5 Common Mistakes in Marriage

5 Common Mistakes in Marriage

weddingsquare“And they lived happily ever after…” We have all read the stories that end like this and if you’re like most people this is the way you hope your life story will go. However, if you are like most people, you have learned that real life doesn’t go like we plan.

Four years ago my marriage fell apart. I was an awful wife; my husband couldn’t honestly say he had been a great husband, life as we knew it was over. We had gone wrong in so many places and had so much to learn. A lot of couples would have thrown in the towel and ended it, but with God’s grace we stuck it out and pushed through.

We began to study ourselves and study marriage like never before. We read and learned and applied the things we learned. From my reading and studying, I saw there are a million places where you can go wrong in marriage. The real way to have a good marriage is to know going into it that it is going to be a lifetime of work, and sometimes the hardest work you have ever done; but, in the end it will all be worth it.

Here are 5 common mistakes that couples make in marriage and how to avoid them.

1. Expecting Your Spouse to be a Mind Reader. 

This was a big problem in our marriage and it went both ways. I never wanted to tell Dustin what I wanted from him. I figured that if I told him what I thought he should be doing for me then it wouldn’t mean very much if he did it. I wanted him to have to figure it out on his own because it would mean more to me. But, what ended up happening is that he had no idea what I wanted and so he ended up missing the mark constantly. I needed to tell him what I wanted and then appreciate if he was willing to do it for me.

On the flip side, my husband did not compliment me very often. There were many areas that I felt insecure in that I would have loved for him to build me up in, but it just didn’t seem to happen. When we finally started communicating well and I explained this to him he was confused. He thought he had been doing a good job in this area. After some focused thinking, he realized that he had been thinking compliments about me, but not verbalizing them to me.

Your spouse is not a mind reader and they never will be. If you want something from them, give them a fair shot and tell them what it is. If you think something nice about them, tell them or write them a note. Everyone loves compliments and everyone wants their spouse to appreciate them, but they will never know if you don’t tell them.

2. Leaving and Cleaving

This was another struggle that we faced in our marriage on both sides. My mother-in-law is a fantastic lady, but she is a “mommy”. She is so loving and comforting and loves to spoil everyone in her family. My husband is the oldest of 4 boys and the first to get married. My mother-in-law had a hard time adjusting to being the parent to a married grown-up child. She called multiple times a day to speak to my husband and wanted to be part of everything in our lives. I thought it was just her until my friends started to get married. It seemed to be a pattern with the husbands and their mothers.

I appreciate that my husband kept working with her and even being firm when he needed to be to set a new healthy standard for their relationship.

I had the opposite problem and didn’t realize it. I valued my mother’s opinion far more than I should have. I had a hard time making decisions without asking her for her advice. My house was decorated like her house, she watched my daughter, I stuck to all of my “family’s” traditions. I would value my mom’s opinion at times over my husband’s.

I wanted to stick to all of the traditions that I grew up. I am even embarrassed to admit, but we stayed the night at my parent’s house on our first married Christmas Eve so we could wake up in the morning and celebrate Christmas with my family. Now, that might not sound that bad, but we lived less than 15 minutes away. I didn’t want to lose any of those childhood traditions.

It wasn’t until I almost lost my husband that I realized that my family now was first and foremost my husband and my children. We set new traditions for our family. I kept a few that I grew up with that I wanted my children to experience, but we established a lot of new ones too.

It is so important to leave your “old” family when you form that “new” family with your spouse (and children if they come along). Ephesians 5: 31 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

3. Having Unrealistic Expectations

Life is not like the movies. Your spouse isn’t going to spend their day wooing you the rest of your life. The weight might not just melt off without a lot of work after the baby is born. Your house is not going to be sparkling clean at every moment (or maybe not even the majority of them). Life isn’t just going to be “happily ever after”.

Life is hard and marriage is even harder, toss in a kid (or two, or five) and it can be a real mess. If you set unrealistic expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your life, you will spend a lot of time disappointed.

It is also important to not have hidden expectations. If your expectations are unrealistic and hidden than your spouse has such a small chance to make you happy. But, if you talk about your expectations with your spouse you are able to work through any thoughts that might not be realistic.

