I take Verlynda for granted sometimes. There’s no escaping the truth. In fact, if you pause for a moment I’m sure you’ll have to admit the same with regards to your spouse.

What’s odd is that it happens so subtly. But when I finally clue in, it’s so obvious. Kind of the like the proverbial frog in the pot.

So let this post serve as a self-check—possibly even a wake up call—for taking your marriage for granted.

It has been suggested that we start taking our marriages for granted around 3.5 years in. Yet, because taking something for granted can be a real blind spot, I thought it would be worthwhile to start by asking, “What does a satisfying marriage look like?”

We all have blind spots in our lives. So we need a clear benchmark.

On that note, here’s some pointers from a great study completed in 2004 three key markers of a marriage that is NOT being taken for granted (Rosen-Grandon, 2004).

Marker #1: Love

You gotta have love, right?

“Loving relationships are those in which open communication and agreement on the expression of affection are important”. In a thriving marriage you’ll have a couple that agree that characteristics like respect, forgiveness, romance, support and sensitivity are openly communicated in ways that are meaningful to both spouses.

Here’s a quick checklist on that:

  • How are you doing on open communication?
  • Are you making yourself known?
  • Are you truly bringing all of yourself, your thought, concerns, cares, and feelings to the marriage?
  • Are you sharing those things with your spouse?
  • Are you openly expressing affection? How?
  • Is that how your spouse most appreciates the expression of affection?

Marker #2: Loyalty

So you can imagine if you’re going to uphold the first marker and bare your soul, you want to choose to do that with a  person who is totally loyal. And to be that person for your spouse as well.

Loyalty is based on three critical components:

  1. Lifetime commitment to the marriage. Commitment is critical, obviously. You need to be a person who your spouse sees as being totally committed to the covenant you’ve established before God. Keep your vows. Don’t have a wandering heart or a wandering eye. Loyalty is observed through behavior.
  2. Prioritizing your spouse. Specifically, you will defend your spouse. Over and above your parents and even your children. There’s an abundance of marriage research that says if you take care of your spouse you’ll do more for your kids than by making them #1. So point your heart towards your spouse.
  3. Strong moral values. If loyalty is important to marital success than this one is obvious. Want to create uncertainty, jealousy, suspicion, or anxiety? Just have low moral values. Works every time. But if you’re trying to build a marriage that is as solid as a rock, this is a key feature.

Loyalty needs to be clearly observed in a marriage that portends to be taken seriously.

Marker #3: Shared Values

Pulling together brings meaning to your life goals and dreams. This is not a profound concept so I don’t have a lot to say about it other than that it is very important that you get these shared values out into the open.

Sometimes we hold a particular value based on a goal or dream like an oyster. Nobody (even our spouse) can see this beautiful pearl until we bring it out into the open.

Often, when I see a couple just gridlocked on an issue, one of the spouses has a value in there somewhere that has never seen daylight. But it’s super important to him or her.

Have you shared all of your values with your spouse? And explained exactly how much they mean to you?

To summarize this section: love, loyalty and values. If you’re taking your marriage for granted, you’ll likely not be on the same page on at least one of these three issues.

What If I Am Taking My Marriage For Granted?

I want to pivot now and give you five key strategies that you can take into your marriage. Try to pick one or two off the list below and just be really intentional about working on them for a week. Then come back and re-evaluate and decide what you’d like to work on next.

  1. Assurances. This is Marriage 101. Just say, “I love you!” Be a spouse that regularly assures your wife or husband of your love. People who take their marriage for granted forget the simple power of assurances.
  2. Conflict Management. Every couple needs to learn how to manage conflict. Addressing issues and looking to repair your marriage bond is a sure sign that you are not taking your marriage for granted. It’s hard work but it’s work you need to do.
  3. Shared tasks. This is the reasonable division of labour. Guys: your wife wants to be Ella, not Cinderella. One of our least (!) popular episodes is about housework. Have a listen: don’t take the simple daily household chores for granted.
  4. Positivity. Just acting cheerful and positive around each other is a sign you’re wanting to be engaged in your relationship.
  5. Social networks. Not Facebook. I mean the kind of social networks that have real, living bodies in them. Learn to enjoy each other’s friends: be intentional about creating common friends. Go to church together. Building shared social networks is part of not taking your marriage for granted.

Will This Fix My Marriage?

If your primary issue at the moment is that you’ve been taking your marriage for granted: it can’t but help. These five strategies have helped other marriages.

A couple years ago a study came out comparing the relationship between relationship effort and marital quality. They found that both husbands and wives reported that their marital satisfaction was positively affected by their spouse’s effort. Note: effort. Not, success. So trying helps. (Share, 2014)

But, there’s a catch.

Sorry.

I have to be honest. It only works if your spouse is responsive and wants to share relationship activities. In other words, he or she has to be willing to engage in activities that are satisfying, stress free and increase closeness. But if they aren’t dedicated to engaging with that…this isn’t going to work for you (Girme, 2014).

If your marriage is already fried, this isn’t going to work for you. You’ll have to use different strategies like marriage counselling.

That’s the straight goods. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below if this helped bring clarity and conviction to your situation! How has your marriage been impacted by just taking it more seriously?

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