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11 Best Don’ts to Avoid an Unhappy Marriage

11 Best Don’ts to Avoid an Unhappy Marriage

Like anything in life, with marriage you need to know the best dos and don’ts in order to be truly successful. You want to make sure you avoid the don’ts that lead to an unhappy marriage, and act out more of the dos that make for a successful marriage.  

Seems pretty easy, right?  

The problem is that too often couples forget the specifics of their marriage vows.  They do fewer of the “I dos” and begin to do a lot more “I don’ts.”

This often very gradual shift from the “I dos” to the “I don’ts” is one of the key reasons that spouses become unhappy and marriages begin to struggle.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy (in Marriage)

As we’ve discussed before, a healthy marriage is one of the keys to a happy life:  Build a Happy Marriage:  Learn How Now.

In Part I of our Dos and Don’ts for an Awesome Marriage series, we discussed 11 key “Dos” for your marriage:  11 Best Dos to Build an Absolutely Awesome Marriage.

In Part II of our series, we are going to discuss the best “Don’ts” to avoid an unhappy marriage and create a marriage that enriches the life of you and your spouse.

  • Don’t Criticize Your Spouse
  • Don’t Put Pride Before Your Spouse
  • Don’t Attempt to Control / Manipulate
  • Don’t Go Without Intimacy
  • Don’t Take Your Spouse for Granted
  • Don’t Live by the “If / Then” Policy
  • Don’t Mention Your Spouse’s Faults to Others
  • Don’t be Selfish
  • Don’t Anger Easily
  • Don’t Compare Marriages
  • Don’t Accept Anything Less Than Your Best

Don’ts to Avoid an Unhappy Marriage

  • Don’t Criticize Your Spouse

To criticize is defined by Merriam – Webster as:  to find fault with : point out the faults of.

If you want to completely sabotage your marriage and be really unhappy, then make a point to criticize your spouse every chance you get.

When you criticize your spouse, what are you hoping to gain?  Are you pointing out an action that you’d like them to change?  Are you looking to punish or put them down for something that you perceive that they have done wrong?  

Regardless of your reason, criticism of your spouse will never help you achieve a happy and healthy marriage

Read that again – criticism of your spouse will never help you achieve a happy and healthy marriage.

Criticism will only lead to resentment, anger, and distance in your marriage.

In order for marriage to reach its fullest potential, you must be able to effectively communicate with your spouse.  This includes being able to discuss (in a loving manner) an action or behavior that is causing either of you concern.  

People respond to kind words even if those words are pointing out something they have done wrong. Conversely, when criticized repeatedly, people tend to become resentful and tune you out.

Huddle Up Time

Huddle up with your spouse and discuss when you each felt that the other was being critical.  How could each of you have made your point in a more loving manner?

  • Don’t Put Pride Before Your Spouse

Proverbs 16:18 reads, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”  

Anne and I have had disagreements that have lasted entirely too long.  I’d say something she didn’t like, she’d say something I didn’t like, and it’s just downhill from there.  We’d be at a stalemate and just decide to not talk to each other for a day or two. 

I know, I know – not a very healthy or loving way to handle things.

Why did we let it go on so long? 

Very simply, it was our pride.  We each were determined to be right and “win” the argument.

Immediately after I said something to make her mad, I knew I’d done wrong.  I knew I owed her an apology, but my pride would not let me be the first to apologize.

Why should I be the one to give in and apologize?   What she said was just as mean or hurtful as what I said.  

In reality, I was putting my own pride and need to “win” over her and our marriage.  

It takes a strong person to admit when they are wrong.  If you want to avoid an unhappy marriage, then you have to be strong enough to swallow your pride and admit when you are wrong.

Ideally your spouse will acknowledge their mistakes as well (a key part of a healthy marriage), but you can’t wait for that.  You need to do what is best for your marriage.  

You and your spouse are going to have disagreements and some of those may be pretty heated, but always remember to never let your pride come before your spouse and your marriage.

If you want some additional reading, check out Fight for Your Marriage, Not Your Pride.

Huddle Up Time

Do either you or your spouse, or both of you, struggle with being prideful?  Discuss how you can help each other put your marriage before your pride.

  • Don’t Attempt to Control / Manipulate

Preston Ni, in the July 2014 Psychology Today, defined psychological manipulation as “exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits, and privileges at the victim’s expense.” 

Using controlling or manipulative tactics have no place in a healthy relationship.

[clickToTweet tweet=”True love does not try to manipulate.” quote=”True love does not try to manipulate.” theme=”style4″]  

Manipulation in marriage is a form of emotional abuse and must be addressed immediately if your marriage is going to succeed.

What are some Traits of a Manipulator?

