Some couples can feel like marriage is a constant struggle. They may pass from argument to argument and find little joy in one another’s companionship. But that doesn’t mean the marriage is over. In fact, you may be doing things that are undercutting your marriage and making it harder to stay together. If each spouse can look at their own behavior – on their own, or with the help of a psychotherapist – they may find how they are contributing to the problem and set out to instead find solutions.
Undermining Your Spouse Can Damage Your Marriage
Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. Spouses work together to overcome obstacles and achieve the family’s goals. However, in some cases, one or both spouses can fall into the habit of undermining one another to their children, to their family members, and within the relationship itself. This can damage your marriage and make it harder to raise healthy, well-adapted children.
With children especially, undermining a parent’s authority can cause children to act out more, making one parent the bad guy and empowering your children to disobey their instructions and disrespect that parent. It also sours the parents’ feelings toward each other. This can put a strain on your marriage and make it harder to resolve parenting disagreements. Instead, create shared ground rules for your children, and agree to talk about major decisions together with your spouse before addressing them with your children.
Get Help to Stop Undercutting Your Marriage
Speak to a psychotherapist today about destructive behaviors threatening your relationship.
Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Relationship?
Many people also consciously or unconsciously engage in self-sabotaging behaviors when things are going well. This may be a result of underlying mental health concerns – such as depression or a low self-image – trust issues, past relationship experiences, or undeveloped relationship skills. Within the context of a marriage relationship this could look like:
- Picking fights over small problems
- Canceling dates or nights out
- Disengaging in sex
- Withdrawing intimacy
- Being overly critical of your spouse
- Entertaining jealous and paranoid thoughts
Criticism, especially, can undercut your marriage. When you criticize your spouse – rather than simply raising complaints – it can make your spouse feel assaulted, rejected, and hurt. Criticism attacks a person’s character or personality flaws, rather than their behavior. This may look like calling your spouse “lazy,” “sloppy,” or “stupid.” Instead, you should focus on the behavior you want to see changed: “I would like you to pick up your laundry.”
A loss of sex or intimacy can also undercut your marriage. This includes intimacy of all kinds, including spending time together, sharing secrets, and engaging in fun activities and dates. If you don’t make time to be close with one another, it will erode your sense of trust and make it harder to rely on one another when things get hard.
How Unhealthy Stress Responses May be Undercutting Your Marriage
Even if you aren’t intentionally undercutting your marriage, you may be harming it because of unhealthy stress coping mechanisms. Every couple experiences stress – from work, family dynamics, health complications, financial strain, and many other sources. Stress can make you argumentative, defensive, withdrawn, or less affectionate. If one or both spouses engages in unhealthy coping responses, it can escalate a challenge into something that threatens your relationship.
Whether your relationship is under strain due to active undermining, self-sabotage, or unhealthy stress responses, you can relieve the pressure and rekindle your connection by examining your own behavior. Working with an experienced couples’ therapist, you can identify your role in conflict at home, and make behavioral changes that will keep you focused on what you love about your spouse, rather than what is wrong with them.
David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience. He helps individuals and couples learn strategies to stop undermining their relationships. Contact David Stanislaw to get help today.