At the beginning of a new year, it’s common to talk about goals we want to achieve for the coming 12 months. When we talk about goals, we need to include the idea of habits. Our goals are simply the result of our habits. In this article, we discuss habits for successful marriages.
Habits are kind of like groves in your brain; once your action falls into a grove, it just follows the grove.Lee Baucom
When my children were small, we had a couple in our church who offered to be surrogate grandparents to our children because our parents lived in other states. They loved our children as their own and we had a wonderful relationship with them.
They once took us on vacation to the Smokey Mountains. We hiked, went to Dollywood, shopped in the stores at Gatlinburg, TN. We even went horseback riding.
Glenda (the surrogate grandmother) had an experience with the horse she rode that applies to our topic.
As we made our way along the trail, taking pictures of the mountains, we would venture into the fields, and meander along the river bank. Her particular horse wanted none of our leisure excursion. It was so accustomed to walking the exact trail, it refused to cooperate if she wanted to follow us into a field.
The closer we came to the end of our ride, the more determined her horse was to go to the barn. Eventually, she lost all control of the horse. She finished the ride ahead of the rest of us because her horse would only stick to the trail. And its goal was to finish. Not sight-see.
We laughed about it later as she described her ‘stubborn’ horse adventure.
Does this apply to relationships? Marriage?
I believe it does. Researchers indicate that between 40-95% of what we do is out of habit.
Each morning I brush my teeth, make a pot of coffee, sit in my favorite chair (in my home office) and read before I start my day. It’s my wake-up routine. I do it every day (unless I’m out of town or have some business that keeps me from it).
I do it out of habit. I don’t even think about it. It’s as if my body just moves in the grove of that routine.
If habits determine the majority of what we do in life, shouldn’t our habits be built to help us, instead of hurt us?
Of course. We all agree with that premise.
But what about our marriage habits?
Shouldn’t we develop habits that help us create the marriage we desire instead of a default routine that leads us in the wrong direction?
Do You Have Good Relationship Habits?
I’ll list four areas we need to focus on to build positive marriage habits below, but right now, I want you to think about HOW (not just ‘what’) you communicate to your spouse.
Is it your ‘habit’ to be grumpy? Harsh? Silent? Or loving and warm?
What about your intimacy habits?
We will explore these later, but I want you to think about those questions. As you do, remember this: The groves (habits) you build into your relationship will ultimately determine the type of marriage you create. And make no mistake about it, we DO create the type of marriage we have. We either create it intentionally or unintentionally. But we do create it.If you follow good groves and habits, you get good results. If you follow bad groves and habits, you get bad results. Click To Tweet
If you follow good groves and habits, you get good results. If you follow bad groves and habits, you get bad results.
Bad Marriage Habits
Happy couples have good habits. Unhappy couples usually have bad relationship habits. The health of your marriage is the result of the habits you develop.
Bad habits abound in relationships. They range from the subtle to the intentional.
Intentional bad habits are things like, picking fights, neglecting each other, and extracting revenge when you feel offended.
The more subtle habits occur when we give our spouse the silent treatment, avoid making promises, or passively refuse to contribute to the relationship.
Both types (and all those in between) are detrmiental to the health of a marriage.
Married life is supposed to be fulfilling, not emotionally draining. Any habit that takes away from the joy of your relationship should be evaluated and discussed with your spouse.
How To Break Bad Marriage Habits
The key to breaking bad habits is to start good ones. It takes work, energy, and commitment, but it is the only true path to breaking the cycle of negative habits in your marriage.
1. Make Sure You Continue to Communicate
It’s important to keep talking and fight off bad marriage habits like never speaking again. Make a conscious effort to make conversation on something other than your problems. Ask your husband what their day was like; speak about anything at all to spark conversation. Not only will this make a good time out but it will also begin to break down bad marriage habits like lack of communication and resistance.
2. Find Common Ground
You need to find some common ground with your spouse. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never met, it’s very important to talk with your spouse about little things. This will help you see things from your spouse’s perspective. It may sound strange but often we all get wrapped up in the small things around us. Talking about small things is one of the most powerful ways to fight off bad marriage habits.
