different ways to communicate. It's always a good idea to choose good times to communicate with your partner and to choose the correct words.

Sometimes, I find myself wanting to talk to my partner late at night when he's wanting to head off to bed.

I also find myself sometimes saying things to my partner that I know bug him. If I don't want to do something I tend to answer his question with a question. When he ask me things like "Do you want to go out?" I end up saying things like "Go out?" I know in my heart it bugs him when I don't respond to his question correctly. He has even figured this out about me. I have to learn that when he ask me questions, I need to respond in a way that is loving and won't hurt his feelings. If I don't want to go out for some reason, then I need to be more loving about it. Choosing the correct way to respond to him is key.

I think you and Matt seem to have a great relationship. Just always remember when communicating with him that he's has feelings too. I was given advice from my aunt once that really stuck with me. She told me that husbands want to feel praised for doing something good. Every time, I'm with my fiance I always praise him for trying hard, doing good things, etc. I think it makes him feel good knowing I care. When your husband takes care of Henry, always remember to be so thankful the good job he is doing. Somtimes, just a little praise can make a man feel special.

-Jodi :)

Anonymous said...

I like this post and the comments, and agree mostly. The only thing that bothers me is this idea of thanking male partners for their "help." I do this sometimes too, but in my heart, I don't really agree with it. It is their responsibility to take care of things, not a favor to us. Aren't we in some way, hurting ourselves by setting up a way of communicating that tells males: "hey, thanks for doing anything at all! Some men do nothing so I am grateful for whatever little you do!" When I have praised my husband, it does work, believe me. But I feel like I resent having to commend him like a child--"thanks for doing the dishes honey, that was really helpful." I feel it sets back feminism. At the same time, I know it is our reality. I just get tired of making excuses for men, saying that is just how they are, etc. Why should it be that way? Things have changed since the 60s, men should know better, no? They seem to be able to step up to the plate when it comes to work or their personal interests. Why not at home? Just food for thought, and something I struggle with often...

Anonymous said...

To the latest Anonymous--I see what you mean about feeling like you shouldn't have to thank your partner for doing something that they should be doing anyway. But actually, what I've found works best and makes the most sense is for both partners to thank each other for all of the ways the other helps maintain the house, marriage, etc. This way the expectation and appreciation is distributed more equally.

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