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What to Do If You Find Yourself in an Unhappy Marriage

What to Do If You Find Yourself in an Unhappy Marriage

Growing up, when we envisioned getting married, we probably thought about it as a fairy tale. You know… the white knight, the Cinderella moments, and then riding off into the sunset living happily ever after.

But with the divorce rate as high as ever, it doesn’t seem like that fantasy is coming true for most people. Even if you are in a relatively happy marriage, it might not be as perfect as you had hoped.

For many people, they find themselves in a downright unhappy marriage. I know how that feels, because I was in one myself once too. I never thought I would be a person who got divorced, but it happened.

That’s not to say I didn’t try. I did. I really, really did. But sometimes, it’s simply not meant to be.

With that said, just because my marriage didn’t work out doesn’t mean that yours won’t.

Before you read through this list, I have to make one VERY important point. BOTH of you need to be 100% invested in rebuilding the marriage. If only one person is, then it won’t work. That’s what happened to me. I feel like I tried everything I could, but he wasn’t really committed to working on things.

And even if both of you are mildly committed to working on things, then that’s not the best scenario either. Because you both have to have your heart completely in it for any kind of positive changes to occur.

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Now let’s take a look at what needs to be done in order to repair your marriage.

1. Both People Need to Put Their Partner’s Needs at Least Equal to – or Before – Their Own

Just as I said that both people need to be 100% committed to rebuilding the relationship, you also need to put your partner’s needs before your own. Or at least equal to yours.

You see, this is what happened in my marriage. I felt like his needs were always his top priority and he didn’t care about mine. Even though I tried to put him as a priority, it never worked in reverse. And that was not okay with me.

2. If You Have Children, Keep Your Problems Away from Them

A lot of couples make the mistake of fighting in front of their children. That is the worst thing you can do! Not only does it make the children feel unsafe, it brings them into adult issues that they should not be involved in.

Keep your problems between the two of you, and whatever you do… do NOT involve your children!

3. Make a List of What Makes You Unhappy

Sometimes we go around with just a general feeling of unhappiness and don’t really know why. You know something is wrong, but you don’t always sit down with yourself and actually figure out the specifics of what it is.

So, if you haven’t done that – do it. What exactly are you unhappy about? What do you want to change that would make you happy?

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Once you look at the list, you might find that some of your reasons are petty or insignificant. Maybe, maybe not. But at least you will know.

4. Make a List of What Is Your Spouse’s Responsibility and What Is Yours

I know you want to place all the blame on your spouse and make everything all their fault. But remember – it takes two to tango.

Relationships are not made or destroyed by only one person (usually). In my case, I know I grew more resentful of his lack of effort in the marriage. And as I grew more resentful, I emotionally withdrew. I’m sure that wasn’t great for him either.

We all have a part in the state of the relationship. But sit down and write it down so you are clear about your thoughts on that.

5. Talk to Your Spouse About Your Concerns

Now that you have everything clear in your head, you are ready to talk to your spouse. It won’t be an easy thing – they might not even want to talk. But it’s absolutely necessary.

You can’t change what you don’t recognize. Bring your lists that you just made above to the table and talk it out. The purpose of that list is not just to get your thoughts down on paper, but to have a clear path to your conversation. And you’ll have “evidence” in front of you, not just relying on your memory in the moment.

6. Try to Come up with Compromises

After you voice your concerns, let your spouse voice theirs. I’m sure they have some complaints just like you do. Maybe they haven’t told you anything about it yet.

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If they can’t come up with any in the moment, give them time to make their own list and then reconvene. You need to talk logically and rationally about these problems. Neither one of you should get defensive or overly emotional/aggressive, because that will not work if you do.

Try to meet in the middle and come up with some compromises.

7. Write a Contract and Make Agreements

It might sound cheesy or even unnecessary, but once you have made some agreements and compromises, write them down. Pretend like it’s a legal, binding contract between the two of you.

