An unhappy marriage is exhausting. It weighs constantly on your mind, affects your job, your friendships, parenting your children and leaves you with sleepless nights. Many people living unhappy marriages equate it to “walking on eggshells,” tip toeing around in hopes their partner won’t explode over a trivial thing.
There are many ways to create a loving and lasting marriage. People like challenges in many aspects of life. Challenge yourself to be happy from the inside out. It can be the greatest challenge you’ve ever taken and one that teaches you so many lessons along the way.
Satisfying unions provide happiness for you as a couple and as an individual. You take better care of yourself and your loved one. It’s touted that happy couples are healthier, live longer and stay socially connected to each other, family and friends. We can turn this thing around!
Signs of an Unhappy Marriage
Abuse, be it physical or verbal, can happen on the part of male or female. Letting off steam by verbally cutting down the other can lead to a lack of confidence in the marriage and a feeling of wanting to escape.
Hurtful words, be it cunning remarks or out and out screaming, leads to extreme anxiety, sorrow and depression.
Addiction is a tough cookie to swallow. The spouse with the addiction must want to get help. Believe me, you cannot talk them through it, continue to enable them or wait for things to get better. A true addiction, be it alcohol, drugs or even gambling needs professional help.
This is not to say that going out with a friend, now and then, for a beer or glass of wine is an addiction. Addiction is an obsession of an individual who regularly needs something or does something that is harmful. Most addicts will hide their addiction for as long as they can, but are eventually discovered.
Some marriages cannot weather the storm when it comes to addiction because addicts cannot make the choice between their marriage or their fix. Talk to your spouse and go for professional help. Offer to go with s/he if need be, and be supportive.
Sometimes you feel as though life is so ho-hum. The same can be said for marriage. Let’s face it, we work, have a multitude of responsibilities at home, raise children, have outside commitments and many times have family members that pull us in several directions.
Life alone can be stressful and routine for one person, let alone two, who are trying to find ways to dodge the merry-go-round.
Couples begin to feel the regimen and look to the other for help or an escape but many times neither will communicate. They have unrealistic expectations from their spouse. The spouse is often viewed as the problem or the person who should “fix it.”
Lack of Communication
Communication, in my opinion, is the centerpiece to any good relationship. Some people are great at it; others not so much.
A lack of communication can lead to many misunderstandings, mixed messages, a feeling of loneliness, and eventually lead to the derogatory form of communication –confrontation and constant arguments.
The inability to communicate effectively with your spouse leads to emotional distress in the marriage.
Family can cause discourse in many marriages, be it children or outside family members. When a wife is no longer #1 to the husband or vice versa, the marriage turns the corner in being of utmost importance.
Couples who cannot agree on their needs as a couple and are unable to separate family from marriage, run the risk of continued marital discontent.
Remember when you first met? You had fun, you laughed, you went places together enjoying each other’s company in whatever you did. Married couples stop trying to impress, become lazy and miss out on the chance to continue dancing through life as when they were dating.
When marital tensions arise, you find that the laughter is reduced to rolling your eyes, dating your spouse abruptly ends and whatever hobbies you once enjoyed have taken a back seat.
The marriage suddenly seems to have fewer compatible moments, and couples find themselves on the road to different interests.
Lack of Intimacy
Husbands or wives stop making time for each other. The excuse of children, jobs, housework and sleepless nights start having a big effect on the interest you once had in each other. A lack of intimacy, therefore, becomes a huge gapping hole in your marriage.
Touching, hugging, being affectionate and sex all have a lasting implication on your relationship. A couple can play a deadly marriage game when withholding intimacy against their spouse as punishment.
Non-Commitment or Infidelity
Marriage vows count. Lack of commitment to your marriage drives couples apart. If your partner changes the story to avoid confrontation knowing it may ignite an argument, one then begins to doubt their true commitment, honesty and trustworthiness to the marriage.
A spouse who turns to an affair only complicates the issue even further and runs the risk of irreparable damage to the marriage. Emotional infidelity, such as “innocent” lunches that are kept a secret from your spouse, is also a sign of being non-committal. Infidelity promotes a toxic environment.
Turning the Corner to Happiness
Depending on what situation has arisen in your marriage, know that it may take more effort on the part of some couples to turn an unhappy marriage into a satisfying and loving relationship.
