Have you tried to cajole your husband into going to marriage counseling and gotten a dismayed, “We don’t need that.” Men don’t like to have anybody telling them what to do. They feel they should know them what to do themselves.
Not to mention that men often feel that you are making too much of small things. “If you would just think like a man, you would not get so upset about everything.”
So what can you do?
Please let me encourage you not to give up on your marriage. Don’t turn to hopelessness or an affair. After 40 years of both marriage and marriage counseling, I believe you can affect your relationship more than you realize.
You may not believe this, but research over the years has shown that one person can change the way each partner experiences the relationship. Consider this. I bet you can think of one thing that your best bud does to make your heart sing.
However, you may have given up any hope of your making a difference. In fact, you may feel you have turned yourself inside out for your mate. Nevertheless, I am going to have the audacity to suggest that you may not use have used your energy effectively
You have heard the saying: “If you do the same old things in the same old way, you will get the same results.” So let me just say the obvious. Nagging seldom produces the affection you want. Criticism acts like sulfuric acid to your relationship. Never spending time with your spouse leads to distance and both of you feeling abandoned. Fighting all night, makes you both convinced the other doesn’t care about what matters to you.
Instead of these negative things, I want you to pay attention to these five things that I have seen work for clients time and again to turn their relationship around. If nothing else, your spouse may come to appreciate your wishes to get into marital counseling.
Expressing frustration with your partner’s lack of empathy will stand out as the only feedback he hears from you. Letting him know, how his never coming home when promised, will leave him believing that you think he’s a loser. Giving him the cold shoulder because he doesn’t get it, leaves him feeling abandoned.
My advice, do an about-face. Recall the reasons you decided to marry. You see when you get frustrated, you may have lost touch with those values that you both share. You may have known he was going to become a great father, and sure enough, he still has. You knew you could count on him to support your family financially. Just let yourself catch up with the things you admire.
Then tell him. Look for times when he slowed down enough to hear you mention how much his stretching to be there for you when your mother was sick meant to you. Let him in on how much it meant to you when he helped you with your speech.
Two things will happen. As you look for things to affirm, you will notice you feel differently about him. You will notice that the picture of him changes that leaves you hurt. The more you focus on how defective he seems, the more you will believe and give him that feedback.
Remember the old gestalt picture where you could see either a beautiful young woman or a grandmother figure? You cannot see these two different pictures at the same time. Your brain won’t let you do that. Similarly starting to catch the moments when your best bud goes the second mile will lower your sense that he doesn’t give a darn about you.
- Call Timeouts
You may tend to get your teeth in the bone of a fight and refuse to let go. Many men will stonewall and pull back because they don’t want to get angry. They may be afraid of being violent, and they love you too much for that, and so they try to get away.
If you find this unforgivable, let me suggest something. Many people who need to keep the argument going have slipped into feeling that if they don’t make the other realize how wrong they are, they will call crazy. Why? Simply because an inner critic turns on you and continues such a scathing attack that you desperately want to keep hurling epithets of scorn.
You may feel that only by forcing him to admit to the error of his ways, will you experience relief from your inner accuser. Give it up. It will only lead to distance and heartache the next morning when you both recall the things you have said things that you didn’t mean.
Well maybe you did mean them in your anger, but you know that’s not the whole truth. Telling him that you feel he never loved you in the first place, may feel valid at the moment but you don’t want to leave him with that impression. Things said with that tone of resentment will stick in his mind.
- Learn the Fine Art of Self-Soothing
When you hubby leaves you to your inner voices, you can learn to tame them. Perhaps you had a parent who tended to blame everything on you. Guess what? You are doing the same to yourself and having no mercy. Instead, let yourself imagine that each of you may have had a bad day. Things had begun to seem hopeless. You both just wanted some reassurance, but the other’s buckets no longer had any reserves.
Distract yourself by reading, taking a long walk, or doing whatever will take your mind to another place. Most of all, don’t ruminate about how narcissistic your partner has become. Ruminating will convince you that your marriage should never have happened in the first place.
Instead, find ways to nourish your soul with self-affirmation. Remember what you have accomplished and how you excited to feel alive.
By rehearsing the moments of joy in your life, you overcome the need to have your partner buoy your spirits. Of course, we all want our partner to support us and want to feel that we can turn to them when we need them. Partners do not have the bandwidth to do that all of the time. Your ability to self-soothe will usher you through moments when your partner’s bucket has nothing to give you.
- Find His Language of Love
If you have not come across it, read some article or book by Gary Chaplain on the Five Languages of Love. Just as when you say “I love you” in English, and your main squeeze speaks French, he may not understand. Your man may not speak in your language of care. He might want hugs, or gifts or time, or act of service, or just an affirmation. If you offer something different than what registers as love for him, you’re wasting your time.
But he will feel loved if you find out what makes him feel loved. If you don’t know, think of the times when you did something that seemed to mean the most to him. Better yet, ask him the question about when you did something caring, and he realized how much you loved him.
- Overcome Your Depression or Anxiety.
I once got upset at a church service because a minister got people laughing about a woman who was upset at her son’s hyperactivity. The doctor gave the son some ADD medication and the mother an anti-anxiety pill. When the doctor saw them later, he noticed that the son seemed focused. He asked the mother about how she was doing with his behavior. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Now that I am taking my Valium, who cares?” The congregation laughed.
I explained to the minister how hard I worked to help people feel comfortable with taking medication if needed. He had just caricatured the results and probably made it harder for people to consider using medical drugs when appropriate.
I want to point out that many times marital upset does stem from one spouse’s struggling with the challenge of depression or anxiety. One becomes more critical and despairing about the relationship when despondent. Feeling hopeless makes us critical not only of ourselves but our spouses as well.
In a similar manner, your anxiety may lead you to become far more controlling than you realize. If you can have a conniption fit when your spouse doesn’t do what you expected and this happens often, look out. Expecting your spouse to show up at an airport three hours earlier than necessary just because you have panicked yourself that you’ll miss your flight, does not lead to a feeling of loving compliance but sometimes a feeling of manipulation.
I am not suggesting that you go on meds if unneeded. However, do consider seeing a therapist if you feel your mental state may contribute to your conflicts. You may want to say to me that I am depressed because my husband won’t listen to me. You may be right, but ask him if he thinks that you’re have drawn into yourself or that you have lost your initiative to take leadership in your life. Consider his feedback.
Find options and taking actions steps will give you more freedom to hope rather than keep you discouraged and cause you to be critical. Overcoming your anxiety will help you give your husband more freedom to be himself. Your focus on his many faux pas may not reflect that much on you. You may feel you have to apprise him constantly of how he needs to grow up.
Applying these four steps will usher you into a different emotional space with your intimate other. You will notice that both of you begin to soften toward each other. If things still feel stuck, he may not consider using outside resources for help because he senses you’re the best game in town.
Take the next steps and read my MUST READ eBook “A Marriage Counselor’s Secrets To Making Your Marriage Sizzle”. Visit my homepage and scroll half way down to leave your information. I’ll send it to you immediately.
As a marriage counselor and partner to his wife for over 40 years, I have helped couples build their relationship to last a lifetime. If you are in the state of New York, call for a Skype appointment or see me in my Westchester or NYC office at 914-548-8645 or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org