The longer you are married, the easier it is to let things come in between you and your spouse. When you first get married, you are ready to take on the world together. You make decisions together, you dream together, you are romantic with each other, continually pursuing each other. You can’t imagine anything coming between you and the most crucial person in your life.
But something happens.
Aging parents step in, and now you are taking care of them. Or parents who step into issues within your marriage. Or, if your spouse struggles to leave their family of origin and cling to this new family.
And your career starts to pick up. For many, the career catches them off guard because now they begin to feel affirmation, accomplishment, and people are noticing them in ways they didn’t have before.
Slowly, you stop pouring energy into your marriage because it feels more natural and comes easier to throw yourself into work and your kids.
But make no mistake, that path leads a ton of regret.
So, think of this post as a car dashboard telling you when to get your oil changed. Here are nine ways to know you need to spend more energy and time on your marriage than your job or your kids.
You check your email and text messages during dinner. The dinner table needs to be the time of day when you turn your phone off. Whoever emails you or texts you during dinner can wait. If not, don’t eat dinner. It is easy, though to have your devices at the table.
Interestingly, parents complain about their kids bringing devices to the table, but guess who did it first? Parents.
At our house and on date nights, we have a no devices rule. If you need to bring out a device, ask the other person if that is okay.
You can’t remember the last date night you had. The older your kids get, the harder it is to get time together with your spouse. A lot happens, and a lot needs to happen.
But you need to schedule a time for you and your spouse to be together. To have time to talk, process, share what is going on, get feedback, pursue each other.
This needs to be one of the things that are blocked out on your calendar each week. It doesn’t have to be expensive or a major production, but it does need to be consistent.
A few rules for this time: plan it, no electronics, have the goal be a connection with each other.
You are quick to say “yes” to your kids, sleeping with you at night. This is not the same thing as feeding a baby at night, but many couples to be kind to their child or do not have to say no to their spouse about sex, allow kids to overrun the bedroom. If this is happening, something deeper is going on that needs to be addressed.
Every night we have a child who wants to sleep in our bed, on our floor for one reason or another. If they show up at 3 am, that’s different than 10:15 pm. But communicate that there are places where kids don’t get to be, they won’t end up in counseling because of this.
Your bedroom has a TV in it. One of the best ways to kill your sex life in marriage is by putting a TV in your bedroom. Whenever I meet with a couple who is frustrated about their sex life, they often have a TV in their bedroom. If you have a TV in your room and a great sex life, great, but you are the exception.
A TV is a distraction (it also keeps you from getting great sleep).
PDA. One of the most significant signs that your marriage needs to attention is a lack of public displays of affection. Affection is the barometer of your marriage.
The older you get, the easier it is for this to slip. You stop holding hands, kissing, hugging.
The moment you look up and realize that your PDA is low, you need to give your marriage some attention.
Your weekends and evenings are taken over by your kids. Life is busy with kids: projects, sports, scouts, schoolwork, and plays. But when you begin to realize that you don’t have friend time, hobbies, you are running from one thing to the next; it is time to pull back and reevaluate. You don’t have to be in everything or be at everything.
When you hear a wife refer to her husband as one of her kids. This is a big one.
When a wife does this, underneath is disdain and disrespect of her husband. I’m not saying he doesn’t act like one of her kids, because he might. But this is one that tells you a lot about where your relationship is.
You are more open with someone at work than you are with your spouse. You spend a lot of time with people at work, and often, they are easier to talk to than your spouse. Slowly, during break time, lunch, or working late, you begin to share things with this person that you don’t share with your spouse.
You begin to get emotionally connected in a way that is incredibly dangerous to your marriage.
You see your spouse as getting in the way of your dreams. This a touchy one but an important one.
When you start in marriage, you are your spouse’s biggest cheerleader, standing in their corner (or at least you should be). Over time though, you can find yourselves pursuing different dreams, different lives. Slowly, the people closest to you seem to be inhibiting you from your goals instead of helping you to get there.
If you find yourself nodding your head to any or all of these, it isn’t hopeless. It just means that your marriage needs more attention than you and your spouse are giving it.