6 Issues That Can Sabotage Any Marriage (and How to Fix Them)

Looking to prevent problems in your marriage before they begin? There are six major–but subtle–marriage saboteurs you should be on the lookout for. Let’s take a look at what they are, and how to fix them.

1. Having too many obligations.

Life is busy–we get it. But staying too busy can actually sabotage your marriage. When you and your spouse are so consumed with day-to-day obligation, it can be easy for those obligations to crowd your intimacy out.

How to fix it: You can’t put a marriage on autopilot. It takes daily commitment to keep that spark alive. Be intentional about taking time for one another. It’s important to give yourselves the time you need to continue bonding and enjoying life with one another.

2. Letting things get under your skin.

It’s easy to drop your guard around the people you love most, but sometimes that means getting irritable and lashing out at your spouse when things get under your skin. Allowing yourself to be irritable, and to take your irritation out on your spouse, can hurt your relationship in the long run.

How to fix it: Practice showing kindness and patience to your spouse every day. These qualities don’t always come easily, especially when you’re upset. But kindness and patience are a choice you must make even when you don’t feel like it. Your marriage depends on both of you acting in loving ways, even when you’re annoyed at one another or at a life circumstance.

3. Failing to engage one another.

Couples simply get bored when they aren’t actively playing together and engaging with one another. Life stress takes over when we aren’t having fun, and many couples find themselves wondering where those good times went. Suddenly, they find themselves staring at each other across the dinner table, wondering why they have nothing to talk about.

How to fix it: If you’re feeling bored in your marriage, liven it up with shared activities. You can return to something you enjoyed in the past, or try a new activity. Finding time to play and enjoy yourselves can make a tremendous difference in your relationship.

4. Living separate lives.

Competing priorities will always be a challenge, for every married couple. Life, work, parenthood–all these issues deserve our attention. However, if other aspects of life become more important to you than nurturing your marriage, you’re bound to drift apart. It’s not unusual for some couples to feel like they’ve transformed into roommates, rather than lovers…but it is very avoidable.

How to fix it: Reevaluate your priorities together and create a plan for getting your marriage back on track. Work together to realign your lives, and eliminate activities or obligations that are pulling you apart. Making time for each other and putting your marriage first will help to heal the drift.

5. Living outside your means.

Debt is a major strain on marriage. When we spend more than we make, we find ourselves at the mercy of lenders and creditors–and we’re constantly scrabbling for enough money to pay our bills every month. Financial strain leads to more frequent conflict in marriage, so it’s important to get it sorted out as soon as possible.

How to fix it: Figure out how much money you actually owe, then make a plan for getting it paid down. This could mean reducing your spending, or finding ways to make more money. Whatever you decide, create a plan and help one another stick to it.

6. Hanging onto past pain.

Pain from the past can seriously hurt your ability to relate to one another now. Whether it’s pain between the two of you or pain from an outside source (such as trauma from childhood), the past can really hamper your present and your future.

How to fix it: There’s not an easy “fix” for past trauma or pain. It’s something you’ll likely need to work on long-term. Find a licensed therapist who is an expert in your particular experience, and commit the time and resources to addressing your trauma. If your spouse is the individual seeking help, support them through the transition into resolving the pain. It will pay dividends in the long run.

Ready to take a deeper dive?

If you want to dive deeper into the situations that can sabotage your marriage, take a look at our book, I Love You More. It features stories from real-life couples who have been through the trenches, and come out stronger on the other side. Get your copy here.

Have you and your spouse dealt with one or more of these marriage saboteurs? How did you overcome them? Let us know in the comments.


  • Laura McFarland says:

    dear Jesus, I feel as if I’m just existing! He strayed away and broke marriage vows… COMPLETELY DEVASTATED and STILL GRIEVING after six years. Love, trust, hope, your life…. all BROKEN INTO A MILLION PIECES. His “satisfaction” buried me!! I have no love for him… we just exist in the same house. IT IS HORRIBLE!!!!

    • David Carlsen says:

      Lord, I read an article from one of our church counselors about how sorrow is a good indicator but a horrible dictator. Would you please help all of us struggling with various tensions to not try and make a bitter cup sweet but to also not allow the bitterness to have authority…….ala like the character from the movie “A Beautiful Mind” who acknowledged Marci and Parcher and ________ (I can’t recall the 3rd imaginary friend) existence but resisted the temptation to allow those three people (who weren’t real but felt real) to have authority over his daily activities.

  • Joy says:

    Hi Laura, it’s a positive thing that you recognize that you are hanging on to past pain, and that you’re giving this to the Lord. Are you two working with a therapist? It sounds devastating but I believe He is the God of reconciliation!

  • Patrick says:

    Laura, sorry for your pain. I know for me it was six years before I started to reconcile the broken trust. It has been 20 years now and we ended up apart for a time. The book Codependent No More and Brene Brown TED talks really helped me to not place my value in my wife’s actions. You have value to God and I hope you can use this pain to benefit others who are hurting. My prayers will be with you.

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