Do you expect to stay home when you start having kids? You husband might have different thoughts. Do you expect to have sex 5 times a week? Your spouse might have different expectations. Do you want to eat out three times a week at a nice restaurant? Your spouse might want to eat at home. Do you want to save money for a large item in the future? Your spouse might disagree.

If you don’t communicate your expectations with your spouse you have no way of knowing if they are realistic or not.

4. Not Properly Preparing for Marriage.      

I wonder what heartache and tears could have been spared if I would have invested even half the time into planning my marriage as I did into planning my wedding. While “two becoming one” might be God’s design it doesn’t happen naturally because we are all selfish people. A good marriage takes work, planning, and sacrifice.

I wish that I would have spent time talking with older married women who could pass on the lessons that they learned along the way. I wish I would have not been timid and would have thought about and asked some women the tough questions or for their advice on anything I might not even think to ask about.

We thought it would be easy. We were so wrong. Once we started to really study marriage four years ago we found so many amazing resources. There were tons of Christian books on marriage, being a wife, being a husband, communication, sex, and on and on. I regret not spending hundreds of dollars before my marriage learning what it would really mean to be a wife, compared to the thousands of dollars that we spent on our wedding.

We were required to go through pre-marital counseling at our church before getting married. I think this is a great idea, but what we experienced was not enough preparation. Most of things I remember learning was either about money or the division of chores. We also learned a little about communication and the concept of repeating back what the other person says, but we were so ill prepared for the real challenges of marriage.

I know several women who wanted long (over a year) engagements because they wanted to make sure they had enough time to plan their weddings. This is not uncommon. A wedding has become a huge ordeal. Couples spend months (or years) and thousands of dollars planning for their wedding, which last for 1 day; yet they spend little or no time and money planning for their marriage.

5. Not Setting Boundaries.

I have already briefly talked about setting boundaries with parents during the leaving and cleaving stage, but there are many boundaries that need to be set in marriage.

Set boundaries with the opposite sex. You might think this is going too far, but I don’t. Do not be friends with someone of the opposite sex when you are married. I’m not talking about the husbands of your friends or your husband’s friends, I’m talking about having friendship with a man that is not through your husband. You might think it won’t be a problem, but I believe this is one area that you can NEVER err on the side of being too cautious. And, it is one area that your husband will never complain about you being cautious about.

Set boundaries with your children. So many women become wives and then practically abandon the role of wife when children come along. Always be a wife before a mother. Do not allow your children to interrupt when your husband is talking. Do not allow your children’s activities to steal the time from your husband. If you spend 5 days a week in the evening running your kids from activity to activity, you are too busy and your husband is not getting the time he deserves from you. Do not refuse to get a babysitter and go out with your husband. Do not allow your children to sleep in your bed every night; it’s hard to love on your husband if little ones are constantly coming in.

Marriage is hard, but if you invest the time into it, it can be so rewarding. Have you experienced any of these marriage mistakes? What are some other common mistakes in marriage or areas to prepare for before getting married?

91 thoughts on “5 Common Mistakes in Marriage

  1. What a positive way to look at what we could be doing better in marriage! This was refreshing, as I just saw a few posts on what may be a problem in your marriage. It’s great to see a positive reflection on how to fix issues likely everyone has.
    Scarlett recently posted…The Truth About Weight LossMy Profile

  2. Excellent advice and insight into what it takes to make a successful union! It’s nice to read about a couple who were on the brink of separation and decided to figure out how to improve themselves and their marriage rather than just taking the “easy” way out. We have struggled with some of the same issues mainly in the communication department and have also had some dark days … nice to know that we’re not alone!
    Tracy @ Change of Plates recently posted…Almond Crusted Cod with Mediterranean Sauce over Creamy PolentaMy Profile

    1. Thanks Tracy! I wish more couples, especially in the church, would share about the problems they have overcome in their marriages. Everyone likes to put on the fake smile and pretend everything is ok. I think it always helps to know that others are where you are or have been there before. It helps it not seem so lonely.

