The Danger Of Complacency In Marriage

by Shannon Day
Originally Published: 
Complacency In Marriage
m-gucci / iStock

My husband says I’ve still “got it.” He still laughs at my jokes, or perhaps he’s laughing at me. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. There’s laughter happening here, and that can only be a good thing, right?

We also annoy each other. But such is life when a man and a woman decide to shack up and procreate. In fact, I think the fact that we annoy each other is part of our “spark.”

Related: 10 Signs You’re In An Unhappy Or Loveless Marriage And What To Do About It

Our marriage hit the 10-year mark last year. We’ve survived (and been blessed) with the addition of three little people into our lives, and we continue to coexist in general harmony with our three daughters—one is even a tween. Just let that sink in for a minute.

We didn’t suffer through the seven-year itch, nor has there been any infidelity or big blowouts that have lead us to the brink of divorce. We’ve lived in his country (England). We’re now living in mine (Canada). We’ve both made compromises along the way.

For the most part, we’ve had a great 10 years. We’ve been lucky.

I know my husband is still working to accept—and tame—the free spirit that lives inside me. She was there when we met, and if I have anything to do with it (I do), she’ll never die! Meanwhile, I’m learning to embrace—and tolerate—the often black-and-white nature of his logical-minded ways. Most of the time, we respect each other’s differences; we recognize that they are the root of our attraction to one another and provide a great array of influences to share with our kids.

But occasionally, I’d like to pop him in his smug face. And I know there are times he’d fancy wringing my stubborn neck. That’s what you get when a Type A meets a Type B and you settle down and have a family. But, I absolutely love our marriage. It’s better than I could have ever hoped for, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Yet, I know it’s not safe.

Today’s content heart could be tomorrow’s broken one. Even though we’ve promised each other forever, I don’t assume divorce won’t happen to me—to us.

The fact is: Ten years is really not that long. Not on the “forever” scale, it isn’t. I’m not naïve. My parents divorced when I was 11. In my memory, their marriage was a pretty good one. They laughed a lot. They were friends and partners. I don’t know all of the ins and outs of it, nor do I need to, but I felt secure in my family life as a kid. I felt as secure as my kids do now. Yet, my parents’ relationship didn’t make it. It lasted 15 years, but it didn’t make it.

Separation, divorce and discontentment—it’s popping up all around us these days. I guess that’s what happens when you hit middle age. People change. Marriages end. In some cases, unlikely couples simply run out of steam and desire to make the relationship work. In other scenarios, trying circumstances bring out the worst in those involved, and the marriage cracks under pressure. Betrayals happen. Husbands and wives are blindsided by their partners’ unhappiness.

I see how it can happen. I get how busy and distracted we can become and how this distraction disables us from being in tune with ourselves and our partners. I understand that at times, we can lose ourselves and our way. I also know that sometimes what we want to be true just simply isn’t and never will be.

I recently read somewhere that the success of a relationship depends on how a partner responds to the other’s “bids.” As in, do we listen and take on their expressed needs? Or do we ignore them? Overlook them? Feel incapable of meeting them? The concept of responding to “bids” has stuck with me. It makes sense. If we are left hanging there, our calls unanswered, our needs unmet, our voices unheard, discontentment can creep in.

It made me think about the importance of my and my husband’s emotional needs. (He’d cringe at the thought of me writing this). Unlike me, he won’t come right out and ask. I’ll spell it out if I have to—no problem! But he won’t. As a Type-A man who thrives on being capable and productive, he likes to think he’s got everything under control, and he really appears to most of the time. So I take it upon myself to read between the lines and to keep an eye out for any bids that he might have.

I know this still isn’t enough to safeguard my marriage. But I’ll do it anyway. I’ll do my best to watch over “us,” even if that means I need to make some changes. Because sometimes, a little tweak is all you need to stay on the same path.

I’ll do this—for him, for us, for our kids. But it won’t secure my marriage. Nothing will.

Because marriage isn’t safe.

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