There are several key traits of someone who is manipulative.  A few include:

  • Focus on their needs being met
  • Lie
  • Blame the other
  • Use emotional blackmail
  • Criticize or embarrass their spouse
  • Fail to take responsibility

Are you manipulative?  Is your spouse manipulative?  An honest evaluation is really important here.  Complete the test from Psychologies here.

A recent article, Manipulation in Marriage Sheri Stritof discusses four key points regarding the problem of manipulation in your marriage.  Her four key points include:

  • Strategies used by manipulators
  • Reasons by people try to manipulate others
  • Manipulation consequences in marriage
  • Steps to stop manipulation in your marriage 

Huddle Up Time

Manipulation in marriage is something that you and your spouse must understand.  Are you using manipulative techniques to get what you want from your spouse?  Huddle up with your spouse and complete the above test.  Discuss how you want to work together to make sure manipulation is never a part of your relationship.   

  • Don’t Go Without Intimacy

One of the basic humans needs is to be loved by and intimate with another. 

Whether it is sexual intimacy or emotional intimacy, marriage is intended to fulfill that need in your life. 

However, one of the problems married couples face is that they get into routines of work, kids, etc.  They get so busy trying to manage everything going on that they fail to make time for each other.  Often they begin to lose that intimate connection.

It’s very important the couples continue to make time for reach other and maintain that intimate connection.  You can read our related post on inexpensive date nights here.

For more reading, check out a great article by Kalman Heller, PhD – How Can I Improve Intimacy in My Marriage?

Huddle Up Time

Huddle up with your spouse to discuss your respective needs for intimacy in your marriage.  Plan a date night with your spouse to rekindle your connection.  

  • Don’t Take Your Spouse for Granted

Often in a marriage, spouses take on certain roles or perform a particular act of service for the other spouse.  It can be easy to get accustomed to your spouse doing certain things for you or around the house.

The natural progression often goes something like:

  1. Your spouse does a service for you and you are appreciative
  2. Your spouse continues to do a service for you and you begin to expect it
  3. Your spouse forgets or stops doing a service for you and you become resentful   

How often do you show appreciation to your spouse for things they do?

You never want to be in category 2 or 3.  Never take what they do for granted.  

It’s important in your relationship that you communicate gratitude to your spouse.  Nobody likes to feel as if they are taken for granted or that their acts of service have moved from being a nice gesture to a requirement of the relationship.

There are a few small things (acts of service) that I do for Anne.  Some routinely (i.e., daily) and some every now and then, but she is always quick to let me know how much she appreciates it. 

Honestly, it’s just more fun to do something for someone who is truly appreciative.  

You get comfortable. You get used to things. When you get too used to having someone, you stop appreciating what you have.

Be sure to communicate gratitude to your spouse early and often.  It will make a huge difference in your relationship.

Huddle Up Time

Huddle up with your spouse and discuss times when you really felt appreciated.  What are some times when you felt unappreciated?  Ask them when they have felt the same?  What can each of you do to make the other feel more appreciated?

  • Don’t Live by the “If / Then” Policy

When I was in school, I had a (painfully boring) class in computer programming.  In this class we learned how to write “If / Then” statements.

In an If / Then statement, if an input into the computer is A, then the computer will do B.  If the input into the computer is C, then the computer will do D. 

Often in relationships, we have a tendency to get into these If / Then cycles. 

This type of thinking can be very detrimental to your relationship.

For example, “If Anne isn’t going to tell me what’s bothering her, Then I’m just not going to worry about it.” 

Do you see the flaw in that logic?  If you are aware that something is upsetting your spouse, then you need to sit down with them and use your positive communication skills of listening actively and emphatically.            

“If she isn’t going to apologize to me, Then I (regardless if I should act this way or not) am not going to apologize to her.” 

As we listed above, always work to do the right thing in your relationship.  Just because I don’t like the input she is giving me, doesn’t mean that I still don’t need to do what is right for our marriage.    

Your decision to do the right thing can’t be based on what they do.  You can’t decide to do your part “If” they decide to do theirs.    

Successful marriages are made when spouses choose to do the right actions regardless.        

Huddle Up Time

Are you and / or spouse guilty of using an If / Then approach to your marriage?  Huddle up with each other and discuss how you can work together to avoid this type of behavior.

  • Don’t Mention Your  Spouse’s Faults to Others

Sometimes we all need to vent.  Right?  

Just like a teapot, we start to get heated and need to blow off some of the steam to keep ourselves from eventually going ka-boom.  

You’ve been there, right?  We have all had anger built up about x, y, or z and we needed to just tell someone.

