I speak with clients daily who want to know if their marriage can be fixed. Typically they have been struggling for a while and feel like things will never change. Most of them have feelings of hopelessness, worry, doubt, sadness, and sometimes even anger. But the one thing they all have, that really keeps them stuck is fear.
Fear that they will be in this place forever. Fear that they do not know what to do, and wonder if there really is anything they can do to change their marriage. They want to know if there is anything they can do to make it better.
I want to share with you a few “marriage tips” that can truly make a difference in your marriage and give it space to grow.
If I asked you if you thought you could change your spouse, you would probably say “no”. Most of us know that we can’t change someone, even though we might like to be able to do that. But, even though we know this, most people still have this idea that if the other person would just do what we want, that we would feel better.
Maybe your wife is not telling you how much she appreciates your hard work when you come home from a tough day and you think “ if she would just show me she appreciates me, I would be happy.”
We carry the idea of “if you would be different, I would feel better” – this is not taking responsibility for your life and your marriage. This is not taking action to do what you can do to make changes. It is expecting your spouse to make it better for you. There is no power in this. This does not put you in the position of taking responsibility for your own happiness.
Now, you can live your life this way, but you will feel like you are being batted around and reacting all the time. Most people do live in this place, but you don’t have to stay here.
What you can do instead?
Marriage Tip Number 1: Stay in your lane!
Get into the driver’s seat of your happiness and stay in your lane. Don’t spend so much time thinking about your wife’s lane and how you wish she was doing things. Focus on what you can do to change the relationship. Focus on what you can change and how you can do things differently. Stop waiting for the other person to be different so you can feel better, and start taking back the power for how you can feel. I like this one the best, because once you can see that you do this, you can change it.
Marriage Tip Number 2: What am I making this mean?
This is a great question to ask yourself because we all do this without even realizing that we are. See, something happens, or there is a circumstance, and we give it meaning. But, the meaning that we give it is not always true, and most of the time we do this without even knowing it. In fact, the majority of the time, we give it meaning that is not true.
Maybe your wife is looking at her phone texting and laughing and not engaging with you after dinner. You see this and you think “ I wonder what’s so funny. Who is she talking to? She is ignoring me. I have told her before that I wish she would talk to me and not look at her phone, but she does it anyway. She does not care.”
So, your mind has told you that your wife does not care because she is using her phone, but there is a really small chance that this is actually true. She probably does not feel that way at all.
When you start feeling mad, frustrated, or anxious, stop and ask yourself “what am I making this mean?” because there is good chance that you are giving the situation meaning that she is not.
Marriage Tip Number 3: Drop the Scorecard!
Now this is a tough one. So many of my clients come to me and tell me all the things that are going on in the marriage. They tell me who did what and when. Who won the last argument. Who was right. Who started it. What they always have to do first and how their wife never does it. The list goes on and on.
The thing is, no one is winning anything by doing this. No one is “right” or “wrong”, but we argue for this with our spouse all the time. We have this need to be right and to win but I challenge you to ask yourself what you are winning? Are you happy when you do this? You can be happy, or you can be right- you can’t be both.
Release the need to be right because there is no “right”. You both see and experience life differently and that is okay.
Maybe you feel like you are the one who breaks the ice after an argument and apologizes first so this time, you decide “ I’m not going to apologize, until she does, because I always go first.” Then you both retreat to opposite sides of the house waiting for the other person to do something.
Maybe you feel like you are the one who initiates sex all the time and you decide you are not going to do that anymore because you want her to do it too. So you stop, and then time goes by with no sexual intimacy. You start thinking that she does not want you (giving it meaning) and she is wondering why you stopped and is thinking the same thing.
So, what if you are the one the goes first? You can be the one who breaks the ice. You can be the one who initiates sex. It does not have to mean anything about either one of you, and keeping track of it or keeping score does not work. It only creates resentment. When you hold onto that scorecard, it does not bring you closer together or give you space for the relationship to feel better. Try dropping the scorecard and see how things change.
If you want to learn more and see how you can create change in your marriage and make it feel better, I invite you to schedule a complimentary Exploratory Session with me. Let’s see if we are a good fit to work together and get ready to drop the scorecard.