Why can't we remember how intensely in love we felt while going through hard times in our marriage? If only life worked that way but it doesn't and if a marriage is going to survive, it's going to take work from each spouse. When you're in the honeymoon phase most of what happens can be easily forgiven, afterward is when the real work of marriage begins.
My wife and I were married a day after my eighteenth birthday. Family, friends, and wise older couples warned and tried to teach us about what a healthy marriage looks like. We listened here and there but we were in love and ready to take on anything the world would throw at us. We had each other, and that's all we needed.
You can guess how this story plays. After the honeymoon phase, we weren't prepared for the day-to-day experience of marriage. We started with a few fights here and there that escalated to full blown shouting matches. I feel sorry for our neighbors because we fought every day.
After years of limping through marriage, we separated. We were in debt and had no hope. We agreed to divorce, and I moved out. One day in 2011, it all hit me at once. I was crying on the floor because my life was a complete mess. I stopped crying and determined to change my life. I was done existing.
It took years, but I lost 170 pounds, quit a job I hated and paid off all our debt. My wife saw it wasn't just words anymore, so a day before our divorce was supposed to be final, we called it off. This year we celebrate 17 years of marriage. Here are six unhealthy habits that almost led to our divorce and should be avoided in marriage.
1. Putting Your Needs Above Your Spouses
Our natural tendency is to want to make everything about us. We wonder why our spouse isn't putting our needs first when the reality is that it's probably the other way around. A wise counselor told us that if you have a problem with your spouse, the problem is really with yourself. Healthy marriages aren't selfish. They are made up of two spouses who are willing to put the other person's needs first.
2. Not Deciding to Love Every day
Love is not a feeling. It's a decision. Feelings come and go, but the decision to love is something you do everyday--even multiple times a day. Feelings are what have you flying on cloud nine during the honeymoon phase. Making the decision to love your spouse every day is what makes a marriage last. When you decide not to give into temptation because you made that commitment, you are making a decision to love. When you put your spouse first, you are making a decision to love.
3. Hidden Resentment
We know in our minds that communication in a marriage is important; yet too often, we don't do it. We have a problem that we keep to ourselves and let a small issue build into something much deeper. We hold a grudge and carry resentment inside us that forms roots. Before we know it, we're doing something we regret because we couldn't talk about it.
4. Mismanaging Your Money
Money fights and money problems end marriages. Money is one of those topics that is very hard to talk about--especially if you don't have enough. Money isn't everything and shouldn't be something we make first place in our life, but you better believe it's important. There are entire libraries with books that can help you get control of your finances. If you can get your finances under control early on in your marriage, the better chance you have. Talk to your spouse and get on the same page.
5. Letting Your Health Go
Too often in a marriage, spouses let themselves go. We get comfortable and eat a little too much or stop exercising. Your health is vitally important to your life for too many reasons to list. It's also important to keep a healthy marriage. You can make a decision to love every day, but there has to be some attraction. It's also not fair to your spouse.
6. Not Being Fully Present
I could talk about putting your phone down when you have date nights or paying attention when your spouse speaks to you, but being fully present goes far beyond. You have to be there, in the moment with your full attention on whatever is happening. We waste so much of our life living distracted. We miss the little moments that make our life and marriage unique.
There are many reasons couples get divorced. There are situations--such as mental or physically abuse--that can and should force a split. If you're not experiencing a situation that breaks your marriage with no hope of repair, avoid these unhealthy habits. Choose to love every day. The stats about marriage surviving are pretty grim, but they don't have to apply to your marriage.
Photo: Flickr/ smile_kerry