  3. This is a great article. I was so blessed to see an example of a good marriage in my parents. My mom’s example as wife and mother set a good pattern for me. Not that my husband and I haven’t had our struggles. I still had to learn to give up self and consider my husband’s needs before my own, but I believe my marriage has been easier because of what I learned growing up in a good home. I really like #5 – boundaries. Our children all know that after eight at night is “our” time. My husband has made it very clear to them that this is “Daddy and Mommy” time so they need to stay in bed, and we’ll see them in the morning. I look forward to that time – time to be together after a busy day of work.
    Jennifer S. recently posted…One-Month MenuMy Profile

    1. Such a blessing to have a great example in your mother and it sounds like you and your husband are being good examples for your children. I love the “Daddy and Mommy” time!

  4. I am so thankful that you didn’t throw in the towel! Marriage is hard work, and so many of us do jump in without enough knowledge & wisdom and too many expectations!

    Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing deeply, your story is valuable, encouraging and inspiring! I hope others who are struggling will take the encouragement here and pull that towel back out of the dirt!
    Michelle recently posted…Monday, A Favorite Day of the WeekMy Profile

  5. Couldn’t agree with this more. Marriage is hard work, and often times you get stuck in your ways. It is something that involves constant work, and continuing to appreciate your spouse. It is nice to know others have issues, as often times social media allows people to print a false portrait of their seemingly perfect marriage. Thanks for posting this!
    Rachel recently posted…15.2My Profile

    1. I agree, there are so many people faking the perfect life out there. I can’t believe how many couples we have seen in the past few years look like things are going great and then hear they are getting divorced or considering it.

  6. What an inspiration you are. Too many couples call it quits because its just too hard and not all fun and games like they thought it should be. There is a great book I give at bridal showers is called
    Strangling Your Husband Is Not an Option: A Practical Guide to Dramatically Improving Your Marriage
    by Merrilee Browne Boyack. Great book and I highly reccomend all married couples should read it.
    E.W. Allred recently posted…I can’t have it both ways.My Profile

  7. This is a great article. People need to understand that a marriage is give and take not just take, take, take! I love the part about: A good marriage takes work, planning, and sacrifice. Great job and you are a inspiration.
    Ben Goode recently posted…SecretMy Profile

  8. When married we never rest on our laurels, we always learn, put lots of effort in, change constantly so there is no easy formula for ‘happy ever after’. It is important to be able to communicate needs and wishes to each other, to be gentle and loving, to notice the other person among daily chores and world galloping ahead. Simple things – just like you mentioned in your post, Stephanie – showing attention, respect, contemplating our behavior towards our spouse are the key. There are no guarantees but a lot of hope if the two hearts are willing to do their best. 🙂

  9. Stephanie, I loved this post! It is so true that we can’t just expect “happily ever after”, that’s why my blog is called “joyfully ever after”.

    I have so been guilty of the lack of communication. My husband and I have been married for seven months and still have a lot to learn. He is wonderful! But he isn’t a mind reader . . .

    We got married at 18 and 19 years old, and in a lot of ways we weren’t fully prepared for adult life, but we are learning and growing and haven’t even made any tragic mistakes yet . . . If I have to grow up, I want to grow up with him.

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your story. I pray that God will continue to bless your marriage.
    Melody Maynard @ Joyfully Ever After recently posted…Put It In Your PurseMy Profile

    1. Thank you Melody! I got married at 19 and wish I would have put more time into it, it sounds like you are and that is awesome. My advice to you would be to remember that tough times will come, but it is normal and everyone goes through them (even though most pretend that they don’t). Never think you are the only one that has been there. Congratulations on your marriage!

    1. Thanks Alan. That is a great point that communication needs to be clear and well defined. Sometimes if I don’t think before talking I think that I am making my point but I miss the mark completely.

  10. These are great things to think about! Although I’m not married I tend to think my boyfriend is a mind reader. I don’t tell him things that bother me and I’m usually the one who suffers for it. We have been together about 6 years now and you would think I would learn this by now. You have great points that can be applied to other relationships as well. Thank you for sharing what you learned along the way in your journey to a better marriage!!!!
    Stevi recently posted…A Walk In The WoodsMy Profile

    1. Thanks Stevi, I do the same things at times. I just want him to know what bothers me or to figure it out for himself, and then when he doesn’t it only bothers me.

