Every couple makes mistakes–but some marriage mistakes are worse than others!
It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to talk about the 5 biggest marriage mistakes a couple can make in the first year after the wedding.
Last week my husband and I were in Colorado, and while there we decided to go hiking on some of the gorgeous trails around Colorado Springs.
We headed down to one in the middle of nowhere–Akin Canyon. It was a 4 mile loop, and we thought we’d give it a try. But as we started on the trail, it got harder and harder. Trees blocked our way. Rocks were everywhere. Sometimes we even had to climb through rocks to get to the trail!
After about a mile we gave up, retraced our steps–and found that we had missed the actual trail. We had gone off on a sidetrail that wasn’t really cared for. Once we found the real trail, all was easy going!
It’s a lot like that in marriage. If you get off track in the early days, it gets harder and harder to travel together.
And while everybody makes mistakes, as I’ve talked and listened to couples for the last few years, I’ve found that some mistakes are worse than others. Some start you on a really difficult road that will be harder and harder to come back from. So don’t do any of these five things!
Marriage Mistake #1: Giving Only One Spouse Access to Money or Knowledge About the Finances
In my personal life I have known six couples where the wife did not have a bank card or access to any joint bank account. She had to ask her husband for money. He controlled it; she didn’t know much about it, even if she asked.
Every single one of those marriages has now ended–or is in serious trouble.
Sometimes when one spouse (usually the wife) doesn’t work, couples think, “Why set up joint bank accounts or joint credit cards when they marry if it’s all his income anyway?” But this sets up such a terrible dynamic. First, the money isn’t seen as “theirs” but “his”. She is almost like a child having to ask him for money.
Then, if something were to happen to him, she wouldn’t have access to the family’s money to pay the bills. Or what if he wasn’t responsible with money? She’d have no way of knowing until the electricity is cut off.
Other couples I know keep completely separate finances, and each pays a portion of the household bills. Again, that sets up a strange dynamic where you have “his” money and “her” money but not their money. It makes planning for joint retirement or joint vacations hard. And what if one of them scales back his or her job to care for kids?
Marriage Mastery: From the very beginning of your marriage, share finances. Make a budget together. If you want to keep separate accounts for just a small amount of spending money, I don’t see a problem with that. But on the whole, combine your finances and then save, invest, and spend together.
Marriage Mistake #2: Letting Yourself Get Ticked Off
This may sound like a weird one–if your husband ticks you off, he ticks you off, right? Why is that your fault?
But, as I showed in my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, you don’t HAVE to get ticked off.
And here’s something scary: Researcher John Gottman, who has studied marriages inside and out and who can predict, with amazing accuracy, after only seeing a couple interact for 15 minutes, who will divorce in the next 10 years, has found that showing contempt for your spouse is the #1 sign that you’ll split.
Here’s what he means: when you start rolling your eyes when your spouse speaks; cutting him off because you think “he’s just being stupid again”; or in other ways disregarding his opinion, then you’re showing contempt. And if you do this long enough, you devalue your spouse in your eyes and you find it easy to justify leaving.
It’s that first year of marriage that often brings the biggest disappointments. You thought his jokes were funny when you were dating, but now he’s not serious enough when you want to have a conversation. His dedication to studies was admirable, but now he’s become boring. He said he wanted to be partners, but he never does laundry. And we see all our unmet expectations, and we get ticked off. And then we start sighing. And rolling our eyes.
Marriage Mastery: We’ll always have things that disappoint us in marriage, but it’s your choice what you will focus on! Instead of thinking about all the things that tick you off, make it a habit to thank him for two different things he does a day. Concentrate on catching him doing good, and you’ll notice more good things than bad things!
Marriage Mistake #3: Spending Your Leisure Time Goofing Off Alone
Before you were married you likely went out and did things. But now you’re married, and you don’t need to go out. So at night you tend to goof off. You go on your computer; he goes on his, or he plays video games. At first it’s fun–you have all this time to unwind! But soon you find that you’re not spending time together anymore or sharing experiences.
But if you say, “what do you want to do?”, he often doesn’t have an answer. So you retreat back onto your screens. Then, when kids come, it gets even harder to carve out time for each other, and soon your lives revolve around children and not around each other.
Marriage Mastery: Create a habit of “connecting time” when you share with each other, even if it’s just for twenty minutes a day. Go for a walk after dinner; play some 2-player board games every night; just do something on a daily basis. It doesn’t need to take the whole evening, but schedule time to connect into your day.
Marriage Mistake #4: Not Going to Bed at the Same Time
Night time, as you’re getting ready for bed, is the perfect time to catch up about your day, figure out what’s happening tomorrow, snuggle and talk about your dreams or concerns, pray together, and, of course, make love with your husband!
But if you don’t head to bed together, you’ll miss out on those natural times to connect. And soon you’ll start feeling much more distant. You’ll feel as if you’re living separate lives, under the same roof.
Marriage Mastery: Unless shift work is involved, create a bedtime routine when you both head to bed together, without computers, TVs, or screens. Make the last thing that you do everyday together cuddling with each other.
Marriage Mistake #5: Not Talking About Things that Bother You
Maybe you don’t want to rock the boat. Maybe you have this idea that a good marriage doesn’t have conflict, so you’d rather keep the peace. Maybe you’re just embarrassed and you don’t know how to address something that’s bugging you.
If we don’t talk about the things that bother us, we build up walls. Over time, those walls get bigger and bigger, and then it’s even harder to dismantle them. So whether it’s that sex doesn’t feel very good for you and you’d like to figure that out; you want more help around the house; you feel lonely when he goes out with friends–talk about it! Don’t bottle it up; it will lead to more contempt (see #2, above).
And here’s something else: Ask for help. If there’s something you want your husband to do, then ask him. “Can we spend more time on foreplay, because I feel rushed during sex.” (And here are 6 foreplay ideas to help you do just that!) “Do you mind doing the dishes?” “I’ll get the trash ready, but can you take it out to the curb?” He’s not a mind reader, and he doesn’t know what you want. And especially when it comes to sex, guys often appreciate knowing what you’re thinking.
Marriage Mastery: In those times when you catch up everyday, mention the things that are bothering you. Own your feelings–“I feel lonely when…”, not “you make me lonely when…” Problem solve together. When you keep short accounts with each other, you learn how to deal with conflict well. That puts you in good standing for a long life together!
Obviously there are other things that couples need to do to make marriage work, like not nurturing relationships with co-workers of the opposite sex, properly separating from one’s parents, and big things like that. But we tend to know those things already. I wanted to talk today about the very little habits that we can easily slide into that can be toxic a few years down the road. Aside from #1 about money, most of these are little things. It’s easy to get ticked off. It’s easy to stop spending time together. It’s easy to stay up later than your spouse. It’s certainly easy to bottle things up inside.
But if you want a great marriage, stop these things that are easy to fall into, and be more deliberate! You may just find that instead of being rough, the next few years of marriage are actually much smoother and easier than you thought.
What do you think? What’s a big mistake that couples can make in those early days of marriage that sets them on a bad path? Let’s talk about it in the comments!