If you aren’t happy in your marriage what have you done to fix it? If you are like most people, you have complained to your spouse. Good for you! Complaining is the appropriate first step. But what else have you tried? Have you asked your spouse to go to counseling? I hope you have. If you have done these two things, you have done what most people do when they are unhappy in their marriage. The problem is…this is where most people stop. These are two positive steps that can move you forward but they aren’t enough. Let me tell you why.
Change is hard. Let me say that again. Change is HARD. If it were easy, every diet would work. But research shows that changing even small behaviors take monumental effort and motivation. When you complain to your spouse and let them know you need to see some changes, you are giving them an alert but not any motivation to follow through. Your unhappiness is usually not enough to spur them into action. Your spouse has to feel a serious threat to his/her own happiness before they are motivated to make changes.
There are lots of ways to motivate a spouse to want to change. But most people don’t get creative here. They just give up. What usually happens is the unhappy spouse gets discouraged. You have complained for months and sometimes years and your spouse doesn’t seem to get it or even care that you are unhappy. This makes you feel angry so you withdraw in the relationship. You stop putting forth effort to connect. You stop initiating sex. This doesn’t seem to motivate him/her either so you start to feel hopeless. You begin to question if this relationship is worth staying in and you become apathetic about your spouse. You feel he/she doesn’t really love you or they would change. Soon you start to believe they simply can’t change.
This is a dangerous place to be. Because once you believe change is impossible, what’s left? Staying in a miserable situation? Trying to learn how to endure and find happiness where you can? Here is where one of two things usually happens. You either have an affair (emotional or physical) or you divorce your spouse. And here’s the kicker. Once your spouse finds out that you have either had an affair or you are filing for divorce, they become very motivated to make changes. Why? Because now they are losing something they want. But oftentimes, it’s too late. Because you have been suffering for so long that you are done. You waited until you were worn out and emotionally disconnected before raising the alarm to DEFCON 4. In fact, when you see your spouse making changes NOW it makes you angry. I hear “why now” every single week in my practice. You finally get the courage to end your marriage and NOW your spouse is changing. You are upset it took extreme measures to get their attention and you tell yourself the changes aren’t real. They surely won’t last. Your spouse is upset because they feel ambushed. They didn’t see this coming because you didn’t let them know how bad things really were until it was too late. Now your spouse is feeling desperate and alone. They are promising to change any and everything if you will just give it one more shot.
Too often, these marriages end and it shouldn’t be that way! If you aren’t happy in your marriage, raise the level of alarm before you shut down emotionally. Don’t just complain, give your spouse some motivation by letting them know if things don’t improve by a certain date, you are moving out. If your spouse won’t go to counseling, go by yourself! Just be sure you see a marriage counselor who is PRO marriage. Keep doing something until you have to go to DEFCON status and make sure your spouse knows it! But don’t quit trying…and complaining and withdrawing isn’t trying enough. Get their attention!
By the time most people get to the point of wanting to divorce, they are exhausted and tell me they just don’t have the energy to keep fighting. But here’s the thing. Divorce requires exorbitant amounts of energy. It isn’t a restful or peaceful journey. Use the energy you would spend to divorce your spouse and divorce your marriage instead. Build something better than you had before.
At PO2 we fight for marriages and we are good at what we do! Let us help you build a better marriage. We can show you how to get your spouse’s attention in a way that will let him/her know you mean business. Our counselors and coaches can work with you no matter where you live. Give us a call at 972-441-4432.