I’ve been married long enough to see friends struggle with their marriages, to question their marriages, and for some to get divorced. I’ve witnessed couples ruining their marriages, ones who were on a destructive path and worked to save their marriage. My marriage is far from perfect because no marriage is perfect but we keep showing up and working at loving each other. And I’ve been married long enough to go through most marital stages (having babies, busy schedules, both of us working for other businesses, having my own business, money being tight, doing home improvements and going through many seasons of marriage and life) to have learned many things and observed a whole host of other things.
I’ve been married for close to 16 years and with my husband for 22 years. Wow- how did so much time pass? How can I be old enough to have been married that long???? Geez.
And here are a few types of negative feelings that can happen and how to put an end to this sort of thinking.
The Grass is Greener Thinking– Here’s how this might play out- my husband (or wife) and I get into arguments, he does not listen to my ideas or does what he wants. My friends’ husbands are so great, mine isn’t. Instead consider this:
1. What is special about your spouse ? Focus on the good things not the irritating or negative things. If we focus on the negative we will get more of it. Meaning if you put all your energy into noting every little thing your husband does that upsets you- if you keep adding fuel to your ever growing fire of dissatisfaction, it will grow.
What if you decided to look at the good qualities and kind things your husband does instead of the things you are upset with? And what if you decided to care for and serve your husband regardless of his behavior (assuming its not abusive, or destructive).
Remember someone’s grass is greener because they care for it. They water it, nourish it, mow it and spend time on it regularly. If you did the same for your marriage and if you showed your husband (or wife) that he is important to you and that you love him. If you made time for him regularly, would your marriage grow stronger and richer?
2. Skewed Perspective- My friend’s husband is always so thoughtful and he always gets his wife nice gifts. My husband never get me anything not even a card. I don’t feel appreciated.
Hold the train sister. Perception is a dangerous thing because no two relationships are the same. Your friend might have a man who buys expensive gifts, but is that what you really want- material things? Sure they are nice reminders that someone thought of us but I am guessing you’d rather have a guy who spends time with you, appreciates you, loves you, and cares for you. What does your husband do for you or your family? Think of the good things- does he help outside, or cook dinner or grill out for the family? Does he let you sleep in sometimes or get away with a girlfriend for the afternoon?
Can you talk to him and plan the future together? You see most of us will always want something more, whether it’s because the movies and society portray marriages that way or just a yearning we have, but don’t fall into the trap that makes you feel someone else’s marriage is better than yours. You only see another’s marriage from the outside, or from the times they are with you or other couples. There is no perfect or right formula other than respecting each other, loving each other, and continuing to work on improving your ever changing martial relationship.
Things I do to try to improve our marriage.
1). Focus on my husband’s needs– of course we cannot only focus on his- we likely have to focus on our kids, work, and our own needs, but we need to make sure we are thinking of our spouse’s needs too. There are times my desires, interests, needs are fulfilled instead of my husband’s but I try to look at his perspective, and look at his day and figure out how I can make it better. I try to have a servant attitude towards my marriage, my role as mother and as I walk through life. I fail miserably all the time as I am human and I want things, and want to do things that have nothing to do with serving others, but in general I try to have the heart of a servant. Remember we when focus on serving others, and focus on caring for the people we love we’ll find more contentment then chasing after our own happiness.
2) I Pray– I pray for my husband, and my children and family. And I add in other people who need to be prayed for. I could do a better job with this and spend more time praying and with scripture, but I do the best I can for a particular day or season of my life. This helps immensely- it helps me feel more connected to the ones I pray for and to the Lord.
3) Learn Your Communication Style and Love Language– Some of us want to discuss an idea, or plan or issue in great detail, and for others many topics are difficult to talk about, especially if it seems critical towards them. We have to understand, just because we can breakdown what upset us does not mean our spouse can. Some spouses struggle with discussing issues. They may listen but they may need to process it different. You cannot force someone to change the way they communicate. You can only do your best and try to understand how they communicate.
The book 5 Love Languages is such a good book. If you have not read it go get it. It can help with your marriage, your relationship with you kids and others. The idea of the book is we have a certain love language we use to show love (ex. some of us show love through affection, others through doing or building things, and so on). and we each want to be shown love a certain way. You may show your love through caring for your spouse (cooking meals, etc) but need affection to feel loved. Your husband may not see your meals as a sign of love and need more affection and intimacy to feel loved. This is seriously a biggie in many marriages. If both or one of you don’t feel loved, and you can fix it by understanding how they feel loved- well hello- go do it.
4). Don’t Go to Bed Mad– Don’t let issues in your marriage or things that upset you fester. Get them out in the open and try to work them out. Or at least try and agree to work on the issues or difficulties. I am embarassed to say there have been some nights late at night I was upset and woke up my husband because I could not sleep and wanted to feel better. We both wished we had gotten more sleep the next day, but I knew it was better to talk about what upset me than leave it be.