The road may be longer for some, but know the path you take and the time you devote to each other, can make all the difference in where that road leads you. You’ve got to walk that road hand in hand to make it to the end.
Take Care of Yourself
First things first – you. Being sad and depressed is natural in an unhappy marriage. It’s time to change all that. To truly work on your marriage, you want the positive vibes, happy feelings and energy to come to life in you and your relationship.
You may have heard this before, but to be happy with someone else, you must learn to be happy with yourself. Becoming a person who is happy with him/herself enables you to be more successful as a couple.
Be sure you are eating healthy and getting enough rest. Take an interest in things that keep you vibrant and upbeat, be it taking time to read, an hour at the gym or, better yet, a walk together in the neighborhood.
Do not Be Afraid to Ask for Help
A friend who keeps your confidence and provides understanding can go a long way in helping you simply by being there to listen. Remember, you are on the recovery path of your marriage. Do not dwell on constant negatives but on ideas to remedy and help you and your partner.
Many couples turn to professional marriage counseling. It could be a good idea for each of you to see a counselor first on your own. A professional will always keep your personal session confidential.
This gives you time to discuss any frustration and negativity you have regarding your relationship but also what your needs are to produce a loving, happy life together. The counselor is then more prepared to see you together, as a couple, knowing what each person’s wants and needs are.
Note, a therapist trained and certified in emotionally-focused therapy will have the most proven method for helping couples.
Find Time for Fun
Remember dating? It’s what got you to the point of marriage in the first place. You were playful and affectionate with one another. You were lovers and you were friends.
Couple time is important – folks call it “date night.” Yes, spend time with each other enjoying dinner and a movie, bowling, playing tennis, or a night spent sitting by the fire with a glass of wine.
Couples need together time to reminisce, to enjoy companionship and to be attentive to one another. This mends bridges and keeps compatibility in the forefront. Perhaps each week one of you gets to decide what adventure date night will bring.
No one should feel neglected in a happy marriage. You learn to spend the time your relationship needs to keep it humming along and on the front line. Marriage is important and should come first.
Children love to see their parents happy. It’s good for them now and for their own future relationships. Indoctrinate in your children the values of spending together time. Show your children what a loving family looks like. A day at the lake, the playground, completing a project or giving time to a charity brings the family closer. What’s that saying? — “The family that plays together, stays together.
When it comes to marriage, honesty truly is the best policy. In order to move to a new high in your marriage, you both need to learn to truly communicate with one another.
Communication is one of the most important factors in any relationship and also one that many people find difficult to recognize and acquire.
The key is communicating – not letting emotions run wild – not turning your words into opportunities to pass judgement or belittle – not half-hearted listening without replying.
Communication implies a verbal or written form of exchanging ideas, news or information. If you feel communication is strained with your spouse, you may try a short and sweet exchange of e-mails or a hand-written card to each other.
Taking time each day to “talk” to one another is key. You may choose to do that over a cup of coffee or once the kids are tucked in bed. Spending time, asking how each other’s day was, paying attention and exchanging ideas and information is a form of caring about one another.
Find your own style of communication. Communicating does take time but it can be the best time taken in your day.
Keeping Expectations at Bay
Unreasonable expectations from your spouse can send you spiraling. If you’ve spent much time in an unhappy relationship, you generally realize you cannot change a person’s composition. Oh yes, you may try, but it can end up being a never-ending battle.
You each must remember what attracted you in the first place to one another. Dating gives us time to learn, rely on our gut, communicate our feelings and know what we can expect from one another. You cannot place unrealistic expectations on your spouse after the wedding day. You also cannot expect your spouse to meet all your wants and needs.
Remember, you were first an individual before becoming a couple. Our background and the way we were raised may be similar or very different, but what has made us become the person we are is unique. Find similarities, things you have in common, ways to communicate and ways to share your feelings and love for one another.
Make It Happen
I’m talking about intimate moments. These times should come more naturally as you spend time together enjoying each other’s company, talking and caring enough to make your spouse feel special. Yes, we know life is busy, we get tired and there are children to raise, but – make it happen.
With some conscientious effort turn off the TV, play a board game, or put on some music. Ensuring you stay in the mood does wonders for a marriage.
Play Fair – Fight Fair
You’ve just enjoyed an awesome afternoon at the park with your spouse. Playing fair is easy since you both love to walk the park and be outside. However, once home s/he becomes frustrated over the fact that the in-laws called and are stopping by with dinner. A fight ensues over the fact that you feel they are popping in far too often and things escalate from there.
