,The 31 year old part of me feels silly offering up marriage and relationship advice, whereas the 12 year veteran of marriage has less of a problem talking about things we could all be doing better in our relationships. I may have been married young, but that means that my marriage has gone through many challenges marriages that happen later in life don't. Are we perfect at it? Nope. Are we a lot better at it than we were 12 years ago? Yep. Was there a seven year itch? Not really. Did we almost end at eight years? Yep. We almost did.
I'm still a little surprised we survived 2009.
Even with our re-commitment to each other and living the last four years in relative marital bliss (with two cats, two kids and enough graduate school loans make your head twirl) we still make mistakes. Old hurts and mistakes will peek through every once in awhile and while part of me is convinced "THIS IS THE END. WE WILL NEVER SURVIVE THIS. THINGS NEVER ACTUALLY CHANGED." while the sensible part of me knows that it's just a little bump in the road. Talks need to be had, sometimes hard ones. Soothing tones need to be used and words like "always" and "never" need to be checked at the door.
Related: 10 things I won't do for my wife - no matter how much I love her
I've learned one of the greatest wedges in a relationship is unintentional hurt, little things we let slide - "it doesn't matter that much." But then it happens again, it turns into a pattern and soon we're left arguing with our loved ones over "YOU NEVER!" or "YOU ALWAYS!" digging up old hurt like a boat propeller digs up sand and muddies everything up until you can't remember what you were fighting about in the first place. Cody wrote about the 11 mistakes he made that nearly ended our marriage but the thing that saved us was each accepting half the blame for our downfall and never using it against each other.
The best way to avoid these fights is to pay attention to what you may be missing, ways you may be hurting your spouse or things your spouse may be doing to hurt you - hopefully unintentionally - and work on them now before they become scars.
1. Not Listening to Their Crazy Ideas, Hopes and Dreams
Everyone is going to have a crazy idea now and again, for me it was to win the title "Grand Cookie Champion" at the State Fair. Last year Cody decided on a Tuesday it would be a good idea to run a half-marathon on Saturday. You don't always have to support your spouse's crazy ideas (like the one I have of selling the house and touring the world in an RV) but you do have to at least listen to them and not tell your spouse they're crazy or stupid - because if you won't listen to their hopes and dreams they will go out and find someone who will.
And that is how emotional affairs begin.
2. Love Language Misfire
If you've never heard of or read about love languages, there are essentially five basic ways we give and/or feel loved. We all generally have one dominate love language, while other people may have two or even three. Not knowing your own love language, as well as your spouse's, can cause a lot of hurt and separation between the two of you.
Cody's love language is acts of service, meaning he went to law school and worked his tail off for our family so we could have a better life, but that's not how I feel loved. My love language is words of affirmation, something Cody never gave me since he was gone all the time loving and serving me through his hard and diligent schoolwork. He saw me as ungrateful, not acknowledging how hard he was working for us while I saw him as cold and unloving because he never took the time to say anything kind to me.
If this is at all familiar, look into learning about the five love languages. It may very well save your relationship.
3. Teasing Them
Cody used to have a terrible problem with teasing me. Now, I can take some teasing, but this was constant and painful teasing to the point where I wondered if he saw anything in me past what there was to make fun of. A gentle joke here and there is fine, sometimes even endearing. But if you're teasing your spouse more than you're praising them? You'd better check your priorities.
4. Ignoring the Consistent
If your spouse mentions something over and over, whether it's subtle or very obvious - you'd best start paying attention. Look back at texts or emails with your partner, is there a repeated phrase or statement made over and over that goes unacknowledged by you? Perhaps a regular thread of 'I love you' or 'I miss you?' Perhaps they keep mentioning a night out, a weekend getaway or just some personal time with you, never being pushy about it - just consistent.
Ignore enough of these and you may find yourself alone.
5. Personality Miscommunication
I used to guilt Cody into going out with my friends and getting angry with him when he just sat quietly the entire time not talking to anyone. It wasn't until more recently that I took the time to really understand his social anxiety and introverted personality that I understood what these situations were like for him. What I saw as rude behavior was just his way of hanging back and listening to everyone until he was comfortable enough to participate.
I used to push him to be more, MORE SOCIAL! MORE TALKATIVE! MORE PARTICIPATION! and we would always walk away angry with each other. If you're in a relationship where your personalities are quite opposite when it comes to social situations, take the time to read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. It will help you both better understand why one behaves the way they do when it comes to "being on" in social situations and how to approach them better.
-By Casey Mullins
For 7 things ALL women want in bed, visit Babble!
MORE ON BABBLE
The 13 worst reasons to get married
The 15 best marriage tips from the worst husband ever
10 things ALL men do but hate to admit