5) Learn to Compromise– They’ll be times you and your spouse won’t be able to agree on a decision. You need steps to resolve this sort of thing because sometimes there is not a right answer.
Dig deeper to understand the reasons behind each of your positions. Years ago my husband and I were in disagreement if I should travel to Nicaragua to my sister’s wedding. She was working there for 3 months and decided to have her wedding down there. I would have go anywhere in the world for my family if it was possible. But my husband was uneasy with me going because he would not be with me (we had 3 young kids) and he felt the area I would be traveling to could be unsafe. We could not come to an agreement. It was very frustrating.
Finally we discussed if this was a decision that would make either of us resent the other down the road. I felt to miss my sister’s wedding could potentially cause a long term struggle in our marriage, and he agreed he was worried and uneasy about me traveling but it was not a decision that if I went he would resent me.
I ended up going on the trip, I traveled for a short weekend with one of my brothers, my dad and mom to and from the wedding without any trouble. Because we worked through a difficult choice, I was able to experience my sister’s special day and a wedding unlike any other I may get to.
My sister had been translating for the Orphan Network and ended up paying for and inviting all the orphans she had worked with to the wedding. The sight to see a hundred little children smiling from ear to ear, running around, blowing bubbles through the reception was a sight none of us will ever forget. All of our hearts were full and I knew I had made the right decision.
6). Get Intimate – Yep I said it. You are married. Part of being in a healthy marriage is to become one- literally and spiritually. All humans need physical contact to thrive. You would not ignore your garden. A healthy garden is feed, and pruned, nutrients are added to it, you nourish it. Well your marriage is the same way- it needs time, affection, and contact to thrive. You both need to make time to be alone and time to be intimate. It won’t always be easy, and sometimes someone won’t feel like it or will be tired. That’s ok but that should not become the norm. Make time for each other- for snuggling, for hugging, for deeper intimacy.
Marriage can be hard. You are bringing two people together with different personalities, different ideas of the future, different perspectives, and you won’t always agree on everything. But with love, and respect for one another, and servant hearts, faithfulness, and honesty you can have a strong, lasting marriage. You can do this. Give your marriage all you have. Fight for it. Go home and make love and then hold hands. Stay positive and if you need real help get it.
And lastly, if you are in an abusive marriage or your spouse needs professional help go get it or get out if you need to. I am speaking above about marriages that are good but go through a season of winter where you see no sign of spring to come.
Go out and love each other.
P.S. Be careful Who you confide in-
Confiding in a Close Friend who is Negative can make your marital struggles worse- I think most marriages would be better off if we stopped telling someone who is subjective or negative our married troubles and will bad mouth our spouse or side with us all the time. If you are having difficulty in your
marriage, first try working on it with your husband. If you do not
feel you are making headway, talk to your pastor, a trusted friend, or
Christian counselor or get a marriage therapy book or workbook to try and work on your communication and issues. Do not talk to the one person who is going to take
your side and then complain about your spouse (such as your sister or best friend). You
aren’t doing yourself any favors. Seriously, it takes two to tango and
two to pull apart (at least in most cases) and what you need is a
honest, objective person who is respectful, and can see the big picture.
Plus, when you resolve the issues, often the person you confided in may
still hold the things you said against your spouse.
I also tell friends who may be struggling with their marriage. While you may be
frustrated can I ask you a question- do you love your spouse? And I
explain (if its the case), your spouse loves you and loves your kids.
He helps with the kids, and helps provide for your family. He shows
up and loves, and laughs with you. Have you considered what fixing it
looks like versus being divorced looks like? If you work on it you can
likely get past the bickering and find deeper love. If you move towards
divorce you will still have to deal with him, and you may only be with
your children part of the time. Another women may help raise your
children. Is that the future you envision?
More than not, they are only considering a version of reality that does not exist. I have
heard things like- I also thought my spouse would be different. I say
how- I have heard because he isn’t the spouse I wanted (ex. different
than I thought it would be) because we are often comparing our spouse
to a dream guy so our real spouse will often fall short in some areas.
Maybe your spouse is loyal, and cares about you, but he isn’t a
We’ll you could get the romantic and he could be
unfaithful. My point was not to settle, it was to say- look at all the
amazing things your spouse brings to your marriage and your life- stop
daydreaming about something else. The idea is to focus on the good things, and embrace those. To look at your spouse for how he makes you happy. And of course to discuss with him where there are problems, but don’t let the problems fester, and pile more frustration on top of it.
Don’t keep harping on the
small issues, instead embrace him for the good. Show him you are
there for him, put him first and watch your relationship change. Stop
playing a game of tennis or tit for tat.