When a person is complacent in one aspect of their life, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are lazy or complacent across the board. Nevertheless it’s important to understand the its impact and the underlining causes of complacency. Here are some examples of what I mean about how complacent behavior can rear it’s ugly head in various ways:
- A proactive member of a church congregation is complacent in their workplace.
- An active member of the community is complacent as a parent.
- A busy, successful office manager is complacent with social justice.
- A loyal friend with an active social life is complacent in a love relationship.
- A neighbor with the beautifully decorated house is complacent with their own health.
There’s a lot of crisscross here but you get the idea. Like a nasty cold virus, complacency can sneak up and affect anyone. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you are successful, wealthy, or are a really “busy” person. Complacency can be unconscious or ignored until before you know it you are in over your head at falling behind in the most important parts of your world. So while complacency can infiltrate many aspects of life, for now, let’s focus on how to avoid complacency in a relationship.
An article in Psychology Today written by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. cited a German study’s major and unexpected findings that showed complacency as perhaps the most significant relationship trap to avoid. It says:
“It may also be that happy couples become complacent and stop actively working to build a healthy relationship… This neglect may ultimately backfire, though, because the partners fail to work through conflicts that could later develop into larger issues.”
Ask Questions and Here’s Why…
One of the reasons why complacency is such a significant threat is that it often disguises itself as comfort and contentment. So while you can look at your significant other and see the absence of conflict, know that there may very well also be an absence of growth and spark.
If couples simply spent some time asking each other the questions that really matter, they’d greatly improve the health of the relationship. Don Miguel Ruiz talks about the importance of asking questions in his book, The Four Agreements. His message basically says that when we don’t ask questions, we make assumptions which can lead to a lot of unnecessary drama. We assume our partner knows what we are thinking and how we are feeling. Then when our partner does not respond how we think they should, drama ensues!
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
So if you do not communicate and ask both the difficult and simply clarifying questions, seemingly harmless “complacency” can lead to a fracture of relationship muscle and strength. Then usually the negative effects of complacency will rear its ugly head during times of challenge which can make the desire to work through your problems that much harder.
Is Your Relationship Thriving or Just Surviving?
- Quality Time Together: While you may live with your significant other, is the quality of the time you spend together declining?
- Oh This Old Thing?: While there’s a comfort in knowing your partner loves you for who you are, have you or have they completely stopped caring about how they look? This may be sign of a deeper problem.
- It’s not you, it’s me . . . : So you’ll have to dig deep for this one, but look inward right now. What do you see? Low self esteem is a huge factor in relationship problems. If your self worth is needs attention, don’t ignore it!You can not love or be present to anyone else if you are insecure yourself or do not believe you are worth loving.
- Intimacy on the Level?: Sex may seem like the obvious thing to measure but it’s not always just physical attraction that you should worry about. Do you confide in each other? Is there affection? Or are you two ships passing in the night?
Best Ways to Kill Complacency in a Relationship
- Try new things together – Find something neither of you do or do well and begin a new journey together. Try hiking, golf, joining a gym, cooking. As long as you embark on something new togetheryou will find a renewed sense of support, partnership and discovery.
- Set shared goals – Take a leap together by setting a shared goal and hold each other accountable as partners in crime. Whether you want to improve your diet, exercise more or save money to travel, you’ll be there for each other while improving your relationship and individual well-being at the time time!
- Unexpected gestures – Simple acts of kindness go a long way and they leave a lasting mark. While lately the buzz is to spread kindness and something nice for a stranger, don’t forget that sometimes we innocently neglect those we love the most. Try to be spontaneous by planning a last minute getaway or if money is tight, a simple drive away from what you see everyday. A random have a great day <3 note on the bathroom mirror says volumes!
- Let’s keep in touch – Shut down your devices and talk. We are so distracted with social media, stress at work, commitments of all kinds, that we often forget to touch base with the people who care about us and want to help lighten our burdens. Ask questions and show that you want to know the answers with your eyes straight forward gazing at your partner, not down at a cold device that will not keep you warm at night. Device addiction is so prevalent that it is suggested to combine proactive communication with setting a shared goal. Set aside a specific time, perhaps just before bedtime, to remove electronics from your immediate area to catch up with one another on your day.
It Takes Two
One thing is for sure, complacency in relationships is very common. But you don’t have to be a victim to something that is preventable. The main thing is that both you and your partner need to be on board and put in the time to keep your relationship alive and kicking. Remember to have the courage to simply ask questions, even the hard ones. Be respectful and responsible for your actions as well as your inaction. And remember that relationships are ever-changing. Both you and your partner should be growing from your relationship with one another. So work to ensure that you are growing together in the same direction and that you are supporting one another’s evolving interests.
Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship and there won’t be an end.– Tony Robbins
Finally it’s important to know that having flaws in a relationship isn’t that you’re doing something wrong on purpose. To the contrary, complacency allows problems to go unacknowledged and thus fester. To that point, inaction and avoidance wreak more havoc in the end. So acknowledge the flaws rather than ignore them.
Now that you know about this silent killer and how to avoid complacency in a relationship, begin immediately to take some positive steps. Even at your most challenging moments each partner needs to take ownership of their role in the relationship. You each must work to be the best version of yourself in order to bring out the best in one another and continue to grow as a team.
My other articles about Complacency you might find helpful:
Sections originally published at OwnYourBest.com.