Whether it’s some of the fellas at work or some of your girlfriends at the office, everyone needs someone to listen to them “vent” from time to time.

However, venting about your spouse to others (family, friend, etc.) can be a very damaging activity for your marriage.

You are going to have issues with your spouse.  It’s just a part of being married.  However, you as a couple must handle those inevitable issues in the right way.  

When you have an issue with your spouse, then you need to take it up with them.  Sit down with them and discuss it in a non-critical, loving way.

Whether your words are said to your spouse or about them to someone, your words should always be used to build up your spouse. 

In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he said “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29).

Keep Paul’s words in mind when it comes to how you speak to your spouse and what you say about them.  Every word you say about (or to) your spouse should be about building them up.  Negative words or criticism about your spouse only works to undermine your marriage vows.

Huddle Up Time

Have you been guilty of speaking negatively about your spouse to others?  How can you and your spouse work together to lift each other up at all times?

  • Don’t Be Selfish 

Being selfish is one of the predators of your marriage.  

I think everybody can act selfishly (at least a little bit) from time to time.  The important thing is that you recognize that and work to place your spouse’s needs ahead of your own. 

Look to serve your spouse rather than looking to be served.  Look to give to them rather than to take.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Paul gives us the template for how to be less selfish.  We are to be humble in our dealings with others, but particularly your spouse.

Huddle Up Time

Huddle up with your spouse and discuss how you can work to serve each other.  How can you put each other’s needs ahead of your own.

  • Don’t Anger Easily 

Anger isn’t always a bad thing.  Anger can drive a person to action.  It can help create a necessary change.

The problem occurs when you are quickly losing your cool (sometimes over little things) with your spouse.  

This type of behavior can have a serious negative impact on your marriage. 

How do you learn to handle your anger?

  • Learn to forgive quicker than you anger – don’t hold on to your spouse’s mistakes.
  • Learn to let go of the small stuff – some things just don’t matter.
  • Become a better communicator – share with your spouse when something is bothering you or on your mind.
  • Don’t rush to judgement – you might be angry about something that isn’t even true.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13).

We all have areas that need improvement. Look instead for the positives in your mate. When negative thoughts come into your mind regarding your spouse, replace them with something about him or her that you admire. It will chase the negative thought away every time.

Huddle Up Time

Are either you or your spouse quick to anger?  What triggers seem to cause the anger?  How can each of you learn to forgive and / or communicate more effectively to avoid these situations.

  • Don’t Compare Marriages

How does your marriage compare to what you thought it would be?  What was your point of comparison?

Are you comparing your marriage to a fairy tale romance you saw in a movie?  Maybe you are comparing your marriage to that of your parents or to some of your girlfriends at work.

Whether you feel like your marriage compares favorably or not to any of those above, my suggestion is that you don’t compare your marriage to anything except what God intended for your marriage.   

Instead of looking at what others have or longing for what you perceive their relationship to be, vow to be the husband or wife that God designed you to be.

Your goal should be to fulfill God’s plan for the marriage that you and your spouse were given. Looking at what others have or at movie relationships is not wise or beneficial.  

Their path is not your path.  Find your path and you will find your happiest marriage. 

Huddle Up Time

Take some time to huddle up with your spouse and set some relationship goals.  Do you feel that you are following God’s plan for your marriage?   

  • Don’t Accept Anything Less Than Your Best  

Do you believe that you and your spouse were brought together for a purpose?  Do you believe that your marriage is part of plan greater?

If so, then you should not accept anything less than the best from you or your spouse.

If you feel that you and your spouse are doing more of the marriage don’ts than you are the marriage dos, then come together and commit to become better spouses for each other.

  • Revisit your vows and discuss what it means to each of you to love, honor, and cherish.
  • Plan a getaway with each other to fan the romantic flames.
  • Study and pray for each other and together.  

Sometimes we need to hit the reset button.  We need to refocus.

You and your spouse were brought together for a divine purpose.  By not understanding the key don’ts, you may fall into a trap that leads to a very unhappy marriage.  

An unhappy marriage will struggle to fulfill it’s purpose and reach it’s full potential.  

Huddle Up Time

How can you and your spouse give that extra effort and attention to your marriage?  Where do you feel your marriage is lacking?  How can you refocus?


This list of don’ts might not be all it takes to avoid an unhappy marriage, but if you follow it, I can guarantee that you’ll have one of the best marriages on the block.  

Our desire from this list of don’ts is for you to avoid an unhappy marriage and have a marriage that fulfills the needs of companionship and intimacy for each of you.

If you found this list of don’ts to avoid an unhappy marriage helpful, please share with others in your social media circles because we feel this message can help others have an awesome marriage.

Until next time,

Steve and Anne


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