A few weeks ago, we received an email from Claire, a freelance consultant from Ohio, who told us that her marriage was in bad shape. She says:
“Last month, my husband and I had a huge meltdown in the car while we were on an out-of-town trip. Apparently, he’s been harboring a lot of resentment towards me and the minor argument we had during that time sparked his outburst. It was just horrible; our kids were with us with when it happened.
When we got back home, my husband continued expressing the frustration that’s been simmering within him for the past few years. He said that I was constantly absent in our marriage and that I wasn’t attentive to his needs.
Feeling shell-shocked, I countered that he wasn’t doing his part either, thus forcing me to “pick up the slack” in our relationship. Since the incident, we’ve been stuck in a sort of stalemate – getting through each day has become a real struggle for us.”
In marriages such as Claire’s, the onset of relationship issues can really deplete a couple’s morale. When you feel at your lowest, it feels like there’s no reason to even bother trying to turn things around.
If you feel like this, you need to realize that it's only the weight of your problems are keeping you from thinking clearly.
But as we’ve discussed in the previous blog post, you have the choice to nurture negative thoughts or throw them out.
Instead of mulling over the fact that you have marital problems (just like all couples), you can choose to focus on doing certain things to improve the state of your marriage:
#1: Accept Responsibility In Your Marriage
If you’ve ever been in Claire’s shoes, it may seem insane to even consider the possibility that your unreasonable spouse may have a point. When you’re upset and feeling righteously indignant, admitting your part in the problem is the last thing you’d want to do.
After all, your partner has their own faults – who are they to accuse you?
But as we said, your emotions can affect your objective judgment. If you allow it to overrun your thinking, you’ll only entrench yourselves deeper in your situation.
As hurt as you may feel, playing the blame and shame game is not the solution. Instead, try listening with an open mind and understand where your spouse’s feelings are coming from.
Remember that resentment and the resulting problems take months or years in the making. You can’t afford to brush off your partner’s side of the story if you want to get to the heart of your problems.
Otherwise, you’ll risk ignoring the factors that are fueling your marital conflicts. Thus, accepting your shortcomings and acknowledging your spouse’s own position is more important than the satisfaction of “being right”.
#2: Show A Genuine Desire To Fix Things
After you’ve mustered the humility to own up to your faults, you’ll be empowered with the sincerity to improve your marriage.
The problem with some spouses is that they only appear to take their partner’s side seriously and make empty promises to do something about their issues. In the long run, this will only come back to haunt them when their recurring issues flare up again.
To avoid this cycle, you’ll need to show your sincerity through tangible actions and offer a solid plan to get your marriage back on track.
For instance, create a weekly date schedule, propose couple exercises to help bring the love back. If needed, you can also set an appointment with a qualified counselor.
What’s important is that you’re not only making verbal commitments, but also following through with them.
#3: Power On Through
Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search For Meaning”, talks about how people can surpass challenges. He says:
“Suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative.”
In other words, things are not as bad as they seem. Your emotions are a powerful force that may cause you to attract a stream of negative thoughts which will snowball out of control.
If your spouse says that they no longer have any romantic feelings for you, this is actually a normal part of the evolution that all marriages go through.
Having high levels of infatuation is expected in the beginning; however, it’s also normal for these feelings to fade a bit over time. It may hurt to hear your partner say that they’re no longer in love with you, but remember that they’re just evolving within the relationship.
Disillusionment is inevitable; the feeling of being “in love” is meant to fade.
Rather than giving in to your spouse’s sense of hopelessness, you can be a good example to him or her by equipping yourself with the skills needed to heal your marriage. Instead of giving up, work towards creating an atmosphere of acceptance.
When you learn to accept each other for who you are, the initial rush of romance will be replaced with a deeper sense of love.
But none of this is possible if you give up. By seeing your problems through, the relationship can move on to its other stages.
Another way to convince your spouse that you’re changing for the better is by working on yourself. While this isn’t as direct as working on your marriage, attending to your own needs will keep you calm, focused and ready to take care of your family.
Setting The Bar In Your Marriage
Think about it this way: would your spouse rather be with someone who’s angry, bitter and hostile…
…or someone who’s positive, pro-active and willing to put their relationship ahead of their pride?
Wallowing in self-pity and animosity is not a constructive path to take. When you refuse to let your fear or other emotions take control, you can be more committed to improving your marriage and yourself as well.
Just because you’re experiencing negativity from your spouse, it doesn’t mean you should stop doing your part. Your thoughts and feelings are separate from theirs – being optimistic is your prerogative, regardless of your partner’s own state of mind.