Building a marriage: 3 signs you’re sabotaging your marriage (+ what you can do about it)
Building a marriage: 3 signs you’re sabotaging your marriage
From the moment my hubby asked me to marry him, I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t wait to start my life as Mrs. Mamie L. Pack. I practiced signing my name. I flaunted my ring whenever I had the opportunity. Oh yes, I could not wait for our lives together to start.
We started off doing all the right things. We did pre-marital counseling, often talked with our pastor, and loved talking to each other all the time.
What I didn’t prepare for those beginning years of marriage was the doubt, fear, insecurities that lingered beneath the surface of my heart. All these little cracks were allowing ugliness to creep into the beauty of my marriage.
Let me say; I didn’t realize I was sabotaging my marriage at all — actually, quite the opposite. Everything I did, I justified in my mind. I thought I was present, but I was only pushing him away. I thought I was loving, but I was critical. I wanted to smother the fear, but my fear was eating my marriage alive.
Deep beneath my happiness was a lingering lie: you are not worthy of this love.
No matter what my husband did, no matter how many good moments we had, no matter how many times my husband showed up, a part of me believed one day my husband would realize I was “too much,” “too difficult,” “too hard to love” then leave. I was afraid of being rejected and abandoned.
Sadly, I didn’t act out of a great love. I operated out of a great fear.
After ANOTHER long, repetitive conversation, my husband said five words that helped me see the problem in our marriage was happening inside of ME. Five words, “I can’t do anything right.”
These words changed my heart. I was sabotaging the very relationship I prayed for; something had to change.
To make a change, I needed the Holy Spirit to reveal to me the behaviors sabotaging my marriage and the steps to make a lasting change. Here are the three ways I was sabotaging my marriage and what I could do to grow.
Lesson 1: You can’t be a team of one.
When I met my husband, I already had a career and was a single mother. I was accustomed to doing things my way, often relying only on me. That wasn’t the life I wanted; it was merely the life I was used to living.
After being married for a while, I quickly realized I loved the idea of working together as a team, but I had a small sense of what being “one” looked like walked out each day.
Without realizing it, I was sabotaging my marriage by trying to do everything on my own. Initially, I took pleasure being able to say I could do the career, take care of the kids, and have this well-organized home. (At first!) Over time, I became resentful. I folded towels angry. I washed dishes with an attitude. Surely, my husband sees me do all this work. Why doesn’t he help? Easy, I didn’t let him.
Anytime my husband would ask to help, my response was usually, “I can do it,” “I’ve got it,” “Oh, I can handle it myself.” I did not give him the opportunity to help. All I did was shut him out and continued to believe I could only rely on myself to get things done. My husband was not lazy. He was not disconnected. I just didn’t let him in.
I don’t know if you are anything like me, but the Holy Spirit revealed two big lessons about this area. I want to do everything on my own because I wanted CONTROL. (Such a dirty word). I tried to do everything on my own because I did not believe we were a team. I was afraid of being let down.
To let this attitude go, I needed to learn how to let my husband in. I had to learn how to be a team. Sitting down, I talked with my husband about what I needed, what he could do, and how we could help each other. We decided these questions would become a part of our weekly, often daily, conversations. Allowing him to help me, showed me I could be safe even if he didn’t fold the towels the way I like.
If you are struggling with being a team of one what do you do?
- Ask for help.
- Clearly communicate your need, expectations, and timeline.
- Recognize your limits and the limits of your spouse.
- Understand your needs and expectation then adjust as your family shifts. What works then might not work now.
- Your spouse’s way will NOT be your way, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
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Lesson 2: Great love starts when you accept God’s great truth.
Even while we were dating, I was often blown away by the depth of Stanley’s love for me. Even though I prayed to have a great love, I was absolutely terrified it would one day slip outside my grasp. I didn’t grow up seeing healthy, lasting relationships. Quite the contrary! I didn’t believe I was worthy to be loved, worthy to be his wife.
For a while, I was able to put on a smile but over time what I truly believed would seep out my mouth. Any time we would get into “intense fellowship” I stayed tense expecting that this would be the moment our marriage would end. My doubt would show in questions like “Are we okay?” “Are we going to make it?” “Are you happy?” Little did I know, healthy disagreement was a part of marriage.
I kept waiting for Stanley to somehow convince me he loved me, but he couldn’t do that. He could give me the world, but until I realized and accepted I was loved nothing mattered. My feelings of unworthiness only fed into my performance-based personality. If I didn’t feel worthy of love, maybe I could show him I was worth loving, a good investment, a good choice. UGH! I look back now so frustrated with myself, but that is where I was.
