Remember when you first met and fell in love, whether at first sight or over time? You experienced an emotional high for months…maybe even years, had relentless butterflies in your stomach, and dreamed of a future together. Eventually, you made the plans to get married, and became united at last. Together, you went on your honeymoon, returned home, and settled in as a couple united in matrimony.

Well, those were the good ol’ days! There’s a reason why the term “the honeymoon phase” exists. Those feelings of euphoric bliss are replaced over time with emotions of a different kind. A deeper bond, a familiarity with your spouse that can sometimes feel monotonous and tired. Most married couples experience this transformation of their love from a burning hot fire to a cooler, more stable and rooted bond. It’s normal, but extra care must be taken to keep the marriage strong and secure as the years fly by.

Oftentimes, the wear and tear of everyday life takes a toll on marriage. Kids, bills, jobs, health issues, caring for our senior parents…all of these factors can wear us down as individuals and the stress of it all can spill over into our marriage. We become practical and pragmatic and the shine can wear off of our once sparkling love affair with our spouse. Even worse is when we make no effort to keep our marriages strong, and instead purposefully do things that sabotage them. Such as:

Lack of appreciation

Take a moment to consider how polite we are to strangers. Now, think about how much thanks we afford our spouses. It’s sad that we treat those we don’t know better than the ones who love us most. Failing to show your husband or wife that you appreciate all that they do and all who they are is an effective way of damaging your marriage. Does your husband regularly take out the trash? Does your wife do the dishes every day? It takes two seconds to say “thank you”, but it means so much to hear it. Try thanking your mate for the little as well as the big things they do and see what a difference it makes in your marriage.

Giving your attention to others outside of your marriage

This means “just looking”, flirting, having deep conversations, or engaging in more nefarious behaviors with anyone outside of your marriage. Not only that, but even giving too much time and attention to your buddies can make your spouse feel neglected and forgotten. Your mate deserves the majority of your time and attention, and failing to do so can start to break down even the strongest marriages.

Lack of romance

You’ve heard it time and time again that a lack of romance can suck the joy out of a relationship. Men, especially, often disregard how very important romance is to women. Romance doesn’t necessarily mean giving your wife chocolates and flowers regularly. It can mean offering to do the household chores at the end of a long day, giving a ten minute foot rub, or taking the kids out for a treat so your wife can take a bubble bath in peace. And ladies, men need romance too. Cook him his favorite dinner, buy him tickets to the game or a concert, or offer to mow the lawn this time around. Anything you can do to make the other person feel special and cherished counts as romance. If you aren’t sure what your spouse finds romantic…ask!

Ignoring your mate

There are few more damaging behaviors than ignoring someone, especially your husband or wife. Giving the one you’ve dedicated your life to the cold shoulder literally damages them emotionally. It can take years to recover from being regularly ignored. The silent treatment is deafening and damaging in a thousand different ways. And ignoring your spouse’s needs and desires in the bedroom can destroy a marriage faster than any other sabotaging behavior. If you’re being ignored by your spouse, implore them to go to marital counseling immediately. Sometimes people deal with their feelings by shutting down, and bringing in a professional third party can be beneficial in reopening communication between a suffering couple.

Constant criticism

Having your husband or wife nit-pick your every thought, action, and idea can be soul-destroying. Even worse is when it’s done in a public forum, such as on social media, or in front of friends or family. Using your spouse as an emotional punching bag is unacceptable and gives the outside world the impression that your marriage is a huge joke. Do not criticize your spouse, especially for others to witness. One of the worse feelings you can evoke in your lover is that of resentment. Resentment builds a stony wall around a person’s heart that can take ages to tear back down. The golden rule applies here…treat others as you’d like to be treated.

“Parenting” your spouse

You married a grown up, so treat your wife or husband like an adult, not like a child. Nagging, bossing, scolding, and making decisions for your mate is a surefire way to make your marriage fall apart at the seams. Most people can’t wait to cut the cord and enjoy independence. Marrying someone who treats you like a kid or an idiot is probably not the ultimate goal of most boys and girls. Trust that your spouse is a capable, intelligent being who can manage his or her own life without your constant guidance and arbitrary rules.

Being selfish

Do you like to get your own way? All the time? Do you make monumental decisions without first consulting your spouse? Do you insist on having the final word in every conversation? Then you’re selfish. Being selfish and expecting the world to revolve around you will cause you to be single faster than you can say “divorce”. Marriage is a union between TWO people. This isn’t your time to get everything you want regardless of what your husband or wife thinks about it. It’s a give and take and if you don’t give at least as much as you take, you’re in for a wakeup call sooner rather than later.

Taking your mate for granted

If you think it’s okay to leave your socks on the floor, and your dirty dishes on your desk, and the toilet seat up simply because you know your spouse will clean up after you, you’re definitely in the wrong. Never assume that your husband or wife enjoys spending their valuable time tidying up after your lazy self. Never assume they’re okay with you showing up at home late without a phone call. Never assume he or she is okay with not getting a gift on his or her birthday. Never assume anything. Assuming in a marriage is equivalent to taking your spouse for granted. Communicate with one another and ensure your mate doesn’t feel that way!

So, why do we sabotage our marriages? Do we feel we don’t deserve happiness? Do we get freaked out by the prospect of being with the same person for the long haul? Do we just think this person vowed to love me forever, so I can be a jerk and she or he has to just accept it? Whatever our reasons, none of them are valid. Be a decent human being and treat your spouse with the love, respect, dignity, and kindness they so richly deserve. The quality of your marriage is truly up to how you treat each other as husband and wife…‘til death do you part.

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