5 Insidious Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Marriage

If you’re like most married people, you want your marriage to be great.  But if you’re like most married people, some of the ways you treat each other are not-so-great.  These pitfalls can creep in without you even noticing.[1]  That is, until now!

  1. Turning a fun activity into something competitive

You’ve decided up the fun in your relationship by trying some new shared activities.  Whatever it is you choose, watch out for competitiveness.  It might sound like, “Guess you really can’t beat me at my own game!”  or “Hey, I just shaved 2 minutes off your best time!”.  While occasional teasing may be playful, bragging is not. Unless you’re among the few drawn closer by competition, striving to ‘win’ may cause you both to lose.

Unless you’re among the few drawn closer by competition, striving to ‘win’ may cause you both to lose. Click To Tweet
  1. Giving backhanded compliments

The Meriam Webster Dictionary describes a backhanded compliment as a statement that implies it is not a compliment at all.  Before you give these, remember John Mayer’s advice – do you really want to be “Captain Backfire”?

For any of you who are wondering, it may sound like “I’m surprised! You actually did that really well!  Or, “This is SO thoughtful; so unlike you…” Or, “I like that dress on you…it’s very slimming”.  You get the idea…

  1. Being subtly manipulative to get your own way

When I say subtle, I mean like trying to catch fog.  To manipulate is to control or play upon by artful, unfair or insidious means according to Meriam-Webster.com.  There’s more opportunity for subtle manipulation to show up when people know each other intimately.

Let’s say the house needs cleaning before your family comes to stay for a few days.  You asked for your partner’s help with the chores this evening.  Honestly, you would rather go for a run.  You get offended by something your partner said, you get heated and end up leaving the house.  You’re pretty sure your partner will do the cleaning anyway, so you head to the gym.  Justified?  Not really. You could have gone for a short walk, worked through the issue and shared the housecleaning. It’s your family, after all…

  1. Ignoring, dismissing or avoiding your partner’s emotions

Early in my career, I was at a conference session led by an oncologist.  He was coaching doctors on their bedside manner.

He said, “If I share a diagnosis, and while my patient starts to cry, I go on to describe all the cutting-edge treatments we will offer, but I don’t stop to acknowledge my patient’s emotions, I’ll be perceived as cold.  Worse yet, my patient won’t trust me.”

“On the other hand, If I share a diagnosis and my patient starts to cry, and I stop even briefly to respond to their emotion by saying something, anything, like “I’m sorry, I would feel that way too if I was in your shoes…” and then I go on to describe all the cutting-edge treatments, the opposite happens. Even by stopping for that brief moment to acknowledge their emotion, I’m perceived as warm.  And validating their emotion in the moment builds trust.”

It is the same with your marriage.

Acknowledge and validate your spouse’s emotions to draw you closer and build trust.

Acknowledge and validate your spouse’s emotions to draw you closer and build trust. Click To Tweet
  1. Waiting until you’re ‘in the mood’ to have sex

Did you know a significant portion of the adult population doesn’t feel like having sex until they’re already into foreplay?

I remember a therapist[2] joking that a husband in her office said, “Could you ask my wife to write “I like sex” on the back of her hand? She keeps forgetting!”  Some couples resist scheduling sex because they think it’s only fun when it’s spontaneous, but for busy people with full lives, the perfect time doesn’t arrive.  Then what?!  You drift away from your sex life, and you feel disconnected.  Why not discover a hotter, better plan?

Sabotage shows up in so many disguises.  If you’ve shed light on another one, we’d love to hear from you!


[1] For many more practical solutions for your challenging marriage, buy my book, Before You Split:  Find What You Really Want for the Future of Your Marriage (insert link).

[2] I believe it was Michele Weiner Davis, acclaimed author of many books including the Sex-Starved Marriage and Divorce Busting series, who told this story during a presentation.

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