Maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but I believe that everybody has good intentions – most of the time. In fact, theories of human behavior suggest that humans only behave in ways that are advantageous to them. And in a society that means we behave in ways that are usually good for society, too.
But spouses who come to see me for marriage counseling usually don’t see their partner’s behaviors this way. They’ve been arguing with their spouse about the same thing for so long, that they believe their spouse has to be doing what they’re doing deliberately and maliciously.
It’s no wonder then, when spouses harbor bitter feelings towards each other. If you believe your spouse, who is supposed to love, honor and cherish you, is doing things deliberately to hurt you it makes you feel less loved. It makes you feel unimportant and you lose trust in your partner, too. You also worry that you won’t be emotionally safe.
So even though behavior may be well meaning, that doesn’t mean that it’s okay. Well meaning behavior can still hurt. And it can still cause problems in your marriage no matter how well intended it is. And as a marriage counselor, I often see 3 well intended behaviors that hurt marriages. In fact, these three things are so common that most people don’t realize they’re doing them. Checkout these three well-meaning behaviors that are still hurting your marriage:
3 Unintentional Ways You’re Hurting Your Marriage
1) Putting Children First. Children are the best thing in the world. It makes sense, then, that when children come along you focus a lot of your time and attention into them. Plus, when they’re really little they can’t really take care of themselves so you have to give them a lot of your attention just to make sure they’re being taken care of.
But even though your children are so important, your spouse is equally important. And because your spouse is an adult, you feel they should take care of themselves while you spend the short amount of time you have with your children. But even though this is well meaning it still hurts your marriage. And there’s no reason you should have to choose between your children and your marriage. In fact, putting your marriage first gives your children a great example of what a good relationship looks like. This way you’ll be setting them up for a great relationship of their own.
2) Hurtful Teasing. Teasing is fun. In fact, it can even be good in your relationship because it’s a form of playfulness and flirting. But hurtful teasing, no matter how well-intended, is never good in your relationship.
It’s not good because your spouse doesn’t know what message to take away from it. Do they believe the playful/flirting part or the hurtful part? Because they don’t know which message to take away, they take a little bit of both. And when your spouse takes away a hurtful message from you (even a little bit) they walk away feeling less loved and feel less trust towards you.
So when you tease, make sure your message is unequivocally fun and playful. Keep the hurtful messages out of it.
3) Placating. Nobody likes to fight. It’s uncomfortable and it causes hurt feelings. It makes sense, then, that you’d rather avoid a fight if you can. But sometimes in order to avoid a fight, you tell your spouse what you think they want to hear just to get over the discomfort of the current fight you’re in. The problem with this is that your mind is more on getting past the fight instead of coming up with a long-term resolution. And, wouldn’t you know it, the fight comes up again in the future. Then you’re having the exact same fight and the exact same hurt feelings you could have fixed long ago if you would have just hung in there until you found a resolution.
Instead of placating, hang in there. Stand your ground and come up with a solution that fits both your needs.You may have to put up with the temporary discomfort of a fight, but you’ll be setting yourself up for long-term success. And you’ll be ensuring you don’t have to face the same discomfort in the future.
The Power of Repair