The young woman didn’t notice the disappointed look on her husband’s face. She was on her fifth consecutive night of watching The Crown. All day, she had looked forward to the next episode. Her husband had wanted to connect with her all week, but after she put the kids down, she practically ran to the TV. To make matters worse, he’d had a horrible day and looked forward to sharing it with her, but she was focused on her show. Gracefully, he told her to enjoy it and headed to bed. When she went to bed later, she replayed their exchange in her head. She isn’t normally pushing people away, but she realized then that that’s what she’d done to him.
When she pressed him the next morning, he admitted his disappointment and told her about his bad day. They both knew that neither needs a spouse’s attention all the time. But as his partner in life, she confessed: There are many days she is guilty of pushing him away. And pushing people away can be unintentional. We may not do it on purpose, but here are 10 ways spouses push each other away.
1. Computer Time
Shopping, gaming, chatting, emailing, working, couponing, downloading, blogging, reading, researching, networking—there are a ton of things to do on the computer! If it’s a time-sucker instead of a time-saver, it may be time to cut back.
It doesn’t even matter what’s on. The addictive glow of our screens is enough to induce a trance and shut out the rest of the world. If you notice that this is how you push your spouse away, consider using a TV timer.
3. Phone Conversations
Whether by audio, video, or text, it’s easy for any of us to get so involved in so many phone conversations that we spend more time talking to people who aren’t in the room than to the people who are. Consider committing to keeping phone use to a minimum when your spouse is home and connecting with each other instead.
Many spouses skillfully plan parties, classes, trips, events, and practices without ever double-booking. But all those plans occasionally make life hectic for families. When couples have plans for every day (even if they’re together!), disconnection comes quickly. Try scheduling some downtime at home each week and use it to unwind together.
5. Staying out of Sync
This one involves pushing people away via a method very different from hyper-scheduling: having a house so constantly abuzz with activity that you pass each other by like ships in the night. Maybe your schedule means you never eat at the same time. Or maybe you don’t have hobbies in common, so you don’t spend much leisure time together. Aim to sync up some parts of your days so even when you divide and conquer your responsibilities, you’re still spending time together.
Be it a clean house, germaphobia, paranoia, hoarding, eating, or even exercising—the things that preoccupy us can bump connection with our spouses down on our lists of priorities. If it’s a serious problem, seek professional help. If it’s just something you spend more time on than you need to, like going to the gym, talk with your spouse and decide together how much time it makes sense to spend on that.
7. Body Language
How you carry yourself communicates something to your spouse. But does it communicate what you want it to? The scowl on your face might be a response to something you saw on the news, but your spouse doesn’t know that. Your body might drop hints you didn’t mean to drop and your spouse will steer clear when you don’t actually want that. So be sure to clarify with words instead of silently sending mixed signals.
8. Shopping Frivolity
This one is not just about pushing your spouse away. Financial discord is a marriage killer. If he’s a saver and she’s a spender, get some guidance on how to live and love on a budget. And keep your word. If you have a budget, stick to it. If you’re running up to the store for one quick thing, be back at the agreed-upon time instead of wandering the mall in an effort to escape your life at home.
9. Making a List
Do you keep a constant running tab in your mind of your spouse’s mistakes or wrong choices? We know it’s hard to let them go. But eventually, that list of wrongs will move quickly to a list of resentments, then to bitterness—which will lead you to a very unhappy life, an unhappy marriage, and potentially, a divorce. Incorporate forgiveness immediately.
10. Your Kids
At almost the exact moment our perfect little bundles arrive, we’ve forgotten how they got here. Remember, they were born because two people (you and your spouse) fell in love. Your spouse was here first and your relationship’s importance doesn’t change when your family grows.
Which of these is the most difficult to overcome and why? Share in a comment.
This post was adapted with permission from a post that originally appeared on iMOM.