If you aren’t happy in your marriage what have you done to make it better? If you are like most people, you have complained to your spouse. Good! Complaining is the appropriate first step. But what else have you tried? Have you asked your spouse to go to counseling? I hope so. By doing these two things, you have done what most people do when they are unhappy in their marriage. Unfortunately however, this is where most people stop. These are two positive steps that can move you forward but they aren’t enough. Why you ask?
First, change is hard. Let me say it again. Change is HARD. If it were easy, every diet would work and we would all be skinny! But research shows that changing even little behaviors take monumental effort and motivation. When you complain to your spouse and tell them you need to see changes, you are giving them an alert but not the motivation to actually make the effort to do something about it. 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, assuming nothing is going to help. What usually happens is the unhappy spouse gets discouraged. After months and sometimes years of complaining, your spouse doesn’t seem to care or even understand you are unhappy. This makes you feel angry so you withdraw in the relationship. You stop putting forth the 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 and the relationship. You feel he/she doesn’t really love you because surely they would change if they did, right? Soon you start to believe they simply can’t change.
This is a dangerous place to be. Once you believe change is impossible, what’s really 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 had an affair or are filing for divorce, he/she becomes very motivated to make changes. Why? Because now they are losing something they want. But oftentimes it is too late. You have been suffering for so long and 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?” from my clients every single week. 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 and 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 were until it was really 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. Let 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! Raise the alarm to DEFCON status and make sure your spouse knows it! But don’t quit trying. Complaining and withdrawing isn’t 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 is not a restful or peaceful journey. Use the energy you would spend to divorce your spouse and divorce your marriage instead! Leave your old marriage behind and begin a new one with your spouse! Build something better than you had before.
At Engage With Love 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.