To accept the love Stanley so freely gave me, it started with receiving the greatest love I would ever experience—the love of Christ. God’s love settled the places in me that were tormented from my past and trauma. The more I rested in the depths of God’s love the more I could accept the love of my husband. I stopped pushing him away and started doing the work to build a love that would last a lifetime.
IF you are struggling with sabotaging your marriage from feelings of unworthiness, what do you do?
- Get God’s truth rooted in your heart. You are already loved, valued, and worthy.
- Speak God’s truth over yourself and your marriage EVERY day.
- Keep a gratitude log of all the good in your marriage.
- Express love and appreciation to your spouse.
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Lesson 3: Staying too busy you miss being present
Working made sense to me. Building a career was the easy stuff. There were clear guidelines, set expectations, and a path of advancement. I knew just wanted I needed to do.
Being married was not so easy. We had two adults adjusting to walking through life together while blending a family. Two adults who had careers, two adults with strong personalities, two adults who were polar opposites in way too many ways. Learning how to compromise, how to blend two worlds into one, how to build a life together was often a complicated blur of highs and lows.
I knew I wanted our marriage to last, but I didn’t know how to be slow enough to be present. All my work came home every day. Even when I wasn’t working, I was talking about work. Not to mention I was an enabler to other negative behaviors to people outside our home. There were all these influences continuously pulling my attention away from just being present with my husband. I didn’t realize my distracted gaze was sabotaging me from laying the pillars of our marriage.
The signs were there. I was looking on my phone, instead of laughing with my husband. I was working on my computer in the room instead of dancing in the living room. Everyone and everything else was becoming a priority to my marriage.
Again, this was not the marriage I wanted and the change needed to happen in me.
What do you do when you are too busy to be present in your marriage?
- Set workplace boundaries.
- When you are home, be home.
- Create time where you do not talk about home, bills, or children.
- Focus on connection daily.
- Make prayer, talking, and laughter three regular parts of your day.
- Hug and kiss every day.
Those beginning years of marriage taught me numerous lessons about me. Wanting a marriage to last a lifetime doesn’t just happen. Lasting marriage occurs when two people place God in the center while choosing to show up, do the work, and pick each other every day. Let your love be stronger than any fear, trauma, or pain. You can choose today to stop sabotaging your marriage and let God fill the gaps creating a union to last a lifetime.
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This article really hit home, thank you for sharing.
I’m so guilty of number 1 oh man. Dad raised me to not need a man. I had to work on being a compliment to my husband.
Mamie L. PackBreanna
Learning how to let our spouses help can be challenging, but it is freeing when we do. We are a team meant to help each other out not outdo each other.
Vanessa, Life Of TorresBreanna
Yes! Same here! My parents raised 5 girls, so they wanted to make sure we were independently strong without a spouse. Great positive impact, but it does interfere sometimes… hahah 🙂
Mamie L. PackVanessa, Life Of Torres
Yeah! I was raised by a single mom who helped me to learn to be independent and strong, but it did interfere in my marriage sometimes too! 🤦🏻♀️
These are really great lessons; thank you so much for sharing them! I almost got married in my early 20s, and had all but given up on ever finding someone to spend my life with by the time I met my now-husband. Yes, we were both very set in our ways for being “older” when (in our 30s) we met, married, and started a family; but we also had worked through a lot of the things you describe here already in our own lives, and in the several years we dated before marrying. I am thankful every day that I found him when I did, and he feels the same! Neither of us is perfect, and we know and accept that – both about ourselves and about each other. Thank you again for this great reminder of all the things we have to be thankful about each other for! 🙂
Mamie L. PackFlossie
Thank you so much for sharing Flossie! All marriages take work, being willing to deal with the hard things and loving fiercely. Being with the right person makes all the difference.
Thank you so much for sharing this. I love that you mentioned we have to accept God’s love to truly accept one another’s love.
Thank you for being so transparent!
Trish ~ Habibi House
Mamie L. Packthehabibihouse
Thanks Trish! When we have an intimate relationship with Christ, everything flows out of it. We love more, give more, serve more because we have so much more in Christ.
Those were also my husband’s words a little while back. Life throws so much hurtles at you, it is so important to slow down and reflect to keep a healthy relationship. Unfortunately you don’t get married and be happily ever after without putting in some effort continuously.
Mamie L. PackCarolcarol
Anything worth having takes work and effort. I am so glad you were able to hear your hubby just as I was able to hear mine. That is a continual prayer for me, “Lord help me to hear him.” Sometimes that means being able to hear I am wrong.
