When I first met my wife, the chemistry and connection was off the charts.
Then, shortly after we got married, we began arguing more and more. At times, it seemed like we weren’t on the same page about anything. I thought it was mostly her fault because she was just being stubborn and difficult.
Was I ever wrong…
I’ve come to realize that I made a lot of mistakes in my marriage over the years. And the following three mistakes are the ones I see countless other couples make as well:
1. Not making connection their top priority.
It’s easy to neglect your marriage because of parenting obligations, work responsibilities, etc. Many couples simply do not understand how important sustaining connection really is. In fact, I’d say keeping the FEELING of connection with your spouse a priority is the most misunderstood and underestimated aspect of true marriage success.
Early on in my marriage, I wanted to be “right” when my wife and I disagreed. I also made myself out as more important than her and the relationship.
What about me? What isn’t she doing for me? What’s wrong with her? What am I getting and not getting from her? All of these things created disconnect. Anytime I was only focused on me, she and I became more separate. And many couples struggle with this disconnect.
2. Failing to truly understand what their partner needs from them.
Because I focused more on what I was (or wasn’t) getting, my willingness to give was sometimes based on feeling resentful or bitter. Whenever I felt that way, I gave very little. Of course, that always made things worse.
There were other times I wanted to defend myself or give my advice, when all she ever wanted me to do was listen. I misunderstood that her emotions and tone directed at me were simply requests for me to give her more of my presence and attention. Defending myself always made things worse. Often couples unravel because they also remain stuck in this space of assuming they know what’s best for their partner, versus really hearing what their spouse needs.
3. Not being clear what they want from the relationship.
I originally thought that our marriage would be on auto-pilot, and that our relationship would always be good without giving it any more thought than just that.
I had no vision for our marriage. And because I wasn’t clear about what I wanted our union to become or how I wanted to feel when I was with her, I often got caught up in the day-to-day stress of the moment. That kept my wife and I stuck arguing about tiny insignificant things that I can’t even remember now.
While I clearly remember having big, escalating arguments with her, I have no idea what those arguments were actually about. That’s a good indication that an argument that might have ended our marriage was actually about something small and unimportant. Couples commonly dig their heels when a lot of little things stacked on top of each other, and then that last thing is the straw that breaks the back of marriage connection.