  11. That’s wonderful to hear your story of renewing your marriage! That must have been really, really tough, but it sounds like you both are so glad you pressed through the difficulty to experience the blessing on the other side. I read another blog post earlier today where she had mentioned expectations. Placing expectations on our spouse can lead to so many problems! Especially if, like you mentioned, we don’t voice our expectations. Not voicing our expectations sets up our spouse for failure. I also like your point on preparing for marriage. We prepare for school, for careers, for trying out for sports teams, for interviews, for parenthood, but for some reason few prepare for marriage.

    1. You are so right. We spend so much time preparing for other things in life yet when it comes to our biggest relationship with another person we just expect it to happen naturally and be awesome.

    1. That is a great addition Amanda! Most of the time when I try to read my husband’s mind or I assume something I end up wrong.

  12. Marriage is definitely hard and it takes WORK. It always helps when you think about it ahead of time – and congrats to you couples who think, discuss, and work things out before you get married. Most of us dive in. Love is great! But then you marry and find love isn’t enough. You need understanding, connection, trust…plus all the physical things like money, household tasks, etc. Communication is the only way you get there. I’m so happy to hear that you found it – you mentioned that it was later into your marriage, but that doesn’t matter. You found it and are reaping the benefits 🙂
    Jennifer recently posted…Rebel Heart Review: Can Madonna’s New Album Revive an Old Fan?My Profile

    1. Thanks Jennifer! If only we had figured it out beforehand we could have avoided so much heartache. I really want to make sure that I help my three daughters along the way so they can be one of those couples that gets some of it figured out beforehand.

    1. I agree, communication is so important. I was surprised when I started to look for Christian marriage books how hard it was to find a book that was about communication in marriage. Every book seems to mention how important it is and cover a little part of it, but to find a whole book on it was difficult. The first one that we found was called War on Words.

  13. I know with my own marriage I knew it would be tough. I knew it would take work from both parties. I didn’t always know how to communicate what I needed or how I needed something expressed. My hubby was the same way. We definitely planned our wedding more than we planned our marriage. I’m on a one-sided fight for my marriage because we didn’t plan for it and only 1 of us wants to work at it.

    1. I’m sorry Jennifer. I have several friends that are on one-sided fights right now too. I’m not sure if you have read The Women of Duck Commander, but Miss Kay tells her story of fighting for her marriage and how she was taught that you need to fight for it, even when you are the only one doing it. I thought her story was very encouraging.

    1. I agree! I hate those moments when I catch myself browsing over a webpage or a text while my husband is talking. Multitasking can be so damaging in relationships and not spending that quality time together.

    1. Thanks Danielle, my faith has brought me through so many things. I agree with you, I would hate to see where I would be without it.

    1. Thanks Danielle! You are right, marriage takes tons of work. I hate to see when marriages end because the couple isn’t wiling to work through the tough times. Unfortunately, there will be tough times in marriage, but if when they are worked through together they can strength the individuals and the couple.

    1. Thanks Toni! I think it always helps to know that others struggle with marriage issues too. People are so great at faking that their life is great and everything is going well when in reality they are struggling. I think it always helps to hear those stories of people who have walked thru a difficult time in marriage or life and made it through to the other side.

  14. Great read! I’ve learned so many of these lessons in my relationship as well. You are so right that many young couples put so much time into planning their wedding and not nearly enough thought into the marriage itself. I hope many young couples, or those in new relationships, read your advice and it helps them start off on the right foot. It’s awesome that you are going out of your way to help people in that sense.
    Deb recently posted…GlossyBox Subscription Review – March 2015My Profile

    1. Thanks Deb! I can’t even imagine how different things could be if couples spent the same amount of time and money on getting ready for their marriage as they do their weddings.

  15. Stephanie thank you for sharing your story. Truly commendable that you were willing to see yourself and with God’s help get on the right track to restoring your marriage. We recently celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary, and I totally agree with what you wrote here.
    Tiffany recently posted…3 Tips to Makeover Your Linen ClosetMy Profile

  16. Great tips and lessons learned. I would add two things, one isn’t so popular, but I would say don’t get married young, have a little bit of life’s experiences under your belt before getting married. Also, stay independent. I adore my hubby and do a ton of things with him, but it is also good to have a little of your own personal time to pursue things that interest me.
    Andi recently posted…CurrentlyMy Profile

    1. Great points, I would add: if you do get married young put that much more work into it because you will actually be maturing together. It took me awhile to realize that it was ok for me to have some separate hobbies from my husband (as long as we still shared common interests), he just isn’t going to be interested in all the same things as me.

