Look, we all make mistakes in marriage, right? Every couple has experienced the typical ups and down that mark a relationship. Even when the marriage is firing on all cylinders, the husband and wife will both make some bonehead mistakes and the worst of it is that when they screw things up, they are bound to repeat the mistakes again and again.
Why is that? Why do married couples who love each other and are devoted to making the relationship work at every level, do and say the dumbest of things?
The answer is simple in one hand and complex in another. It is best to start with the origins to why couples can figuratively crap over each other. Instead of devoting themselves to lift each other up, it is not unusual to find some husband and wife pairings falling into destructive routines and patterns. So let’s peel back the layers behind why two people who choose to spend their life together can give into the bad and ugly. To do this we need to examine who we are and why we are and what we mean to each other whether it be in marriage or in friendship.
Marriage Mistakes Can Grow from the Animal in Us
Now this is not going to be easy to dissect because there is little about us human beings that is easy to understand. And when you include all the dynamics involved in a couple and how they interact as two people seeking to form a fulfilling union, things can get rather complicated and confusing.
Let’s start first with who we are. Men and women are part of the animal kingdom. With me so far! Ok, so what do you know about animals. Animals can be wild. Yep, just like some marriages and relationships can result in a trip to the wild side.
Animals can be tamed. They can learn to be domesticated and do the right things Ok, that sounds familiar too. How often have you hear of the old adage, get married and settle down. I am specifically referring to the settle down part. Not that piece that deals with husband and wife finding a home and getting settled in. No, no. I am referring to the process of a young couple maturing together and learning to put the wild days behind them and moving forward with purpose and a sensible plan for the future.
So that is the rhythm of how relationships unfold over time. Our hope is that the two people who make up the relationship are influenced more by the better angels of their nature. But despite all of this, we cannot lose sight that we are all animals at heart.
We are often in battle within ourselves try to tap down our animalistic and selfish nature. Yea, I know, it sounds so primal. But hey, we come from a long line of animals who were much more wilder and primitive in behavior. And some of those genes and behaviors remain imprinted in us.
So husbands, listen up! The next time your wife calls you a jackass or a beast, just know there is an element of truth to her declaration!
So now that you know who your are….an animal given to primitive, emotional, and selfish outbursts….let’s talk about another reason why couples often say the stupidest of things to each other.
It has a lot to do, in my opinion, with why we are driven to be married. There is a certain yin (negative force) and yang (positive force) element to why we are attracted to each other.
Clearly men and women are very, very similar in many ways. We are of the same species, though some may argue this point! (i.e. Mars vs. Venus). Couples share the same need for security and shelter and financial stability (i.e. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). Both men and women are driven to have sex for a lot of reasons and there is also this magical phenomenon called love that attracts a couple to each other. Yep, we are a lot alike.
So we have these forces that are pushing a couple into each other’s arms. But every coin has a flip side. Men and women, while they share many things that drive them toward each other, also have individual makeups that can often cause them to be repelled by each other. Not repelled like they are disgusted by the other, by rather a type of relationship repellent experience that manifest itself in pushing away or avoidance of the other spouse.
Ok, now before you fuss at me for using the word “repelled”, let me explain why I chose to use this terminology. Let’s take a typical husband. Indeed, let’s talk about a real client I worked with whose name is Frank. He is relatively happily married and loves his wife very much. They do a lot of things together and most of the time, the marriage is highly functioning. But Frank is jock. He likes to work out. He lifts weights and he goes on runs and loves to watch football with his buddies and all those things are important to him. He not only enjoys the solitary challenge of physical exertion, but like most guys, he needs his alone time.
His wife, Betsie, understands all this, but there are times when she feels left out. They both work hard and when they are not working she expects they should spend most of that time together as a couple. So when Frank is sweating away or hanging with his buddies, his wife can get annoyed and somewhat jealous and resentful that he is not spending that precious time with her.
Now lets flip the script. There are times when Betsie does certain things that can upset her husband. Betsie wants to talk and share some of the challenges of her day. Invariably she will talk about some of the problems she encountered.
