Move beyond these familiar habits to shift your marriage from good to great.
Do you sometimes feel like your marriage is stuck in neutral? It can happen to any couple, regardless of how long they’ve been married. We get comfortable in our routines. We slip into familiar patterns that maybe aren’t all the healthy or helpful. We lose sight of our purpose. We become roommates.
Humans are creatures of habit. In fact, our brains are wired to seek ways to go on autopilot in order to reduce our cognitive load. Autopilot is just easier on our brains. The problem is, autopilot mode is also hard on your marriage.
From Good to Great
Maybe you would say you have a pretty good marriage. But you know it could be better. You are stuck at good, but you have a feeling that great is out there somewhere. You just aren’t sure how to get there.
You’ve no doubt heard it said that good is the enemy of great. I might say it a little differently. I would say that the thrill of great gets held captive by the comfort of good.
If you want to have a great marriage, you may have to take a few risks and let go of good. By that I mean you may have to let go of some habits that have become very comfortable and familiar, but that have you trapped at good.
The thing with comfort zones is that they are so darn comfortable. We can even fool ourselves into thinking something is comfortable just because it’s familiar, even though it may even not be all that enjoyable or satisfying.
Here are four typical comfort zones where I challenge you to move beyond good and to go for great.
Good #1: We have date nights
The movie Date Night perfectly portrays what happens when date night becomes a stale habit. The Fosters go to the same restaurant on the same night, eating the same food every week, where they finish each others’ sentences and fall into bed without really even touching each other. All the while they are longing for something more.
Dates nights are important, but if it feels like they have become blah, it’s time to shake things up a bit. Let go of your normal date night routines. Take turns with planning your dates. Try this four-date sequence next month. Date #1 he plans something “for her,” meaning he tries to consider her desires and interests. Date #2 she plans “for him,” and does likewise. Date #3 he plans according to what he would like. Date #4 she plans something that she likes doing.
Take turns planning surprises. Dress for each other. Include a little date night nookie. Commit to doing something new and untried at least once a month.
Great #1: Make date night an adventure!
Good #2: We know each other well
Knowing each other well is a double-edged sword. While it does allow for a certain amount of ease and comfort in daily interactions, it can also cause us to make assumptions and leap to conclusions. It can make us complacent so that we stop pursuing each other. We can miss it when our spouse grows and changes. We can also start to think it terms of “you never…” or “you always…” instead of seeing things for how they really are (which is probably not actually never or always).
The truth is that there is more intimacy available to you than what you are enjoying right now, regardless of where you are on the spectrum. Don’t assume you know all there is to know about your spouse and don’t assume your spouse knows all about you. Practice engaging on a deeper level in every dimension of your marriage: emotional, sexual, spiritual, intellectual, financial, recreational…
My “Intimate Connections for Couples” workbook is a great way to deepen intimacy with fun, easy fill-in-the-blank conversation starters. It’s available right now on Amazon for a 25% discount, so order yours before they are gone!
Great #2: Never stop being a student of your spouse. Never stop seeking deeper intimacy.
Good #3: We have sex pretty regularly
Sexual intimacy is a common area where couples get stuck. Because of the intense vulnerability that comes with sex, it’s easy to seek the safety and comfort of the familiar. I mean, even okay sex is pretty darn good, right, so why rock the boat? Why take risks? Why move out of our comfort zone?
Sexual intimacy is the ultimate expression of the oneness of marriage. The vulnerability that accompanies sexual exploration also allows for the deepest possible kind of connection, because genuine intimacy requires vulnerability. Finding new sexual expressions and new ways to enjoy each other physically allows this area of intimacy to continue to grow and strengthen your marriage in a unique and beautiful way. Take delight in generously delighting one another in bed, and often.
Great #3: Make sex a high priority and add something new to the routine once in a while.
Good #4: Our marriage is fair. Everything is 50/50
Fairness is the wrong measuring stick for a great marriage. When making everything even becomes the goal, it sets up score-keeping and an atmosphere where we withhold until we get our fair share.
God calls us to more. He calls us to sacrificial, unconditional and extravagant love. It’s how he loves us, and how we are to love one another, especially in marriage. As Jesus, our bridegroom, laid down his life for his bride, so too are husbands called to lovingly lay down their lives and use their authority to lavishly love, protect and beautify their wives. As the church gives her all to Jesus in unconditional and loving surrender, so too are wives to give themselves wholly to their husbands.
There is nothing in the relationship between Christ and the church that is 50/50, and therefore there should be nothing in marriage that is either. Think of areas where you have tended to hold back from your spouse and find ways to overcome your reticence. Think of ways in which you have not loved as fully or generously as you could because of not having your own needs met, and try giving that love anyway.
Great #4: Go for 100/100 in your marriage – go all out at being all in!
What other habits can you think of that couples might need to let go of in order find the greatness that lies beyond? Leave your thoughts in a comment.
3 thoughts on “4 Comfortable Habits That Keep Your Marriage Stuck at Good”
There is no way that we as humans can have unconditional love. Even Christ has conditions on his love or everyone would be saved no matter what. Yes everyone can be saved, but there are conditions to be saved. So it is in marriage everyone can have a great marriage but there are conditions that must be met. if one gives 100% and other only gives 25%, that 100%er is going to need extra strength to keep going and may never get a great marriage. To give 100% there are conditions. Mark Gungor puts it good in his DVD series Laugh your way to a better marriage – there is no such thing as unconditional love.
Jeff – Thanks for your comment. I have read before and disagree strongly with Mark Gungor’s viewpoint on unconditional love. I believe that God’s love is unconditional and that is extended to all to either accept or reject. If God is love, it is truly a significant component of his unchangeable nature, then he cannot not love us all. Of course we aren’t going to be as good at it as God is. There are times in my own marriage where it is 100%-20%, but it doesn’t stop my wife and I from striving toward 100%-100%. Placing preconditions on love, as opposed to loving no matter what you get in return, sets up an unhealthy score keeping environment that will ultimately inhibit intimacy. (Of course, I’m not talking about abusive or I’ll-willed spouses).
It is a great article however – thought I better clarify that!
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