Marriage is Hard
November 17, 2020
Choose your hard
Choose your hard. Yes!
I just love this post for so many reasons. As human beings we are wired to take the path of least resistance, even if that path doesn’t take us where we ultimately want to be. It is easy to be short-sighted when we are uncomfortable or in pain. We will give into temptations that distract, numb, and perhaps bring us some temporary joy in the midst of our struggle, but almost guarantee ourselves more problems later. I am certainly not immune to this myself. Oreos have many times made me feel better in the moment, only to cause me great pain when my waist got fluffier, my jeans got tighter and the thought of stepping on a scale brought me to tears.
Choosing the path of least resistance
I also see clients choose something that may make them happier today, even though it chips away or destroys what they want most in their relationship. For example:
- The spouse who chooses an affair because he/she was feeling lonely or disconnected at home, rather than learning to communicate wants/needs to their mate or simply to share their feelings.
- The person who starts an “innocent” flirtatious relationship with someone on social media, uses pornography, binge drinks or……. (fill in the blank) because they are feeling unloved, unlovable or bored, rather than learning from where all his/her emptiness is really coming and, even more importantly, finding a healthier way to fill it.
- The one who blows up in rage rather than calming themselves and finding a more effective way to communicate, because it feels so good to just dump all those emotions at once.
- The spouse who calls it quits because married life feels too hard, too exhausting and too unfulfilling, rather than putting in some serious effort with an experienced therapist who can help them sort through the issues together.
In each of these scenarios, my client could have chosen to face their unhappiness and productively address the difficulty of his/her current situation. Instead, they made choices that ultimately created even more pain for themselves and those they love. Two hard choices and no easy answers.
To love and to be loved
The choices they made did not help them reach their ultimate goal of being in a healthy relationship, learning how to love and to be loved.
Isn’t that what all of us really want – to love and to be loved? After food and shelter, I believe love and acceptance are the greatest of all human needs. When we feel we aren’t getting the love and acceptance we crave, all too often we choose to engage in destructive ways in an attempt to get them. Unfortunately, the actions we choose usually do more to further alienate us from the love and acceptance of those we want it from the most.
Choosing your hard
If you are in a relationship that is unfulfilling or painful and you are distracted by potential, temporary ‘quick fixes’, I encourage you to work through the following questions designed to help you gain insight and bring clarity to your situation.
Disclaimer: If there are any of the 3 A’s in your relationship – Affairs, Addictions, or Abuse – I recommend you talk to a therapist about your next steps. Your physical and emotional safety must come first. Depending on the severity, a separation or divorce may be necessary for your protection or to promote growth.
- Describe in detail your ideal relationship. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want, you won’t know how to get there or even when you arrive. Focus on things you can measure rather than feelings. For example, ‘I want to be able to talk to my husband/wife and feel understood without fighting’ is better than ‘I want to feel happier.’ Put these down on paper. Warning: This first question may be tough to answer for those of you who are pleasers and have stuffed your unhappiness in an effort to avoid conflict. If you find yourself tripped up by this first question, I encourage you to reach out to a coach or therapist who can work with you individually and help you dig deep into what you really want for your relationship.
- What are the one or two things that are causing you the most pain in your relationship? There may be many more, but let’s start by narrowing it down to one or two. Again, put these on paper.
- What have you done in the past to improve your situation? Your list might include things like talking to friends, reading self help books, seeing a therapist, or trying to talk to your spouse. There is no limit on this one. I want you to list them all.
- Which, if any, were helpful? For each item on your list, make a note as to why, or why not, they were helpful. Do your best to be honest with your “why’s”.
- How have you intentionally or unintentionally contributed to the problem? We each are guilty of doing things that sometimes make things worse. I think back to a time when I was feeling disconnected from my husband. I wanted him to open up and share but he told me he often felt I responded critically or minimized his feelings. I thought I was being “helpful”. Imagine that.🙂 It was such good feedback for me even though it was hard to hear. If I had blown up because he shared something that was hard for me to hear, I would have shut him down even more. Perhaps you’ve done something similar, or you’ve retaliated, lost your cool, given the silent treatment, or stayed away and avoided confrontation. Again, put these down on paper.
- What are some healthier, or more effective, ways you could have responded? Examples include things like staying calm, calling a timeout, letting him/her know how you were feeling, or journaling your anger instead of lashing out. Make a list.
- What makes it hard for you to respond more effectively? You may want to include on your list things like: I have lost hope; I want my spouse to change and have trouble dealing with disappointment when he/she won’t; I often feel resentful and angry and I don’t control my temper well; Or, I think my spouse has more to change than I do.
To clarify, I’m asking you to look at you here, not at your spouse and what he/she does. This should be about your actions and your reactions. Let me warn you, this is where your work really starts and it will likely be the toughest part of the journey.
It will be HARD. Yes, it’s time to pick your hard.
Here are some key points to consider when choosing your hard:
- All relationships have issues. Avoid the ‘grass is greener’ mentality. Green grass simply means someone took the time to fertilize it with more.
- We are often contributors to hard places in which we find ourselves, and it is important we start the work from within. Any change in your relationship needs to start with you.
- We cannot change our partner but we can invite them to change. We do this by staying ‘clean’ and modeling the change we want, or providing an environment where change can happen. Frequent criticism and complaining poison the ground for change. If you want greener grass, you must avoid these.
- Despite your best efforts, there are times when your spouse will not accept your invitation to change. Some people are simply not ready or healthy enough for relationships. Just make sure that person isn’t you. If you are in a relationship where you question whether change is possible, a good marriage expert can help you distinguish.
- There is no perfect spouse. Some of the things that frustrate or irritate you are part of the package when living with someone. Learning how to live with disappointment is a huge growth step in making you more relational.
- Boredom in relationships is often more about something unsettled within you than it is about your spouse or your relationship. This may indicate it’s time for some personal work.
Choosing your hard with the end-game in mind
I hope you take some time and answer these questions for yourself. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, only choices. Choices that are hard, require self-reflection and accountability, and that result in consequences, some of which cause even more pain and discomfort.
And I would love to hear from you. Tell me about your self-discoveries and your struggles both.
Some of you are going to go through the exercise and realize you need help from someone who can help you evaluate your choices, heal from past decisions, and build a better relationship. If that is you, I hope you’ll take a quick minute and let us know you need more. You can set up a Free Discovery Call to learn more or contact us here.
How healthy is your marriage?
ready to have a conversation?
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