On marriage: never sliding into complacency

**The third in my mini-series on marriage. I am exploring why I want it (or trying to), what goes into a successful marriage, and snippets of conversations M and I have had on this very topic**

I think one of my biggest fears when it comes to marriage is sliding into complacency. Looking back on my previous marriage, I think that is ultimately what did us in. It’s like a silent ‘killer’ of sorts, that isn’t easily seen until it’s (sometimes) too late. So now, I am hyper aware to it, almost too hyper aware to it, in a way. Overanalyzing my (or M’s actions) and worrying about getting too comfortable and worse, complacent.

And I think complacency can mean several things.

Complacency in showing each other love. Whether this is intimacy, a touch, a hug, a kiss. It’s easy to just go through the motions, rather than to stop whatever you are doing in that moment and focus on just them. Just that hug. Just that kiss. Nothing else matters. Back to the very first touch or kiss or hug. The magic of it. Keeping that alive, while hard to do all the time, at a minimum, being present in the moment of a loving gesture goes a thousand miles further than a kiss out of habit. (it goes back to can’t-wait-ing too…not rush, rush, rush through it all. Focus. BE. Presence.).

Complacency in fostering your relationship. As I said in a previous post, marriage (and any longstanding relationship for that matter!) is not ‘set it and forget it.’ It takes work. It takes dedication. It takes commitment. And most of all, it takes time. When things are going smoothly, it’s REALLY easy to just go with that. And for it to feel good and normal. But I challenge you…is normal *good?* Or is it borderline complacency? I tend to think it borders complacency. Our relationships should always be challenging and growing and (re)freshed. It should never be the same. This is what I want my marriage to look like. A challenge. (in a good way)

Complacency in spoken words of love. M is very good at spoken words of love. And I am not. I show, he speaks (and shows!). I tell him that I love him all the time but he is just so good at the unexpected words of love when I need it most (like the other day!). It’s something I am working on and something I think is so very important. To tell them him that I love that he always compliments me at moments I need it most, or that he calmly takes the trash out even when I pile it high (and I get the eye roll) and that he makes a mean scrambled egg. The #littlethings that he does. In addition to the big ones. I just assume that he knows. But why should I assume and why should he just know? I know I love to hear it, and I think he does too. But it’s easy to fall back into the habit of showing, not saying. Complacency. I’m working on it.

Complacency. This is a huge one for me. And I think being hyper aware of it helps, but doesn’t mean I still don’t catch myself falling into it sometimes.

What about you? What do you think complacency means in a marriage or relationship?

46 thoughts on “On marriage: never sliding into complacency

  1. I definitely think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this. My ex and I definitely fell into a place of complacency in the areas that you mentioned and it definitely contributed to the demise of our marriage. Now that I know better, this is something that I will NEVER allow happen with CBG…it’s just too important, keeping the relationship fresh and alive and thriving.

    1. Thank you Sunshine! Complacency is a silent killer, isn’t it? It will never happen again, you learn from these types of mistakes. I know you and CBG will be rock-solid for that and many other reasons!

  2. ii think we often breeze past the day and find ourselves not really embracing our marriage. Like the little things. It’s when we take a moment to say hi, say i love you, to hug… that’s when a marriage stays in sync and thriving. Yes? it’s a lot of focus, selfless focus. But sooooo worth it!

    1. Selfless focus – LOVE your choice of words here Lindsay! It’s exactly how I would describe it too. It’s not going through the emotions of love, it’s showing and doing and speaking and playing out the emotions of love. All the time. With abandon. SO important to a good, strong, real and beautiful relationship/marriage.

      1. I love this, selfless love and focus. That is so so true. This is what I want to mirror the ‘next time’ and the LAST time, that is.

    2. Absolutely! We do breeze past the day and not really embrace it, and then when we realize what we are doing, DOING those things with intention and focus make a world of difference.

  3. So so true. It makes me sad to see people getting complacent in their marriage and think that it is so easy for my husband and I. Marriage is a lot of work and we put a lot into it in order to be happy and successful. I am so thankful to have met my husband because together we know how to take care of each other and are willing to dedicate the time it takes.

    1. It makes me sad to see that happen too, because now I am so aware of it, it is just so OBVIOUSLY to me. I am so glad you and your husband dedicate the time it takes. makes all the difference!!

  4. I can completely relate. Remind me next time we’re together (like just us, Jess, and the boys) to finally tell you the story of my marriage and divorce since I never have.

    The point here is that you are trying and M is trying, you’re not allowing the complacency to begin. And if you feel like it is, you work to change that.

    I love that you’re taking the time to write about this – with each post I see a different part of you that will make a beautiful wife someday. You reflect and understand what you need to do, what you are doing, and what you have done – and because you’re able to do that, your relationship will never get stale.