It helps you connect and deposit good-will into your spouse.
3. Find a Marriage Mentor
Don’t discount the power of your spiritual leader. Spiritual leaders are meant to guide you to find the truth. If you go to a church with your spouse, ask your pastor about your marriage and listen to the advice given. If you take advice from a spiritual leader who comes from a different religion than your spouse, be sure to give your spouse the full name of the spiritual leader and explain why he or she would be a good person to lead your marriage.
4. Believe Your Relationship Can Improve
No matter how much we all wish it were different, bad marriage habits will stick around for awhile. We can learn to avoid them by simply cutting our losses and approaching situations with a positive mindset. Once bad marriage habits are gone, they’ll not come back.
Daily Marriage Habits That Are Healthy
Research shows it is not the big things that (usually) determine what happens in a relationship; yet we tend to focus most of our attention on big events, and huge sweeping behaviors.
In reality, it is the little things that determine the level of satisfaction in a marriage. How we treat one another on a daily basis is more important than a grand gesture of kindness performed on a special occasion.
Sure, we all like special events. They have their place. But the most significant factor in a healthy marriage is what is done on a day by day basis.
This is why daily marriage habits are important.
Here is a quick checklist to help you measure your regular marriage habits:
Communication Habits in Marriage
- How do you communicate? How would your spouse describe your communication style?
- Do you nag to get your way?
- Do you criticize when you are unhappy?
- Do you manipulate to get your way?
Intimacy Habits in Marriage
- How do you express love, appreciation and intimacy with your spouses?
- Do you practice physical touch by holding hands, cuddling, and kissing?
- Is sex ‘mood driven’ or ‘love driven’? Do you make love only when you want to, or do you consider the needs of your spouse?
- Do you enjoy spending time together?
- Do you have regular dates and times to getaway?
- Do you enjoy those times, or are they just another item on your calendar?
Money Habits in Marriage
- Do you have a plan to manage your money?
- Do you work together to live within your means?
- Is one spouse a spender and the other a saver? Does this cause conflict?
- How do you manage your money conflict?
- Do you live on a budget? Do you plan your spending or just buy what you want and suffer the consequences later?
Health Habits in Marriage
- Do you value staying in shape?
- Do you have a regular exercise routine?
- Do you eat right? Or do you throw caution to he wind and eat whatever you want?
- Do you have weight issues that affect your relationship?
- Is your self-esteem affected by your weight?
- Do you have a plan to get in shape or stay in shape?
- Do you discuss your physical health with your spouse?
These questions serve as talking points and a checklist to help you create habits that achieve your long term goals. The strength of a healthy marriage is moving in the same direction together.
No marriage is perfect. Every couple faces challenges.
Successful couples are those who conquer their problems together and determine to do the things that make their marriage better.
How To Create Good Marriage Habits
Since our daily habits determine the outcome of our lives, how do we build positive habits that support our goals and dreams in our marriage?
Keep this in mind: Your habits are result of your daily decisions.
Here is a video of these five rules for building good marriage habits.
1. Define what you want.
It’s not enough to identify what you do not like, you need to pinpoint what you do like.
Knowing WHAT you want out of your relationship empowers you to move toward your goals. When we are unclear about our desires, we are unable to make quality decisions or create plans that move us in the right direction.
If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?When we are unclear about our desires, we are unable to make quality decisions or create plans that move us in the right direction. Click To Tweet
The first step is to identify what you want in your marriage. Work with your partner to list the things you both desire. Then work together to create a plan that will help you succeed.
2. Remember You Are Partners, Not Enemies
Couples who fall into the trap of viewing their spouse as the enemy eventually find their relationship erode into constant conflict.
Every couple has to navigate issues at times. The key to successfully working through those issues is determined greatly by how you view your spouse. If you see them as a partner who is on your side, you will ultimately succeed.
