7 Common Mistakes Married Couples Make

Posted by: Shel 18 Comments

Common Mistakes Married Couples MakeLittle changes can have big impact. Case in point: You write a lovely note to somebody you like and tell them how pretty they are. Except you accidentally leave out the ‘r’ in pretty. Such a little mistake. Such a big difference in how your letter is received! Here are some common mistakes that married couples make – and the little fixes that can have big impact!

1. Thinking fair means 50/50. Trying to divide household chores and obligations evenly often leads to scorekeeping, finger-pointing, and potential disharmony if one spouse feels they are doing more than their half of the duties. The Fix: Each spouse should do what they do best based on talents, opportunity, and ability. One spouse may be good at organizing meal plans and the other may be a better cook. You both may hate grocery shopping, but one has time off on a week day when it’s easier to get in and out of the store quickly. Avoid the temptation to mentally assign the little onerous tasks that don’t require specific skills – think taking trash out and emptying the dishwasher – to each other. Just do them as they come up.  While on any given day the chore split may end up something like 30/70, over the long run the division of labor will probably balance out.

2. Indulging your inner ostrich. Handing over the reins completely in any given area may be setting yourself up for problems. Often one spouse has the task of bill-paying, checkbook balancing, and other financial dealings because of talent, availability, or the other mate’s aversion to doing so. The result is one spouse is ignorant about what has to be done if the other one is ever out of commission for any reason. This same dynamic crops up in other household activities such as meal preparation, laundry, maintaining kid’s schedules, etc. The Fix: List the tasks that fall 100% to each spouse. Once a month pick one from the list and do it together so that the partner less informed has a basic understanding of how it works. Once you have covered the list, start all over again so that every few months each mate is being exposed to the task they would have to suddenly take over in pinch.

3. Neglecting outside interests. It’s easy to get caught up in daily routines and ending up with a social life that revolves exclusively around each other. While couples absolutely should spend meaningful time together and engage in social activities they both enjoy, they shouldn’t be joined at the hip. No one person can be all things to another. Continuing individual growth and bringing that element to the relationship can enhance a marriage. The Fix: Set aside time as individuals to connect with old friends, take a class you’ve been wanting to take, or spend time on a hobby you enjoy. The key to a successful fix here is balance – don’t schedule so much you now have to set aside time to fit in your spouse!

4. Sharing TMI. Telling friends, family members or co-workers details about your marital tiffs or gripes may give you a much-needed momentary release, but have long-lasting effects.  Long after you have made up with your spouse, your confidant remembers the negatives. You may reasonably expect your buddy to keep mum about what you have shared, but you already know not all expectations are met, right? The Fix: Before you go venting elsewhere about the injustices in your marriage, ask yourself if it is a topic you can discuss with your spouse in a calm moment. If it truly isn’t, consider whether it is an issue that rises to the level of seeking some professional assistance from a counselor or your spiritual leader.

5. Reverse TMI. Couples should be able to talk about just about anything to each other. They should be each other’s safe place to fall. So, is it even possible to tell each other too much? Yes. If you are telling your mate about your day and his or her eyes glaze over, it may leave you feeling like they just don’t care. But it’s more likely a case of Irrelevant Information Overload. It’s not personal. The Fix: Unless it’s necessary to understand your point, leave out detailed descriptions, technical jargon they’re not familiar with, and too much talk about people they don’t know. We’re not talking about dumbing it down – we’re talking about speeding it up. Think about how long your own attention span is when listening to a fact-intensive narrative. Just because you sometimes wish your spouse would wrap up a story quicker doesn’t mean you love them less. Assume your mate feels the same.

6. Missing bedtime connections. Pillow talk is what evolves spontaneously when you’re both laying in bed, snuggled in, maybe with the lights out, sometimes almost asleep. A thought passes through your head that you wouldn’t get up and walk down the hall to tell the other, but the moment is shared because the other is a breath away. It is an intimacy we can’t recreate on our feet, in the living room, in the light of day. Sometimes conflicting work schedules, children’s needs or health issues keep us from going to bed at the same time. But often it’s a TV show, a video game or a Facebook chat that costs us that precious exchange. The Fix: If getting on the same nightly schedule is not practical or possible, be intentional about committing to how ever many nights during the week you can make that happen. Even one is better than none. But two is better than one. And so on. Make it happen – because you can’t get those nights back.