  17. I loved this! You are so spot on. It’s amazing how much time and energy we can put into just one day and then almost forget the rest. Marriage is a lifetime commitment to one another. We also had counseling before our wedding but unfortunately a sudden family death cut it short. I don’t know that the particular counseling we were getting was the best. I would have loved to have completed a true counseling session. Although I suppose it is still not too late now. Hopefully my husband is still up for it! Thank you so much!
    Tori recently posted…My second Whole30 ChallengeMy Profile

    1. I wish we would have met with an actual counselor to do some premarital counseling instead of just our pastor (not that it is bad to meet for counseling with a pastor). When we did go through counseling later in our marriage I was surprised at how much easier it was to talk to someone that didn’t know us in our everyday life.

  18. All really good advice, especially the one about preparing for marriage. This is a good list to give a couple that is newly engaged so they can address everything up front before taking the plunge. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you! It’s funny the way you don’t know what you don’t know until you do (if that isn’t too confusing).

  19. Great post! Many truths spoken here. I am of the opinion that expectations are sin in my life. They are me centered. I have a picture of how I want things to be or go and it is my way. Expectations can destroy relationships. And let’s be real expectations never come out how we imagine them to be.
    I love the mind reader point. How many times do we think something and not realize we did not verbalize. (Both negative and positive) My husband and I have learned after some very hard lessons that we ask and refer to the marital handbook as we laughingly call it. We need to be intentional to get on the same page because it doesn’t normally happen naturally with men and women.
    Kelly O’Brien recently posted…The 12 Week Home Organization Overhaul~ Day 52My Profile

    1. You are so right Kelly, it just doesn’t come naturally. Don’t you wish there was a marriage handbook that every new couple got? Oh, the heartache that could be spared!

  20. Wow! This is such a fantastic post. I love how vulnerable you are about your marriage, and all of the tips you give are totally on point. I feel like we had to learn a lot in our first couple years of marriage, and work through serious issues. Leaving and cleaving was a big issue for me. As was lack of communication! Thanks for sharing.
    Jenn recently posted…a day in the life of a working from home momMy Profile

    1. It’s funny, I thought my husband was the one having a hard time leaving and cleaving, when it reality it was me! That was a hard one to accept 🙂

  21. That’s a good point that you make about being a mind reader, I think a lot of us just assume a significant other is supposed to ‘know’ every little thing, which is impossible to do. My S/O wants me to tell him what is on my mind…I must admit, I still have to work in that area. You made a lot of great points in this post, and presented it in a down-to-earth way that everyone can relate to. I feel that when I read similar posts, they can get a little too ‘preachy’ and it’s a turn off to me because I want to connect to the writer and read something within a context that I can relate to with examples that might apply to my life. And, good for the two of you for making your marriage work, I can see that you put a lot of time into rebuilding your relationship.
    Yona Williams recently posted…Congrats to the Winner of the caseable GiveawayMy Profile

    1. Thanks Yona! I have to constantly remind myself that my husband can’t read my mind. It seems like such an easy concept, but can be difficult to be consistent with when trying to make a change!

  22. Great thoughts. My husband and I put a big priority on premarital counseling. And it was super helpful. We have definitely had some things happen in our lives that have tested our communication, but we have been able to recognize how we each communicate and react, partially because of that counseling. I love your wisdom.

    1. Thanks Jenn! I’m glad you guys focused on premarital counseling. I wish I could do that part over as I imagine even when it is difficult, having that foundation from the start helps.

  23. These are all great ideas! I wish everyone could get through the tough times but the fact is they don’t. I too prepared more for the wedding for a marriage. I guess we all think it’s going to be easy until reality sinks in. I also think we don’t expect the butterflies to go away, and when they do a lot of people think they’re not in love anymore. I hope more people begin to choose to get educated about marriage instead of quitting when things get rough. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Great point. I’m not sure if you have read The 5 Love Languages before but it addresses the whole “not in love anymore” scenario perfectly! Thanks Whitney.

