Complacency: The Subtle and Silent Enemy of Your Marriage

complacent in a relationship

Like me, you may not know a great deal about science, but you probably understand the second law of thermodynamics without even realizing it. Basically, it’s this: Left to themselves, things will decay. If you’re in any doubt about this, just forget working on your yard for a couple of weeks, then go outside and take a look.

The same is true of relationships, especially marriages. If you don’t nurture and nourish your relationships, they will begin to wither. What starts out being comfortable can easily slide into complacency if we are not careful.

You want comfort in a pair of old slippers you wear around the house. They are worn in and fit well. They adjust to your weight and ways of walking. But the same is not true for a pair of good running shoes. Worn down, these will do damage. You need to replace them from time to time if they are going to carry you the distance.

I read a comic strip a few years ago that showed a pollster going door to door asking the question, “What do you think about the topic of voter ignorance and apathy?” The person being surveyed replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care!”

This kind of complacency in marriage can lead to loneliness, bitterness, and indifference. It can cause the slow and painful death of a relationship. Because it spreads so slowly, you don’t really notice until it’s too late. That’s why so many divorces happen in midlife. The kids grow up and go off to college, leaving an empty house. Left alone with just their husband or wife, people suddenly realize that they and their spouse have become strangers.

Preventing that kind of a scenario involves taking steps today to keep the spark and passion alive in your marriage. You may not feel as goo-goo eyed as you did when you first met. That does not mean that love has died, just that it has changed. And while love includes tingly feelings, it is also much more than that. Love is a choice.

So choose to love your spouse well. Remember that they are not the same person they were when you met them. Nor are you. So while you may think you know a lot about them, there may be new things to discover if you have the courage to go there. One of the subtle dangers of complacency can be that we come to accept things that may be a challenge or a struggle in our marriage as just the way they are.

One way you can beat being complacent in a relationship is by becoming a boyfriend or girlfriend with your spouse all over again. Remember the things you did that won their heart in the first place. The difficulty is that many of them took thought and time—two things working couples and parents often have little of. But romance works and work it you must. 

Bring back the magic

You’ve still got it in you if you dig deep enough. Think about the things you did that made your spouse’s day. Was she a “words girl’? Then compliment her. Did she like flowers? Spend an extra ten minutes and ten dollars to buy her a bouquet on the way home. Did he love it when you snuggled up close on the sofa? Forget folding the laundry, and sit down with him again.

Plan a thoughtful gesture

Don’t just default to the dinner-and-a-movie date night. Stretch for them. She may want a walk and deep relational connection, talking about dreams and passions. He may want to take a road trip and cruise to some favorite music, bringing back memories. If that’s what they like, that’s what you need to do.

Let them know you are trying

Sometimes, it really is just the thought that counts. If you feel like your efforts are going unnoticed, tell your spouse that you’re trying to be the man or woman they want you to be. That alone will mean a lot. But go a stage further and ask what they need or want from you—just like any good boyfriend or girlfriend would.

Are you experiencing complacency in your marriage? What will you do about it? Please share your comments below.

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