    1. I would love to hear your story! Over wine 🙂 Not allowing complacency to begin, absolutely right. And thank you so much for reading these and I am so glad you like them as much as I like writing them! I am exploring things I haven’t explored before and it is really eye-opening and is making me realize more than ever…that maybe I AM ready for that step.

  5. Such a great post. Jason and I have have definitely gone through periods of major complacency and it takes a toll. We have refocused though and I know that I, at least, am trying to be far more present. To not take everything for granted so easily. It can be so easy to just fall into a pattern – it happens with life in general. Routines are comfortable, but they can also end up being a major rut leading to unhappiness. Routine is good to an extent.

    1. I think it happens to everyone at some point and then once you realize it and refocus, you’re all the better and stronger for it! Routine can be good, yes, to your point, but it can hinge on that border of complacency too. I am so glad you and Jason are strengthening and learning by the day! XOXO

  6. I actually like complacency – don’t get me wrong, not all the time. But dating blows. Figuring out the person you’re dating blows even harder. When you’re married & together and know each other, I find there is a lot of comfort in that. If I have a crap day, we can lay in bed & not talk and just watch TV and it’s okay. There’s no magic tricks or stopping the world. Taking the time to remember to be thoughtful & express your love for one another can often be taken for granted — I definitely get that & am guilty of it! Especially the words part like you… which is strange since I write… :p

    1. I agree with you in the way you are defining it…routine is not a bad thing. I crave it! But when your love becomes routine, that is the danger zone. Funny how we are not talkers but showers of love even though we are writers. So interesting!

  7. Familiarity tends to breed complacency. Working to continually discover the new and intriguing aspects about your partner, and about your relationship, is the “work” part of the relationship that I think passes a lot of people by. I know that it did in my marriage to some extent. And, like you Jobo, I can look back on the complacency that I fell prey to in the past and vow to be hyper diligent about not falling prey to it again in my future.

    Love this series of yours, BTW!

    1. You’re right, familiarity DOES breed complacency! And once you’re in it and realize what you have done in the past, you won’t repeat it again. The learnings of post divorce at its finest 🙂 thank you!

  8. Sadly, I think many of us need to go through a failed marriage before we realize what we need and don’t want to do the next time. I totally agree with you on this. Great post.

    1. An opinion is an opinion, and I am not trying to degrade yours in anyway. However, I feel that a lot of failed marriages are not entirely because we don’t know what we want. I think society has a lot to do with it. We are raised in a culture where we don’t need to face our problems. There is always an easy solution. You can Google the answers to everything from test question to how babies are made. Not to mention your cell phone probably knows more about you than your best friend or significant other (Google keeps track of everything you type into it and what device it came from for 18 moths =) ). You really can’t Google how to fix your own personal relationship though. And let’s face it, it would be way easier to Google the cheapest divorce lawyer in your town rather than try to talk and work through things. I just think sometimes it’s the easier way out (or you think it is till you read all the paperwork and go to court) and society has taught us to take the easy way rather than challenge ourselves.

      1. When I was married and things were going well with my ex, I used to believe that divorce was the “easy” answer. I judged people (harshly!) who were divorced because I felt that if you just worked at it enough, then everything would work out.

        And now, four years out of my marriage I realize that this simply isn’t the case. Divorce is NEVER the easy answer, anyone who has been through it knows that. Until you’ve held your sobbing child who wants more than anything for her parents to get back together, you really can’t speak to how “easy” you think divorce is. Until you’ve struggled through divorce and custody agreements you can’t possibly imagine what going through a divorce is like.

        It’s really unfair to judge someone else’s situation until you’ve been in their shoes. Honestly, I don’t particularly care what the divorce rate is, or even if people are getting divorced at the drop of a hat for basically no reason. This has no effect on my life whatsoever. And at the end of the day, if others are happy and satisfied with their decisions in life, then that’s good enough for me.

        1. I really do agree with your take on this too, Sunshine. Until you’ve been through it, it’s really not fair to suggest that it is the easy way out. I used to judge those that did get divorced, that seemed not to ‘try’ hard enough, but after going through it myself, what you see on the outside is not always what is going on behind closed doors. I never judge anymore. I support. Because divorce is not easy, never is, but usually, both parties come out of it better for it. And that’s all one can hope for in such a difficult life-altering decision. Amen to your comment.

        2. I said we think it’s the easy way out. I did not say it was. Yes, there are couples out there who are better off apart (my parents for example.) I never said divorce was easy…I had to become a mother at thirteen to my four year old brother, and hold him crying and try to explain. It isn’t easy in any way. I just think the idea of divorce is easier for our society to swallow than the idea of being emotionally relational at times.

          1. Thank you for clarifying! I do agree that society tends to breed this idea that divorce is easy. It’s a bad label, and a lot of it because of celebrities who treat marriage like the most temporary thing next to sliced bread.

