Most of us are aware of the most obvious things that ruin a marriage or a long-term relationship such as emotional or physical abuse, addiction, and infidelity. Some problems are less visible but can still cause significant relationship distress. These difficulties may also be present with other more obvious problems. However, some much less discernable relationship “killers” may be silently lurking around your marriage.
Disrespect is often quite subtle. It erodes the marriage beneath the surface because sometimes it is so subtle that both the person doing the disrespecting and the person disrespected are both unaware it is happening. For instance, when one partner strongly criticizes the other’s faults under the guise being “helpful.” Spouses who are being disrespectful are rarely aware of it, and they may actually believe that they do respect their partner. Negative feelings from being disrespectful can build up and escalate into emotional or verbal abuse.
A Lack of Empathy
Empathy is an essential ingredient in any healthy relationship but particularly in a marriage. A couple must be able to put themselves in their partner’s shoes. Spouses must also be able to comfort their partners when they are having difficult emotions such as hurt or sadness, even anger. Empathy is not the same as pity. Empathy is letting yourself feel your partner’s pain out of love.
Couples can gradually become disinterested in each other. This may be due to “growing apart” not sharing activities together, having different values or a lack of common interests. One partner might be overly involved in a particular activity at the exclusion of their spouse. Or, one spouse refuses to do things with a spouse who enjoys someone and would love their company.
Your husband may hate chick flicks, but sucking it up and going with you once in a while would mean a lot. It also clearly shows that you don’t just think about yourself. Ongoing disinterest in each other leads to disconnection which will often lead to divorce, adultery of living like roommates.
Making Digs and Sarcasm
Joking around can sometimes be a positive interaction that creates closeness. This is most apparent when both partners have similar senses of humor. Alternatively, one spouse uses joking as a way to hide or deflect hostility toward the other. For example, one person might say, “Your cooking is inedible!” and then add, “I’m just joking!” This comment is not taken by the recipient as a joke, however. This sort of “joking” and sarcasm slowly erodes as time goes on and can even become toxic. This behavior is often the result of underlying or repressed anger and it does not get expressed directly or constructively to the partner.
Sometimes the love between two people has faded. It is still a natural response to pretend that they are still in love. This frequently happens with married couples who have become emotionally disconnected. They may still say “I love you” and go through the motions each day.
Nothing of substance is talked about among them. No one dares to say, “We seem to just be doing our own thing all the time,” or similar.
Boredom might set in and emotional needs become met by others. Your marriage is clearly in danger at this point. The antidote is to bring up this painful topic with your spouse. Finally, decide to make a conscious effort to change this dynamic.
Most of the time we are not aware of how troubling these behaviors are. Hence, they are “silent killers.” We do not recognize how bad things have gotten until it is too late and the marriage is beyond repair. One partner must be brave enough to risk discussion around these topics and get professional help if they are unresolvable on your own.
Keep your marriage on track!