Everything you mentioned here is so true. With our baby, our careers, and my blog it can really be challenging to stay in the present. Thank you for sharing.
Mamie L. PackKyra
Right Kyra! I don’t want to spend all this time building a career only to realize I lost the love of my life.
This is such wonderful advice!!!
Mamie L. Packheymamajess
Thanks so much!
This is such a great read and a perfect reminder to all married couples. I am so guilty about being busy and I guess I need to set my priorities straight. Will definitely work on it. Thank you for sharing this. Super appreciate it.
Mamie L. PackClarice
You are not alone Clarice. Disciplining ourselves to shut down and be present is an ongoing choice.
The first tip I really need to work on. I feel so OCD about everything so I don’t even want my hubby doing it sometimes, but then I get overwhelmed. Thanks for your ideas!
Mamie L. PackLorena
Oh, I get it Lorena! Sometimes we have to count the cost and decide if it’s really worth trying to do it al.
But I AM usually right! (hehe!) Yes, I think most people operate out of fear which catches up to you at some point.
Mamie L. PackElease Colcord
Oh, yes! That fear factor can definitely get in the way.
#2 is everything and #3 is going to be our generations greatest challenge to marriage! Thank you for sharing
I definitely agree with the third sign of marriage sabotage – I try to be present and to leave all distractions aside when it’s “our” time.
I think often time we it too comfortable in our relationship with each other. This is a great reminder to move each other and stop and think about what we’re doing.
Great article! Filled with lots of truth!
Mamie L. PackHeather GILLIS
Thanks so much!
Mamie L. PackJacquelyn
Michelle D. Garrett
“I didn’t act out of a great love. I operated out of a great fear.” – These words spoke volumes and hit a nerve. Thank you for sharing these actionable steps to take to shift our mindset and work together as a team.
Wow, Number 1 spoke to me. That is exactly what I went through when I married my husband. It was a tough process but so grateful for the transformation. That reminded me how good God has been to us in our marriage.
Mamie L. Packmarriedbyhisgrace
Thank God for the process. When we stop looking at the other person and allow God to transform us, so much changes.
Chantilly @ Bicultural Familia
Working on a marriage isn’t easy and self-sabotage is so much more common than people think. Not to mention coping with societal pressures (sexism, racism, classism, etc.). It definitely takes the work of both parties to be successful.
Mamie L. PackChantilly @ Bicultural Familia
Oh those societal pressures on marriages are tough. It interrupts more in marriages that people realize.
I’m so guilty of number 1!
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Oh this was so good and so timely! It’s a busy season for us and this was such a good reminder that we need to pause and make dedicated time. Thanks for sharing!
Mamie L. PackJami Ray
No problem Jami!!! Summer can be full of learning and fun. We just need a balance.
I am loving all of these tips! Especially “you can’t be a team of one.” It’s good to be able to recognize what is bothering each party and then you can find a solution that works for everyone.
Mamie L. PackJennifer Maine
Absolutely Jennifer! Working toward those solutions is important for our marriages.
This advice is excellent. I think we could all be reminded of this from time to time.
This was such a great read. I am very guilty of many of these things and I know it’s something I want to work on. Thanks for sharing!
Beautifully written, Mamie <3 I think all of us wives have struggled in at least one of these areas at some point. Lesson #2 rang very true for me. I also didn't grow up seeing a healthy marriage and was blown away at my husband's love for me (and I still am). God is so very kind and gracious to show us His unconditional love in a small glimpse through our husbands. Thank you for sharing!
Mamie L. Packtabathahull
What a difference healthy love makes. So thankful for God’s love and grace.
I love how open and honest you are in this post! Every married person needs to hear this! Thanks for sharing!
Mamie L. PackSarah
Oh thank you Sarah! Hoping to help other marriages learn from my mistakes.
Number 1 is me all over! Honestly I’d never thought of it like this. He is always asking to help and I try to play Wonder Woman!
Thank you so much, I’m putting a stop to it before we say ‘I do’
Mamie L. Packclairelomax2018
Let that Wonder Woman go!!!
Without God in the center, you leave room for the enemy to step in and fill the gap.
Mamie L. PackBrandi Michelle
Oh, yes ma’am!!!
This post really hits home! I struggle with feelings of unworthiness. And I especially love about accepting God’s love first. Thanks for sharing.
Mamie L. PackHaley Cooper
Knowing we are already loved helps us to receive the love from our spouses! Thanks for stopping by Haley!
“when you are home, be home” I totally relate to that one! It’s hard to turn work off, but being present is important. Great tips!
