Editor's note: This article was originally published on NurturingMarriage.org. It has been modified and republished here with permission.
What's the leading cause of divorce? Well, the answer to that is certainly debatable.
Just as there are hundreds of ways to nurture your marriage each day, there are also hundreds of ways to destroy your marriage. At the root of many of these issues is one surefire way to destroy your marriage.
What is this one common issue? It's being too busy and consumed in your own personal life to recognize, appreciate, and connect with your spouse.
Being too busy
Life can get busy...crazy busy sometimes. Perhaps your busy schedule and stress stem from your job, church or community responsibilities, travel, or other unforeseen circumstances. Regardless of what the demands are, the busyness can often leave you tired, worn out, run down, and simply exhausted.
With all of the responsibilities and imposing stresses you face, your spouse may have taken a back seat (ouch).
Even though life moves fast and it may feel like you're fighting to keep your head above water, you can make your marriage a priority. You can make time for a regular date night. You can make time to talk. You can make time for love.
When you take control and choose to make your marriage a priority, you will find the renewal and strength you need to keep going. You will also feel more support and love from your spouse.
Being consumed in your own personal life
With all of the demands on your time, you may get caught up in a pattern of selfishness. You may become consumed with your life, schedule, to-do list, and need for downtime.
Everyone needs a little R&R every now and then. However, did you realize that you may be destroying your marriage by how you choose to use your down time? When you got home from work yesterday, what did you spend your time doing? Did you spend several hours watching a basketball game or other TV show? Did you go to the gym? Did you do some online shopping? Did you play video games? Did you chase the kids around?
While none of these things are inherently bad, the real question to consider is, "Did you take time to connect with your spouse?" If you didn't, you are running the risk of your marriage slowly deteriorating day by day.
If this keeps up, you will start to feel very distant from your spouse, and before you know it, you won't need them anymore. And they won't need you. That would be sad.
Recognition, appreciation & connection
Everyone yearns for recognition, appreciation, and connection. Most marriages can't survive without these things.
Connecting in meaningful ways with your spouse on a daily basis is vital to a healthy marriage. For many, that connection time usually comes in the evenings. Try these three ideas in order to recognize, appreciate, and connect with your spouse today.
1. Put down your smartphone
Smartphones are awesome. However, one really DUMB way to use your smartphone is to give it more face time than you give to your spouse!
Recognize your spouse and their needs. Rather than zoning out on your phone, try zoning in — to your spouse. Just talk, and listen, and enjoy being together. Be present. Be aware. Be involved.
2. Log off of social media
Social media is great. It's a wonderful way to stay connected with family and friends and to see all the good things people are accomplishing in their lives. It's also a big waste of time and a fantastic way to disconnect from reality... and from your spouse.
It is easy to become so consumed in virtual reality, that you miss out on your actual reality. This is especially easy to do at home. Too much time on social media creates the delusion that the grass is always greener on the other side.
Instead of focusing on other people's lives, spend your time focusing on the good things your spouse is doing, accomplishing, and becoming. Thank your wife for folding the laundry and putting it back in your drawer — every single week. Thank your husband for taking the garbage out (even if he has to run outside at six in the morning in his pj's to make sure it is out on the curb on time!).
Appreciate the talents, gifts, and personality of the one you chose to spend the rest of your life with. Work on seeing the good in your hunk or babe, and verbally expressing your appreciation, often.
3. Talk & listen
What we all want is to feel connected, close, and united with the one that we love. Taking the time to talk to your spouse about their day, their struggles, joys and dreams will ensure the kind of cohesion you long for. A habit of connection will also ensure that you and your spouse never fall out of love, take each other for granted, or miss out on what matters most.
Listening may not come easy to you, but you can become a better listener today than you were yesterday. Begin by giving your complete attention to your spouse. Don't think about what you are going to say next, just listen. Your spouse will notice your amazing listening skills, and they will be impressed. When you truly listen to them, they will feel and know that you really care.
Connecting in meaningful ways on a regular — even daily — basis will take some effort. You may have to forgo some personal pleasures or pursuits. As husband and wife, you will have to sacrifice other things in order to give each other your best time, and your best selves. Trust us, any and every effort to nurture your marriage will be worth it!
Aaron & April are the founders of Nurturing Marriage, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages. They enjoy playing football with their two little boys, watching sports, eating cereal late at night, and going out for frozen yogurt.