Marriage on Autopilot

The other day, we were in the car headed to the airport. I looked in my bag to make sure I had my phone, and I could not find it but felt certain I threw it in there. Just as I was about to ask my husband to turn around, I set the bag back on the floorboard and found the phone sitting in my lap. To my credit, it did kind of blend in with the dress I was wearing. Ok, not really, but it did get me to thinking about how many things like that we do on autopilot. That is, without even recognizing that we’ve done them. (Another example is driving through a light and then wondering if it was green when you drove through.) This then got me thinking about what’s come across my couch over the years in relation to the concept of being on autopilot, and the thing that stood out the most was the stories of marriage.

Had my grandfather not died earlier this year, my grandparents would have celebrated 70 years of marriage this summer. Needless to say, they knew each other really well. The good and the bad of their lives bonded them over the years. If you watched them, they seemed to have an unspoken language between them. There are many things that they assumed about each other and did for each other without asking, and this worked for them. They would still thank each other for the littlest of things. They’d developed a certain flow in their relationship with each other. They just knew.

In many marriages, however, assumptions don’t work so well. The reasons are many but may include lack of understanding, resentment and failed attempts at mind-reading. These things can occur because of a lack of connection between two people. There is a natural tendency toward separation or drift in marriage. The good ones, then, are characterized by daily effort and work. Autopilot is not an option.

If you’re marriage is struggling or if you’re marriage is doing well overall, and you just want to build on what you have, start by taking a look at how you can show the following concepts:

Love: Kiss and hug each other at least upon waking, saying goodbye, reuniting at the end of the workday and before going to bed. Say “I love you” often. You can also express your love by saying how happy you are that God put you two together, how much you enjoy doing life with your spouse and how there’s no one else with whom you’d rather grow old.

Gratitude: Say “thank you” for the little things, even if you think they are expected and/or the “job” of the other person:

Thanks for unloading the dishwasher.
Thanks for picking the kids up.
Thanks for working so hard for our family.
Thanks for cleaning up the yard.
Thanks for carting the kids around to all of their activities.
Thanks for putting my coffee cup in the sink this morning when I left it on my vanity.
Thanks for taking care of the check engine light on the truck.
Thanks for reminding me of the kids’ activities tonight.
Thanks for cleaning the pool.
Thanks for checking on me today when you knew I wasn’t feeling well but had to work.
Thanks for folding the laundry.
Thanks for making my favorite meal.
Thanks for getting the dry cleaning.
Thanks for helping the kids with that school project.

Thoughtfulness: Prepare your wife’s coffee the way she likes it. Bring your husband his favorite candy bar for no reason other than to convey that he was on your mind. Offer your spouse a beverage or snack while you’re up getting yourself one.

Compassion: Be present and kind when your spouse is going through something tough. Ask how you can help if your spouse is ill or having a bad day.

Respect: Treat your spouse with respect in all things. You can bury a marriage with a lot of little digs, so don’t talk ill of your spouse or poke fun of him or her in front of your friends. Never, ever call your spouse unkind, derogatory or demeaning names. That’s wrong. Period. There is NEVER a time when it’s ok to call your spouse a bad name. This is an absolute. If you’re inclined to insult or otherwise verbally abuse your spouse, you need to really take a look at yourself. That’s a form of bullying, and bullying comes from immaturity, insecurity and ignorance. If you don’t agree, think of it this way: If you insult someone, you are trying to knock them down. You would only need to do that if you are subconsciously trying to elevate yourself or make yourself feel better in some way. (This can be via comparison or attempting to shut your spouse down in an argument by insulting them.) And why would you need to elevate yourself or make yourself feel better if you were already secure and confident? (For more on bullying, click here.)

These are just a few of the things that make a marriage work. Pick some and get started. It’s not too late to turn things around or at least make changes in yourself for the better. Maybe it will even be contagious to your spouse. Remember, a little means a lot.

If you or someone you know is struggling with this or another psychological issue, help is available. Talk to your insurer about available options under your plan. For more information on teletherapy sessions with me, visit

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