7. Embracing the “little white lie.” It’s not OK to lie about the “little stuff.” Shaving $20 off the price when asked about the cost, saying you mailed the bill you know is still sitting on the car seat, claiming to work late so you don’t have to deal with a visiting relative. The boundaries of what is “little” expand and blur over time. And, like anything else we practice diligently, lying gets easier the more we do it. This insidious tendency needs to be nipped in the bud before it blooms. The Fix: Ahhh, this one’s the easiest. Just don’t do it.


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 Current post is linked to MessyMarriage site

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  • Here’s another vote for #2 – there are definitely things each of us does that the other does not simply due to strengths and preferences. But if something ever did happen and the other had to take over? Well, I worry about that. Sticking to routine would be key to our Daughter’s ability to cope with whatever scenario caused that to be necessary and so perhaps we can work on this a bit more.
    And I’ll be honest and admit that we are not terribly good at #6, not for lack of interest, but because we have such different sleep needs and schedules. I think it’s a source of frustration, though – at least for me. I may just stick my neck out and suggest it as a topic to explore the next time we spend some alone time together.
    As for #5…well, the Hub is way guilty of that one. He loves his new job and I’m thrilled. But he definitely does the TMI thing and I so wish he would adopt a sense of brevity when explaining the intricacies of his day. 🙂

    • Shel Harrington

      Maybe you could leave the article hanging about somewhere where the love of your life can stumble across it and maybe generate the discussion! I have to agree with you, Lisa, about #2 being more of a concern when there’s children involved – there’s enough change involved for them during challenging times without the lights going out, too!

  • These suggestions are practical and common sense, so why even write about them? Because I needed to hear at least three from the list. After all these years, you’d think I’d know not to stick my head in the sand and not to ramble on and on and not to stay on FB when bedtime connections are so important. Okay, so I need reminders and I need practice. Thanks, Shel!

    • Shel Harrington

      I hear ya, Kim – I was stepping on my own toes with some of these!

  • excellent ideas and most worthwhile to practice, thanks!

  • Excellent points, Shel! I’ve experience number 4 many times with friends who have complained about their husband and even said they wanted a divorce, but a few days later, all is well, but I’ve already lost some respect for that partner. It’s best to keep disagreements with your partner to yourself.

    • Shel Harrington

      I agree, Jill. And sometimes it makes you wonder about the speaker. If everything’s so peachy now, were they exaggerating, dramatizing, or now being a patsy? It makes things uncomfortable dealing with them in the future.

  • Angela

    E X A C T L Y !!!

    • Shel Harrington

      I appreciate the support, Angela! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Excellent list! Leaving out the ‘r’ in pretty made me laugh out loud 😀

    • Shel Harrington

      One mission accomplished, Pauline! (Which is good, because that other mission we’ve discussed is still less than accomplished!)

  • These are excellent points, Shel! I’m going to put #2 into action immediately (and I probably should work on #5, too.)

    • Shel Harrington

      I’m focused on #2 also – and may we not have to use what we learn for many years!

  • You make excellent points, Shell.
    One of our favorite wedding gifts is a gift card to the couple’s favorite coffee shop or dessert room, etc., PLUS a little digital timer. Not for cooking…for fighting or being mad. It’s worked for us. When we just can’t agree and are getting really irritated, we set the timer…in our case we set it for 90 min., and we go and do other things in different rooms. When the timer goes off, it’s amazing how much more relaxed we are, and we go out to Starbuck’s or one of the little dessert rooms we love, and we can talk and enjoy settling things.

    • Shel Harrington

      What a great idea, Marylin – I’ve not heard of that before. Mind if I share that strategy in a future post I’m pondering about “fighting fair”?

  • Gina

    AMEN!! Especially on 2 & 6.

    • Shel Harrington

      I wrote 6 with me in mind – work sometimes takes over and I miss yet another moment!

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