  24. Wise words. I am so glad God broke through to both of you to work on your marriage together. It takes two. I knew going into marriage that it would be hard…my husband was willing to let it be hard for me. If anything was “broken” I had to fix it. That is now way to live being married. Luckily, I know God and He walked with (carried!) me. We will be married 24 years in June and it has been a long, hard road for me. My husband will admit that most of the time that I spent struggling, he was perfectly happy. I am happy to say, that my husband has realized (recently) that he needs to be active in working on our relationship with me. I praise God but, we have a long way to go. Your post would be a wonderful post for young couples “thinking” about marriage, before even beginning to plan a wedding, to read.
    Kelly recently posted…Margin. What is it and How do we get it?My Profile

    1. Thanks Kelly. I’m glad that your husband is coming around. It is not easy when you are the only one struggling, but I give you so much credit for sticking it out!

  25. Kudos to you and your husband for working on your marriage together. I’m sure all of us married folks have made at least one of the mistakes that you list here. I know my husband and I both have. This would be a great article for young marrieds or engaged couples to read, too.
    Elaine recently posted…Coffee TalkMy Profile

  26. Great advice. I have to say I am big on the expectations part. Something I am very hard about. Seeking the perfect family, house, kids, husband, looks, etc. This is hard sometimes on our marriage and something we/I for sure need to work on.
    Deb recently posted…Spring DecoratingMy Profile

    1. Thanks Deb! I found that I had to be so careful when I started reading blogs not to compare myself and my life to what I was reading. So many women come across like they have it all together and it was easy at first for me to end up discouraged instead of encouraged from what I was reading. I try to remember now that even the people who have it all together usually have something behind closed doors that isn’t so perfect in their life.

  27. Stephanie, wow! This is spot on – many things are almost identical to parts of my marriage! While we did not spend thousands on our wedding (I had no desire to spend that kind of money on one day), I did not prepare for marriage. I had the mother-in-law apron strings not being cut issue as well. I remember the excessive phone calls – some which were bad timing! It took quite a bit of time for my husband to set appropriate boundaries. We had serious struggles back in 2009 – almost to the point of divorce. Through counseling, a lot of prayers, and time we are still together. Much has happened since then (two more children) and my husband was injured on the job which resulted in two major back surgeries (two days apart). A little over a year later, he was rear-ended in a car accident which re-injured his back. The struggles we face now are his physical limitations and constant pain. The struggles may be different. The drama from the past continues to creep into our present – especially when his pain spikes, one (or both) of us is tired/hungry/sick, and/or we are emotionally/mentally frustrated (regardless of the reason). I learned from my own parents that I did not want a marriage like theirs. There are times when my marriage is way too similar to theirs for my comfort. Thank you for this honest and personal look at your marriage to help others. I appreciate it deeply. I look forward to reading more here on you site. Thank you! ~Adrienne
    Adrienne recently posted…Gluten Free PB&J TacosMy Profile

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your husband, Adrienne, that has to be difficult for you both. We experience the same thing, the past hurt creeps back in and we have to keep working to move forward. If only it could be so easy as to just wave a wand and have it be gone. Sometimes I have a hard time remembering that it is a normal thing for people to have to keep dealing with it, and some days being better than others. I hate that part, it can be so unpredictable.

  28. What great insights! I came to the same realizations after my first marriage also, but it was a blessing. What i learned from the first horrible experienced has given me a great insight of what a great marriage is. After 9 years on my second things are better than the first day of our marriage, and are always better than the day before.
    Christine Paul recently posted…Small Dog Agility: 4 Reasons to ParticipateMy Profile

  29. Great list! I’d also add not complaining about your spouse. If you have a disagreement, you might want to take it to your mom or your best friend or Facebook, but don’t do it! You should never be the one to make your spouse look worse in someone else’s eyes (even if they were totally out of line or did something really dumb.) If you feel the need to talk to someone other than your spouse, there’s always God and if need be, a marriage counselor.
    Jenny @ Unremarkable Files recently posted…7 Quick Takes about Vivid Imaginations with Hard-Boiled Eggs, How to Assemble Kids’ Toys in Arabic, and What Happens When You Send an Engineer to Disney WorldMy Profile

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