Don’t forget you’re playing on the same team. Take a step back and access the situation. Do you feel like the other person is always to blame? Keep the main topic at hand; don’t go off on a tangent bringing up the last six times your in-laws have visited or previous arguments over whatever.
View the issue as “we,” not “me.” Take the opportunity to share your feelings, keeping in mind that they are your feelings. Set ground rules together. Negotiation includes compromise. Be fair – it’s not all about you, and it’s not about winning. It’s about working together to resolve an issue. And please, talk it out. Yelling rarely solves anything and only leaves both parties with hurt feelings.
Practice Kindness with Words and Actions
You never know when kindness will come full circle. Kindness, compassion and appreciation become a way of life in happy marriages and actually takes little effort as it becomes part of your daily ritual.
Words and actions actually always matter in a marriage. Speaking words of affirmation, telling each other, I love you, or asking, how can I help you, truly announces to your spouse that you care. Your awareness of how your words and actions can make your partner feel will transcend into many areas of your relationship.
Compassion and understanding do not mean that you approve of past hurts. It simply means that you are willing and able to step forward and forgive. We are all human and humans fail, they make mistakes, and they learn to forgive.
Learning compassion and forgiveness means that you are not going to continue bringing up past transgressions and failures in your marriage. It is time to move beyond those points of contention and learn to let go in order to give each other what you deserve – love, patience and happiness.
No matter the differences in your past, be it commitment issues or ego clashes, each person is still an individual. You need time to yourself. Don’t be smothering in a relationship because you’re afraid the other person will have too much time alone without you. You are there to complement each other; not dominate each other.
Respecting each other’s needs is part of having empathy and consideration. There may be times a wife is getting together with her sister or girlfriends for lunch or happy hour. A husband may be invited out for a drink with some of the guys or to a basketball game for the evening.
Be happy for your spouse. S/he is exerting their own personality which can help maintain a solid, well-rounded marriage and keeps everything in perspective.
Sharing the Load
Nothing says I love you better than taking the time to accomplish a task for your spouse. Sharing in the everyday rituals of life should never be relegated to only one person. Adulting is required in marriage.
In my own marriage, I hate to vacuum. My husband takes that task on 99% of the time, while I would prefer cleaning bathrooms over man-handling a vacuum cleaner. Coming to an agreement and working out what responsibilities you will handle, prevents the need for arguments on that topic and hard feelings.
Small things matter: OK, so you are on the road to better times. You’re thinking of happy days ahead and stressful times are starting to subside. You love your spouse. It’s awesome to know you love each other, and it’s even better to show that love.
It doesn’t have to be a weekly event, but small things done in great love add up over time. You may want to surprise your wife with a getaway weekend or a stop at the local florist for one long-stemmed red rose on your way home.
A wife may hear of a concert in town; maybe one you both went to while you were dating and your husband still talks about. Order up those tickets, tell him to keep the date open and surprise him. Even a weekend spent at an antique car show might be right up his alley. Take time to do something special for each other.
There is a difference between a trial separation and a legal separation. A legal separation is usually followed by divorce. Trail separations can be productive when both parties agree to continue working on their own issues, as well as issues they have as a couple, while also continuing to have contact with one another.
How you manage your trial separation makes all the difference in bringing you back together and forming a stronger marriage. Agreeing to seek professional help during this time can also be very beneficial.
You need to make a set of rules you both agree to during this time period such as, an end date to the trial separation, not dating others, living arrangements, child care duties, how often you will see each other and working on goals to ensure your marriage becomes a stronger union.
Couples lose sight that marriage is a commitment, a contract, so to speak. It’s the best contract of all when you have an honest and loving partner. It takes two to be a couple; that is a given, but being married shouldn’t always be hard or challenging. When you take the time for your relationship, it becomes second nature in your life.
Your marriage is worth fighting for. You both deserve it, your children deserve it, and you’ve earned it. In love, there is nothing stronger than the love itself that binds two people together. One person is not always right; nor is one always wrong. Together rise above adversities to become a stronger, loving couple. Be confident, and trust in each other.
Nancy Ferri and her husband, Dave, are recently retired. They enjoy many common interests and love their time in the great outdoors, be it kayaking, hiking or camping. They plan to hit the road this year to take some longer adventures in their RV.