I’ve been thinking lately about what commonly brings couples into my office. It’s not only infidelity, but it is cheating. It’s not just escalating conflict, though it does become escalated. What many of the couples I see have in common is that they fail to do one crucial thing that erodes their bond of connection over time and causes their partner to lose confidence in them.  They don’t make the relationship a priority.

Are you making your relationship priority ONE?

You see, we hear a lot about priorities in life.  How do we prioritize our time, our spending, our tasks at work?  Did you know that with priorities, there can really be only one at a time? To have something as a priority means it’s not just up there on the list. It’s the first item.

If you are prioritizing the important things in your life, where would you place your relationship on that list? I’m guessing you might not be putting it at the top. There are consequences if you don’t. You’re cheating yourself and your partner out of your long-term happiness and you may not even realize you’re doing it.

The Consequences

When you don’t make your relationship priority ONE you’re putting other things ahead of it. It may feel justified to you, even necessary. Perhaps you’re bucking for a promotion at work, and you’re not paying attention to your partner or your love relationship.  Maybe you’re a student working to earn a degree and you need to study and cram for your exams. That’s all well and good, and you should be putting forth that great effort to move forward in life, but what good will that promotion be, what good will your degree do you, if you don’t have your partner to share it with?

When you neglect your connection with your partner they notice. They know they’re not being treated as being important to you. This creates doubt and sometimes resentment. It’s certainly painful to think you’re not important to your loved one.

Ever hear the phrase, “He’s married to his career”?  That’s exactly the scenario I’m describing. A man (or woman) who makes their job more important than their spouse is bound to lose.

Another consequence is that the partner then stops trying also and all the effort and work they’ve been putting in trying to hold everything together when you’re absent and uncaring comes to an end. Then what do you have? You have a problem in your relationship; and at this point you’ll need to come see me or another couples counselor to figure out a way back from this dark and lonely place you’ve gotten to.

This is not a happy situation and there can be anger, pain and resentment along with a feeling of “Why wasn’t I good enough? Why wasn’t I treated with the importance that you’ve given these other areas of your life and work? Wasn’t I smart enough, special enough, sexy enough?” See how this situation causes all kinds of insecurities and self-doubts on the part of your spouse? They begin to question why they’re being demoted in importance in favor of your job or degree.

How do we fix this?

Once you realize what you’ve been doing in your marriage or relationship, you’ll want to remedy this. You might apologize, and you might mean it, but the best apology, as they say, is changed behavior. It’s a realization that your partner is the one person in this world that loves you like no other. The one person that has always had your best interest at heart, and that one person that you want to spend the rest of your life loving. You know they are worth giving that place of priority to over ANYTHING else.  

You then have to commit to making changes in the way you allocate your time and energy and you have to make a shift in the way you think.

When things come up and decisions have to be made; instead of thinking “How will this benefit my career or help me get ahead?” You’ll think instead of how your partner will feel about it and how would they want you to respond. You may even start consulting your partner to find out.  

Putting your relationship as priority ONE means that you consider everything through the lens of the two of you as a couple and how your decisions and actions will impact your partner and your relationship going forward. This means putting the relationship first. I’m not suggesting you should stop striving to better yourself, or that you should neglect self-care; quite the contrary. It’s your intention that will change, your way of caring for yourself will be to love and nurture yourself in the context of that loving relationship with your partner. Then you both feel important, cared for and loved.

I once heard this description of how a relationship should be; inclusive, loving and nurturing. There’s you, there’s your partner, and then there’s the relationship. You want to treat that relationship almost like a third person in your lives. Lavish it with attention, nurture and feed it, and give it a place of importance. Do this mindfully, and you’ll find that all three of you will thrive and this will be a game changer for all of you.


  • Stuart Fensterheim

    Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW

    The Couples Expert

    Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. His weekend workshop, Two Days: Seven Conversations has become a popular venue for many to set off on their journey of connectedness. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart's Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.