If, however, you see your spouse as someone you have to battle to be heard, understood, or appreciated, chances are you will continue to fight and struggle in your relationship.Couples who fall into the trap of viewing their spouse as the enemy eventually find their relationship erode into constant conflict. Click To Tweet
3. Make Bitesize Changes; Not Colossal Shifts
Many couples think to change their relationship they have to have a complete do-over. This is rarely the case. It only takes small shifts in your attitude and behavior to bring about big wins in your marriage.Many couples think to change their relationship they have to have a complete do-over. This is rarely the case. It only takes small shifts in your attitude and behavior to bring about big wins in your marriage. Click To Tweet
A couple of downsides to making big changes instead of small ones:
1) Big sweeping changes are hard to maintain.
This is the same trap people fall into when trying to lose weight. They change everything at once, and when it becomes overwhelming to maintain those changes they give up.
The same thing happens in relationships. Think about it. If you haven’t spent much time with your spouse in the past, I doubt setting a goal of talking for three hours every night will succeed.
A smaller goal of turning off the television and catching up for 15 minutes is far more doable. Because it is a more manageable goal, you increase your odds of letting it become a habit. You can always add to it once you establish a firm routine.
2) Giant changes can produce fear instead of security.
Any change in routine creates a level of anxiety. The bigger the change, the greater the stress.
This is one of the reasons you should start small. As you create little wins in your relationship, you can add other small changes. This minimizes the stress brought about by change and helps you manage your emotional anxiety.
4. Discuss What Needs To Change With Your Spouse
This is crucial. Being on the same page and moving in the right direction together can be the difference between success and failure. Remember, you are partners, so you must work together to create the marriage you desire.
When you both agree on what needs to change, decide how you will work together to make it happen. Don’t forget rule #3. Keep the action plan short. No need for overwhelm. The goal is to list one or two things that will move you both in the direction you want to go.
Since we live near a lake, my wife and I decided we would save money and buy a boat. We agreed we didn’t need to spend a ton of money, and we did not want to go in debt. So, we started a savings plan to get the money we needed for a boat.
In time, we saved enough to buy a nice used pontoon boat. Great for the family (kids and grandkids), as well as our ‘fishing platform’ when we weren’t in our kayaks.
The point is, we worked together to define our goal, create a plan of action (something we could do weekly that would help us save money), and we executed our small steps daily (regularly). In the end, we achieved our goal. Not only did we get the boat we wanted, we also enjoyed working together to achieve that goal. it brought us closer as partners.
5. Commit To Do One Thing Every Day
This is where the rubber meets the road. Without daily action, no plan will succeed. Once you map out what you want, then list key things that will move you in the right direction, you have to commit to doing one thing every day.
Consistent action always brings about big results.
Final Thoughts of Habits for Successful Marriages
If our habits determine the course of our life (and they do), shouldn’t we work to establish healthy habits that create a successful marriage? Of course. But it’s not always as easy as it seems.
Over time, we create routines that act like ruts in a road. The longer we travel in those same ruts, the deeper they become and the harder it is to break free. Our habits act like Glenda’s horse in the story I told. When this happens it seems like our marriage has a mind of its own. It does in a sense. But it is the mind you gave it. Your habits are result of your daily decisions.
In this article, we identified the best way to change a bad habit is to start a new one.
- Do You Have Good Relationship Habits?
- Bad Marriage Habits
- How To Break Bad Marriage Habits
- Daily Marriage Habits That Are Healthy
- How To Create Good Marriage Habits
The Healthy Marriage Quiz
If you want specific help for your marriage, or you want to know your healthy marriage score, take the marriage quiz. You’ll get immediate access with suggestions on how to improve your relationship.
The Healthy Marriage Toolkit
Books, Courses, Programs and Tools designed to help you create the marriage of your dreams.
Five Simple Steps Marriage Course
Marriage doesn’t have to be complicated. In this 5 part mini series you’ll discover practical steps to redesign your marriage.
Healthy Marriage Courses
Our courses will help you build a strong marriage. Each course is designed to meet a specific relationship need.
If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.