Some marriages get stronger after time, but some start out strong and then slowly start to unravel. Sometimes the things that make your relationship strong can start to work against you.
Here are eight tiny marriage weakeners to avoid.
1. Relying on your spouse to meet all of your needs
It's amazing when you meet that special person who seems to complete you. You're in tune at every level and could spend all day together.
You start out strong because you have so much in common, but after time your interdependence can become a weak spot in your marriage. Long-term, no one person can fulfil all of your emotional, social, intellectual and practical needs.
Dream your own dreams. Have your own goals. Live your own life. And take pleasure and satisfaction from every part of your life, including your marriage.
2. Having unrealistic expectations
As Dr. Phil is fond of telling us, we teach people how to treat us, so expecting the best from your spouse is a good thing. It can set high standards and build good foundations for a strong relationship. But no one is perfect. Sooner or later, those standards will slip and at that point, it's important to be realistic about your partner's good characteristics and his flaws.
Many of us buy into the happily-ever-after myth that implies a strong relationship can only get stronger with time, but that's just not the case. It can be a shock when the first year of marriage is all about adjustment and compromise, rather than romance and bliss. Your partner has faults that may become more irritating after time.
In strong marriages, both partners learn to be realistic.
3. Not picking your battles
To build a strong relationship, it's vital to let your partner know when something is unacceptable or hurtful. It's also vital to know when to let it go.
In a long marriage there will be times when it's best to keep quiet, suck it up and make the best of a less-than-perfect situation. You shouldn't do this over every issue, of course. But if you never let things go at all, you're actually failing to prioritize what's worth fighting for. Picking your battles lets your spouse know which issues are really important to you, which helps you both build a strong marriage.
4. Discussing your marriage with outsiders
We often ask friends and family for advice when we're dating. The opinions of those closest to us are worth considering when picking a mate and can help us make the right choice. But once you're married, your spouse is the person closest to you, and that's where your loyalty lies.
Even if you have the best intentions, talking to outsiders about relationship issues can weaken your marriage. If you're thinking "But she's not an outsider; she's my sister," you're wrong. If she didn't take the wedding vows with you, she's not part of the marriage.
The only person, other than your spouse, you can rely on to help you with marriage problems is a professional relationship counselor.
5. Not discussing your marriage with your spouse
If your friends and family are outsiders, who can you talk to? The only other insider besides you in your marriage is your spouse.
Men may shy away from talking about their marriages. Some think the entire where-is-this-relationship-going discussion ends with the engagement. But marriage is a journey, and it's advisable to regularly check to see if you're both still heading in the same direction or at least looking at the same map.
These discussions don't have to be a big ordeal. They can be fun. They're an opportunity to talk about plans, dreams and ideas - both those you can share and those you can support each other through.
6. Drifting apart from each other
Some couples end their marriages with drama, infidelity and rows and recriminations. Others just slowly, sadly drift apart.
Marriages that started out strong weaken slowly with the wear and tear of everyday life. But drifting apart isn't irreversible or inevitable.
Drifting is passive. Swimming back toward each other is proactive. And marriage, like most things in life, is about being proactive. If you find yourselves drifting, commit to reconnect and rekindle your relationship. It takes a bit of effort, but what of worth doesn't?
7. Letting compliments dry up
Strong relationships often involve a lot of freely expressed mutual appreciation, but after time it's easy to forget to keep telling your spouse how great he is.
Did you compliment your spouse today? If not, why not?
Did you compliment your kids? Many people will reply, "Of course I tell my kids how great they are. It's good for their self-esteem." Adults need self-esteem too. According to Psychology Today, a lack of self-esteem is a common reason for infidelity, especially for women.
8. Using the word 'divorce'
Divorce is like many curse words. It's a word that used to be taken seriously, but now it gets thrown around in arguments as a way to emphasize just how mad you are.
But once you use it, it's out there. It's a possibility. Some of the strongest couples simply decide, early on, they won't threaten each other with that word. If divorce is never on the table in your day-to-day dealings with each other, neither of you will see it as an easy option.