This is how his wife processes her feelings and it makes her feel connected to her husband when he is listening and empathizing with her. But her husband will sometimes clam up and not want to hear what she has to say because it reminds him of his own work or his own troubles. And in that given moment, the husband may be emotionally trying to escape such thoughts. From this can arise conflict and in the case of this loving married couple, fights tend to break out around the topic of the wife’s impression that her husband does not wish to either listen to attentively or share quality time.
So is it possible that on one hand you can have remarkably good chemistry as a married couple, yet also find yourselves split apart on matters revolving around individual preferences?
What is baked in the Marriage Cake?
That is the challenge all couples have in making their relationship work day in and day out. And what often can get in the way is the simple fact that no two people are always perfectly compatible. We are all very unique and very complex and despite how well we can get along with our wife or husband, there will be aspects of the marriage and in the lives of the couple that will result in them knocking head. There will ALWAYS been a certain degree of compatibility challenges between a couple. It is baked in the marriage cake.
Think of a marriage as a layer cake. There are many flavors that make up the cake and while several of these individual flavors work well with each other…..jell with each other….there are some flavors of the cake that do not mix well….that clash.
So what I am saying is that from the get go, you have to recognize there will be some things that couples will struggle with. Sometimes it is due to the differences in their personality. Sometimes it could be about their upbringing. Sometimes it has more to do with the differences in the sexes and unique needs a man or woman may have. If you recognize this upfront, then you can be on the look out for these potential marriage trouble spots and stop the behavior that might turn into an otherwise happy marriage into one where you are both stumbling around trying to figure out how to extract yourself from a marriage mess.
So what are the top 7 worst marriage mistakes couples can make?
- Failing to be Kind. Being loving and kind and considerate and showing appreciation to your husband or wife is huge in a marriage. This is why this gets the number one position on my list. Studies reveal that if you simply get this piece right, the probability of a successful marriage is very high.
- Not Fighting Fair. By all means, one of the worst things you can do as a couple is cling to any notion that fighting is good for the soul. It is simply not true. If you need an outlet to work off some excess negative energy, then go exercise or go for a walk or do something physical, but avoid fighting with your lover. But we all know marriage fights eventually happen. So learn to fight fair. I discuss this at length in a few of my posts here, so go check them out!
3. Not Giving Each Other Alone Time: A marriage is a union of two people who seek to become closer connected and remain connected. Through a variety of experiences, positive and negative, a couple’s love for each other can mature and grow to be something very special. But, being together all of the time is not healthy. A highly functional marriage is one in which both partners have individual interests and are allowed and supported to pursue them. So sometimes this means you need to give you husband or wife the time they need alone to recharge their battery or pursue individual interests.
4. Not Supporting Your Spouse’s Needs: Each marital partner has unique needs. Whether they be emotional or physical needs, it is imperative that you are there for them. Now, you won’t be able to do everything for your lover and meet each and every one of their needs, whatever they may be. But there are some needs that rise higher than others and that should be your focus. Ask your husband or wife what is really important to them and make sure you are aware of this special need and act proactively to help them with it.
5. Cheating on Your Husband or Wife: Need I say more. I think everyone has suffered to some degree the pain of jealousy. Well, take the the feelings associated with jealousy and multiply by 100 and you might just get a tad bit closer to what cheating can do to a marriage.
6. Emotionally Clinging Too Tightly to Your Spouse: When you act in a nagging way, desperate for attention, that can drain your husband or wife’s battery. You have heard of high maintenance partners, right? This is when a person seems to constantly be the squeaky wheel, always competing for attention. We all need attention and it is important we value our marriage partner’s special needs, but when we find ourselves constantly calling texting, emailing, asking for re-assurance, this can over time upset the balance of how each spouse should support each other.
7. Failing to Actively Listen to Your Husband or Wife: when I talk about active listening I am referring to a skill set that involves genuine empathy. One of the things that has a huge impact on human beings is feeling a sense of self worth. Just knowing that someone cares and is paying attention to what you have to say and think is nourishment to the very soul of your marriage and broadens that all important connection between husband and wife.