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5 Ways You May Be Hurting Your Spouse Without Realizing It

December 5, 2019 | by Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC

Practical advice on how to improve your marriage.

Most of us don't want to intentionally hurt our spouse. Take note of the following 5 ways you may be unintentionally straining your marriage – and by extension, yourself.

1. Being emotionally distant.

Do your best to be open to your spouse. You may be embarrassed of your real needs or afraid to open up. You may even feel acting as if you have no needs and being a martyr is virtuous (it isn’t).

Whatever the reason, if you don't share your true feelings, you are preventing an element of emotional intimacy. When you share, your spouse will feel closer with you. When you shut her out, she may feel frustrated because she can't “get” you. Besides the impact it has on your spouse, it may also leave you feeling resentful as you are not getting what you want in the relationship. It also may impede closeness on your end, as you may feel that there is a part of yourself that you are not fully sharing with your spouse.

Obviously, use your discretion. You don't need to be brutally honest about everything.

2. Putting others before your spouse.

Helping others is praiseworthy, but remember – your spouse is your top priority. If you help your parents, children, siblings, friends and community consistently before thinking of your spouse’s needs, you’re sending a message: you don’t come first. And that can be hurtful.

Of course, this doesn't mean neglecting others, and certainly your children. The key is sending the message to your spouse that he comes first. You can do that daily with little things. For instance, instead of telling your spouse to save the last bit of chocolate for your child, you will tell your child to save the last bit of chocolate for your spouse. Schedule consistent quality time or date night with your spouse so she feels cherished. And most of all, make sure your priorities are right: your spouse comes first.

3. Taking your spouse for granted.

It's easy for a marriage to fall into autopilot mode. You have your own schedule, responsibilities, and expectations. Kind acts or responsibilities that your spouse does for you can be taken for granted. Since you expect dinner on the table when you get home or you are used to your spouse getting up early to carpool the kids, you may not even see the need to express your appreciation. But losing sight of the little things your spouse does day to day is likely to cause resentment. At least once a day, express your appreciation and show that you don't take your spouse for granted. Rejoice in the little things he or she does. It will make you both feel more connected.

4.Giving too much advice.

Instructing your spouse is not the way to show that you care. You may think you’re being helpful, but if you parent your husband, he won’t feel respected and if you’re always advising your wife, she won’t feel trusted.

Practice phrasing advice in a way that’s not nagging, or simply refrain from offering helpful comments. Empower him to choose instead of badgering or offering your opinion. At the same time, you can be approachable (calm and nonjudgmental) so that your spouse knows you’re available whenever she actually does want your advice.

5. Bringing up old grievances again and again.

But I thought being authentic is a good thing! Sure, but not when it unnecessarily upsets your spouse. Negative words feel stronger than positive words and they rankle inside for a longer time.

That’s why you should keep the negativity to a minimum. If you’ve had a spat and it’s over, then it’s time to forgive and forget. After you’ve discussed a sensitive matter, it’s dead. Would you like to be reminded many times about what you’ve done wrong? Of course, this does not mean to invalidate your feelings of pain. It's just that, at some point, it may not benefit your relationship to continually rehash something that was already resolved.

Try setting goals that are realistic for you so that you can incorporate some of these lasting changes into your life. Take one step at a time – and watch how your spouse reacts by treating you with the same kindness.

To get a copy of Rabbi Slatkin's New 60 Second Plan to a Happy and Healthy Marriage, click here:

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