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Love this sweet post Mamie. So filled with truth for the married couple! I am working on being ‘present’ more with my sweet hubby. ❤
Mamie L. PackDonna Miller
Being present is so important and easy to overlook with taking care of others.
Acting as if you are a team of one is definitely a way to sabotage your marriage. We need to unlearn living independently and make room for our spouse to really be our partner.
Mamie L. PackOnething.blog
Unlearning bad habit and thought sis huge for building a healthy marriage.
Great advice! I never thought about how not being present in the present could be sabotaging your marriage in such a big way. That’s one I know I struggle with!
Wendy @ One Exceptional Life
To avoid sabotaging our marriage, it’s so important to put the work away at the end of the day, and create time for togetherness. When my husband walks through the door every night, my goal is to close the laptop and go give him a kiss and ask him how his day went. And then we spend time catching up. It could be 5 minutes or the rest of the night but looking him in his eyes and letting him know I’m there has created 30 years of a strong love and friendship.
These are wonderful 3 signs you’re sabotaging your marriage. Making God first in your life makes the rest fall into place. Great point to magnify. Building a marriage definitely takes two not just one. Excellent point! Being present is one of the best gifts to give our spouse. I’m very thankful for a wonderful marriage. We give God all the glory! It wouldn’t be possible without him.
Mamie L. Packwalkinglightinjesus
Agreed! A kingdom focus on your marriage makes a world of difference.
This was a great article to remind us of some of the subtle ways our marriages can be undermined. I especially liked how you said we can be too busy to be present. I think this is a big issue in a lot of marriages, including my own. I need to make sure my schedule isn’t so full that I cannot be present and engaged with my husband. Thanks for this!
Mamie L. PackCollene
It takes a lot of intentionality to work on those areas that can sabotage our marriage.
Marriage is so hard. On one hand it can be so rewarding and on the other, I feel like it gets to that point with a lot of honest, hard work, often showing the worst of ourselves in the process. Thanks for the courage to share honestly in an effort to help others❤️
This is an amazing post! Thanks for sharing all these tips and your personal experience, I have learnt so much. This is a great resource for married people and intending couples 👏
Thank you for writing this. I have a lot of insecurities from my past and I tend to sabotage my relationships because I’m so afraid of rejection. I am barely learning about the love God has for me. Hopefully one day I will he secure enough in His love to be ready for a Godly marriage. Blessings, Joni
Lot’s of great advice here! I certainly have at times suffered from all three in my marriage, but I still struggle with number three. I am a workaholic and sometimes it is hard for me to set thouse boundaries—but I must! Than you for the reminder!
Mamie L. PackFruitfullyLiving
Yeah, being a workaholic can create a different set of challenges in our marriages. Having boundaries definitely helps.
These are problems I have today but I am not married. I need to slow down and ask for help when I need it!
Mamie L. PackMelodie Haas
Asking for help is so important. It can be hard sometimes but so worth it.
Thank you so much for sharing your truth. I definitely need to do a better job at letting my husband hello and being fully present. I think I’ll go do that right now.
Mamie L. Packordinarilyextraordinarymom
Yay!! Identifying those subtle ways we sabotage our marriage is important so we can make changes.
Great post highlighting all the ways individuals can unintentionally sabotage their marriage.
Mamie L. PackBetty Rojugbokan
Thanks Betty! Too often we sabotage our marriage ms without even realizing it.
Being present is the hardest for me, I think. My mind is constantly working. I have to be super intentional when it comes to making my marriage a priority. Thanks for this, Mamie!
Although I am an unmarried person, I can still apply the lessons from this article. I think these tips can apply to work life, in friendships, and with loved ones.
Great topic! All newly weds should ready this before getting married so they don’t sabotage their marriage. I know my first year of marriage wasn’t as I thought it was going to be because I had to learn it was no longer about me.
Mamie L. PackElizabeth Anderson
Yes!! Learning how to see marriage as ministry changes how we interact with our spouse.
These are truly helpful, practical tips on spotting and preventing sabotaging your marriage. Absolutely love the point about speaking God’s truth over yourself and your marriage every day!
Mamie L. PackRachel Mayew
Speaking God’s truth is a game changer in our marriage for sure.
Oh my goodness! You have brought back so many memories of the early years of marriage! We have just celebrated 22 years of marriage. We have learned so many lessons on the way! We constantly pray together and the one big rule we have is not to let the sun go down without saying sorry. I came in to the marriage with a lot of insecurities and if my husband was late home, I would be anxious that he was in accident. I had to surrender repeatedly my fears to God and trust that He would take care of me and hubby. He has!
Mamie L. PackKaren
Surrendering our fears and insecurities to God is a gamechanger for our marriages.