The Silent Killers of Marriage

“Acting for the first time in 14 years, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology redefined high blood pressure as a reading of 130 over 80, down from 140 over 90. The change means that 46 percent of US adults, many of them under the age of 45, now will be considered hypertensive.” (

High blood pressure is considered the “silent killer,” because when you have high blood pressure, there are typically no obvious signs. Many people who have high blood pressure feel just fine.  But the undetected increase in blood pressure puts them at increased risk of heart disease, disability, and death.

What does this have to do with marriage…beside the fact that I’m going to have to change my diet and exercise? Just like high blood pressure can be a silent killer physically, there are some things that can be silent killers to your marriage relationally. Here are a just few…

  • Assumption. We all come into marriage with assumptions. Assumptions about how marriage should be. Assumptions about how our spouse should be. Assumptions about how our kids should be. But reality rarely matches our assumptions. There may not be anything wrong with our assumptions, but when our assumptions don’t fit our reality, we tend to hold on to our assumptions as if they were commandments that came down from the mountain with Moses, rather than adjust our assumptions to meet our current reality. This will silently kill you and your marriage.
  • Distraction. When you and your spouse were dating, all your attention was on one another. You spent a lot of time together, and even if there was something to do, you did it together. But the longer you’re married, the more other things scream for your attention. Before you know it you’re distracted by career, kids, a bigger house, an other things that distract you from investment in your marriage. The things that distract you are not bad in and of themselves, but like piranhas, they each take a chunk from your time and energy, leaving you less and less for your marriage. Distractions are yet another silent killer of marriage.
  • Procrastination. Let’s face it. We all procrastinate at times. Some more than others. But procrastination can be a silent killer of your marriage. I’m not talking about procrastinating on things like taking out the garbage or having sex with your spouse; (though this can get you in trouble and lead to the two being indistinguishable.) I’m talking about procrastinating on things your spouse really needs (your attention, your admiration, your help, your encouragement, your protection.) These are things we all need and crave, and if you procrastinate on these, you increase the risk of someone else meeting those needs.
  • Accumulation. When we begin thinking about marriage, we don’t think about accumulating stuff. We just think about how nice it will be to be together. But after we get married, we eventually think about things like getting our first house, furnishing that house, and trading up to a new and nicer car. Later, we think about trading up to a bigger house to accommodate kids and our growing amount of stuff, trading up to a bigger car to accommodate said kids, getting the latest conveniences, and on and on it goes. The problem is, the more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you. Accumulation may seem like a badge of success, but for many couples who come to me for counseling, their accumulation has come at the cost of their marriage. Yet another silent killer.
  • Isolation. This is the end result of assumption, distraction, procrastination, and accumulation. They cause you to gradually drift until you suddenly realize you’re isolated from one another. This looks like doing your own thing, when you could be doing something together. Watching your own screen when you could be watching something together. Not talking to your spouse about something, because you’re sure they wouldn’t understand, or it would cause a fight. Coming home late, or going to bed early, because it’s easier then sitting through the awkward silence or tension. When you reach the isolation stage, you have one foot in the grave, and you need some radical life-style changes if the marriage is to survive.

Hopefully, none of the above describes you. But be careful about letting yourself off the hook too quickly. Remember these are like high blood pressure. They’re silent killers. You don’t really see them or feel them till it’s nearly too late.

So have a regular check up on these things. Give your spouse permission to point it out if they feel one of these silent killers have begun to creep into your marriage. Live a married life style that will keep the blood pressure of your marriage low and the health of your marriage high.

Try having a regular “check your blood pressure” night with your spouse, where you start off by each of you literally checking your physical blood pressure. If you don’t have something to check your blood pressure, get something. It’s a good investment. Then, use that time to talk about your feelings toward the blood pressure of your marriage and the topics above. Also, if you can think of other silent killers, leave them in a comment. I’m collecting them.

Copyright © 2017 Bret Legg

2 thoughts on “The Silent Killers of Marriage”

  1. Thanks for this. You are so right. I came across this article after reading the first on mechanical marriage (2014), i had googled on Mechanical marriages as i heard that phrase yesterday. Its sad that we are in the isolation phase in my marriage. I stopped raising concerns with my husband as he will get defensive, he is the kind that prefers to ignore things as if they will sort out themselves one day. Maybe they will. This time i decided to adopt his style, am ignoring the silence, the lack of affection, joy, maybe he will realize it doesn’t work so there is need to talk. Am hurting inside but am trying to keep distracted. I could have shared this article with him but that will mean am trying to solve the issue by raising it.

    • So grateful you found the blog. Hope you keep reading. Unfortunately, your situation is more common than you think. Be careful about being just as disengaged as your husband. That will foster an increasing drift, rather than an increasing attraction. I know this is easier said than done, but think about how you would act if he was being the husband you wish he was. Would you be more kind, more playful, more supportive, more funny, more flirty…(fill in the blank.) I would encourage you to begin being that person…whether he changes or not. Remember how you used to be when you were dating? This created an attraction between you, and though we can’t go back and recapture those days, we can bring some of that flavor back into our relationship. Yes, there are things he needs to do also, but you can only control your part of the equation. But, if you adjust your part of the equation, it will eventually effect the whole equation. Be the kind of wife that will attract more than offend, and cause him to remember why he married you. This is not a quick fix, and there are no guarantees, but at the very least it will improve your ability to enjoy marriage and life. Hope this will help and that you’ll keep reading. – Bret


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