For as much envying as we do of other couples, the truth is — even the most wonderful, 'perfect' couple can end up divorced.
We've all seen it: Two genuinely great people start off head-over-heels in love, but then somewhere along the way (despite everything looking rosy on the surface) they shock their family and friends and announce their marriage is over. This unleashes a bloodbath of upset and unhappiness on everyone who loves them who now feel forced to take sides.
What happened? They seemed so happy together!
Despite how happy they started off as a couple, the pair was likely hiding an unending cycle of unhappiness within their relationship. And after keeping that all below the surface for too long, they felt like separating was their only option.
This isn't unusual at all. Many couples struggle to maintain a "happy relationship," but their marriage still falls apart. Here are 11 bad habits they likely left un-addressed that slowly but surely eroded love and connection between them:
1. Not being on the same page with each other. Often couples lack alignment on the things that matter most, and feel like their own personal goals/feelings are the most important ones to focus on.
2. Not meeting each other's needs. Every person has unique needs they hope their partner will fulfill. But often couples fail to speak up about those needs or presume their partner's needs are the same as their own.
3. Letting disconnect become the norm. This is when couples start to say things like "I love you, but I am no longer 'in love' with you."
4. Allowing intimacy to dwindle. The affection, connection and tenderness you once shared dries up from lack of effort, leaving you merely roommates.
5. Neglecting each other. Blowing each other off, forgetting to follow through on things promised, failing to pay attention. Neither of you necessarily meant to make other things more important than your spouse, but you did.
6. Harboring resentment for each other. Unspoken or unresolved resentment festers and severely poisons a once healthy relationship. One partner (or even both) can think: You did this thing to me, and I can't get over it.
7. Not dealing with things head on. You know things are off, but it's easier to do nothing about it. You avoid facing the truth or handling the real issues in your marriage.
8. Criticizing each other. When you nitpick each other in your minds and out loud, soon you only see your partner's faults. After awhile, complaining and criticizing become a comfortable habit which compromises your willingness to communicate and interact in a compassionate, supportive way.
9. Turning your attention (and affection) elsewhere. Whether by having an affair or pouring all of your attention into the kids, one or both of you checked out and sought attention and affection elsewhere. After that, it's easy to completely give up.
10. Letting stress control your lives. Life is hectic and many couples accidently let stress (big and small) come between them. But once stress takes over and shared togetherness fractures, it can feel incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to get it back.
11. Fighting to win. When you're more focused on 'being right' than truly connecting, attempts to 'talk about it' usually make things worse.
The longer the above issues remain unresolved in ANY marriage, the more these habits intertwine, intensify and steadily reduce the flow of love and connection in your life. Each day, love dwindles and stress builds until even formerly happy couples reach their breaking point.
And the single BIGGEST mistake most couples make in this situation is thinking, "We can fix this if we just communicate better!"
Unfortunately, it's hard to want to talk about anything if you don't feel valued and appreciated by your partner. And if you go through the typical couples counseling process issue by issue (combing through your version and your partner's), you'll frequently feel more separate afterwards than pulled back towards each other.
So what can you do when your happy marriage feels miserable (and seems hopelessly lost)?
Find a little perspective: Focus on why you fell in love with your partner and what you want your life to become like together. Even better, tell your partner this without any expectations of them doing the same.
Start to repair the damage: Apologize for your part in any misunderstanding. Don't defend why you did or didn't do this or that. Offer a simple, heartfelt apology without expecting one from them. This seriously can work wonders.
Be brave enough to go first: Be willing to give to your partner first instead of waiting for them to make the first move. This isn't rarely easy if you think they owe you, but you can do it because it's helpful to your marriage.
Stop waging war: Stop doing anything that's causing harm to your partner or injures your feeling of connection. This might simply mean showing a little more patience, compassion and kindness.
The happiness and success of any marriage is reflected in 'the little things' you do (and fail to do) for each other. Don't let your marriage fall apart like so many couples do. Today, make a fresh start. Chose to do something that moves you out of the past and imagines a brighter future together.
Jeff Forte CSIC, CME , Author of The 90-Minute Marriage Miracle has helped hundreds of couples bring love and passion back into their marriages. Contact him today to get his direct input on your situation.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.