Patching Holes in Your Marriage 6 negative characteristics—and solutions—that can create large gaps in your marriage. BY DEBBIE MANDEL
It's the little things over time that can destroy a marriage from the inside out.
Recently, my home was besieged by termites—those winged creatures I like to call the dark harbingers of spring. This subterranean home invasion prompted me to reflect on other stealthy home invasions that can go on for years and can suddenly overwhelm a couple if they’re not careful.
The major deal breakers for many marriages: infidelity, secret spending (which empties the savings account) and abuse (physical or emotional) are common knowledge. However, there are small-sized habits that can insidiously chip away and ruin a solid marriage without either party realizing the damage until it’s too late—like termites silently and secretly chewing up the wood beams of a home. Wouldn’t you like to be able to identify the subtleties of relationship damage when you are best able to treat them?
Here are six relationship termites that can slowly erode any marriage, and what to do about them:
1. Behaving like an only child or lacking team spirit. You'll recognize this termite when one person bears the brunt of most responsibilities instead of divvying it up equitably. Many case studies show women are typically over-doers, especially when they work outside the home; the house and children become their eminent domain. Make sure to schedule specific chores with the person’s name attached to them on a visible, hanging calendar that can’t be missed, like the fridge door, to keep things equitable.
2. The Saint syndrome. When one spouse is excessively humble and suppresses his or her needs to keep the peace. A common phrase is, "Yes, I’ll take care of it," even though you’re exhausted. Or, as another example, your partner chides you or interrogates you like a school boy or girl with things like, "How much did you spend on those shoes and do you really need another pair?" You make excuses or try to hide new purchases under old ones. This inevitably leads to a simmering resentment. Stand up for yourself and be truthful!
3. A fragile sense of self. For example, not liking your body or not knowing your purpose because of a job loss. This means more inhibited sex and a lack of self-confidence spilling over into other arenas. It takes a lot of energy for your spouse to prop you up all the time. Find an activity, like exercise, or a creative hobby that stimulates personal empowerment.
4. Repetitive arguing along with being a "history teacher." This behavior triggers a "what’s the use of trying to please or change for this person?" Try complimenting what your partner does right—even if it’s not how you would do it—to show appreciation.
5. Sarcastic humor. It might seem harmless and fun at the time, but will take a bite out of the relationship. Try humor that doesn’t put down your spouse. However, if your partner uses self-deprecating humor, it’s okay because it emanates from him or her and might serve as a coping mechanism.
6. Overriding the signs of personal stress by not taking care of the self. Many people don’t realize how personal stress erodes one’s true, spontaneous personality, but it will lead to a toxic spill in your marriage. It unleashes irritability, fatigue, pessimism and negativity and is absorbed by your nearest and dearest. This is why when you do for yourself, you really do for others.