      2. Thank you for your opinion, lovelife, but I must be honest and say this was a hard one for me to read, because I absolutely do not agree. I respect your opinion, and think you make some points, that in SOME CASES, divorce may SEEM like the ‘easy out’ but once you have been through it, it most certainly is not. In my opinion, divorce is brave, it takes guts and it is a permanent, life-altering decision. Nobody goes into marriage (typically) thinking there is an easy out. Nobody WANTS to get divorced, but sometimes you realize that no matter how much fixing there is, it is broken, irretrievably so and as hard as it is to walk away, it is usually for the best. In my case, I wasn’t given the decision to stay or go, it was pretty much forced upon me. At the time, it was very difficult, I was blindsided. but now, I think that was actually the bravest, toughest, yet smartest decision my ex husband ever made. He didn’t do it in perhaps the best way (rash, didn’t want to try to fix things etc), but now, in hindsight, it was where we were headed regardless.

        1. I agree there are absolutely situations where it is the better option. I was not saying it is never acceptable because I some what agree with your opinion. I think more or less I was trying to convey that people marry and think “oh happy joy forever!” without considering how heavy divorce is. Like it’s a fall back for our society. Especially the younger generations that are just now getting married. I mean people even joke about it. I heard it so many times from close friends when I eloped, “Well, if it doesn’t work out you can always get a divorce!”

  9. The best thing my parents ever did for me was get divorced as terrible as that is. It was what taught me that you have to work at a relationship. I got to see all the work they did not put in. It really makes me work so much harder at any relationship in my life, but especially with my husband. I hate that complacent feeling, because it’s so sneaky. Plus, once it settles in it is so difficult to get rid of.

  10. My friend just texted me that she doesn’t think she’s ready for a “good” guy because she doesn’t want to be bored. I guess the bad boys she’s been dating are also exciting. I get it, but I also think that when you find the right fit, you’re willing to spice things up when needed. I think when you’re with the right person, you become more self-aware and less likely to settle for complacency. It’s certainly a fear of mine, but I trust in the fit…the good fit…CB and I are. And our love. That helps a bit.

    1. Love always helps! And comfort is a good thing, just not too much, right? A good level of comfort but also still challenge and growth and change.

  11. Jason and I try to make sure that we have date night pretty often to make sure things don’t get complacent. And I feel like we’re always working on things in our marriage. It’s not something that I discuss on the blog, but a marriage definitely can be work at times. And that’s not a bad thing.

  12. What an inspiring post! What a wonderful role model you are, as everything you said is what I hope to practice in my future marriage. Even now, these aspects are super important for me in my relationship with The Boy. I especially like the point you made about kissing, hugging and being intimate in the moment, rather than just out of habit. Just stopping to be. I try to practice this every day I spend with Jason.

    I also agree with the spoken words of love. I, like M, am SUPER romantic/sentimental/spoken while The Boy shows his affection by doing special things for me, and touching/showing affection. We’re working on finding a happy balance, as I *adore* heading those words all the time, especially when they come from the heart.

    Thanks so much for such an honest, from-the-heart post as always!

    1. Thank you Rachel!! It is hard to just BE in the moment sometimes, when life gets so busy. But it is so worth it. I really focused on this last night during our weekly date night in and it was amazing what a difference it makes to just BE there with him. In every way. So interesting that you and the Boy are similar in spoken/gestures. I am working on it. Talked to M all about it last night and this post, in particular 🙂

  13. I’m so far out of that relationship-ness that I’m finding it hard to comment on this post as well as the previous one in the series. However, I can say this: I’ve come to the conclusion that there are 3 kinds of “love”: there’s the initial feeling of being “in love”, which is nothing but a chemical imbalance in the brain and therefore nothing to base one’s future on (ie: this love is not “enough”)… And then there’s the general feeling of loving someone: partners, friends, family, etc- but, it’s just a feeling (again, not “enough” and I think this is where people get complacent because they feel that they love each other, yet something is still missing)…. and then there’s the *act* of loving someone (when “love” becomes a verb instead of a noun), and this is where trust and respect and displays of affection or gift giving, etc come into play- this is the deeper or more physical manifestation of the emotion. This *act* of loving is where *love* grows to be big *enough* to sustain the relationship.

    At least, that’s what I think. For today.

    Have you read that book The Five Love Languages?

    1. I LOVE your perspective on this and the definitions are so spot on!! I agree with love as a verb and the act of it is so through and through, isn’t it? I haven’t read that book but I think I might need to! I hear it may be up my alley 😉

  14. I think being cognizant of complacency helps. You’ve learned from your previous relationship and now you can work on it with M. I get bored easily in relationships so this is definitely something I need to be wary of. xoxo

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