For instance, husband agrees to do “x, y, and z” to make necessary changes in the relationship. And wife agrees to do “a, b, and c” to help change the relationship. Then keep checking in on these agreements to keep yourselves on track.

8. Wait to See How Well Both of You Implement the Changes

Change is difficult for most people. Anyone who has ever gone on a diet and tried to go to the gym to lose weight knows this to be true. But the same is true for ALL habits. So, give it some time and see if how well these changes are going to go.

Typically, people are good with change in the beginning, but then they start to slip back into their old ways again. So, wait and see how well both of you are going to implement these changes.

9. If Nothing Changes and Promises Are Broken, Re-Negotiate and Try Again

If, after some time, nothing really changes to your satisfaction, then you should try again. Real change is long-term and so you need to wait it out and keep trying.

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10. If Nothing Changes Again, Then Seek Therapy

At some point, you might need to seek out a marriage therapist to help you. Many people can’t do it by themselves, and so they need a professional to help them. In fact, if you don’t think you can do tips numbers 3-9 on your own, then maybe you should just start with a therapist.

Some people are against therapy (which is sad), and others can’t afford it. So, the first part of my list was for those people. Remember, going to therapy is a sign of strength – not a sign of weakness.

11. Have a Talk with Your Spouse and Make Sure They Agree to Try What the Therapist Suggests

My ex-husband and I tried therapy too. I didn’t really work for us because he didn’t put in the effort. I don’t mean to sound like I’m blaming him – that’s just who he is. He’s a good person, but he didn’t know how to (or want to) make changes in himself that would make our marriage happier.

I followed all the therapist’s suggestions, but noticed he wasn’t. So, if you find this happening to you too, have another conversation with your spouse and try to get them to take it more seriously.

12. If It Doesn’t Work, Then Consider Separating And/Or Other Arrangements

Sadly, sometimes you can try everything to make a marriage work and it still doesn’t. That’s what happened to me. And that’s okay. There is no shame in separation or divorce anymore.

I don’t see it as a “failure.” Instead, it’s a learning opportunity. I learned what doesn’t work for me in a marriage. And I also learned what to do differently next time – namely, finding someone who I am naturally more compatible with.

Final Thoughts

When my marriage ended, it was very sad. And if yours does, it will be for you too. Or it could just be a relief (or both).

But if you do end up going your separate ways, at least you know in your heart that you did everything you could to save the marriage. And then you can look back and figure out how to move forward and do it better the next time – just like I did.

Featured photo credit: Jelleke Vanooteghem via unsplash.com

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Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on November 4, 2020

15 Simple Ways To Make Self Improvement That Will Change Your Life

15 Simple Ways To Make Self Improvement That Will Change Your Life

Self-improvement doesn’t have to be big mind-blowing changes; it can actually be simple steps to improve upon what you already have to get you where you want to be.  However, what you will need is consistency, determination and wiliness to try some things that will stretch and challenge you.

Rather than setting your sights way off into the future, which leaves you feeling like you’ll never make it, you can start following these simple and effective self-improvement steps today.  So if you want to make an immediate impact on your life and are willing to take action, then keep reading— you’ll going to love these!

1. Be willing to work hard.

As with anything in life, if you want something, you’ve got to work hard to get it.  This doesn’t mean you burn the candle at both ends, leaving you exhausted and leaving your personal life in ruins.  It merely means that when you want something badly enough, you’ll put in the time to get there.  Action is what’s important here and the more ‘inspired’ the action is, the better the results in the end.

2. Make sure you have friends who you can talk to.

Sharing the load is important as with any self-improvement. If you can communicate with others and get feedback on how you are doing then that’s great.  We all need ‘cheerleaders’ in our corner to keep us going when times get hard, but you also need to have people who will tell you how it is even when you don’t want to hear it.  So make sure you have a good support network around you, especially those people whose opinions you respect.

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3. Adapt to your circumstances rather than over-thinking them.

Sometimes, we can hit a hard period. Perhaps you’ve lost your job or your partner has left you.  Instead of over analyzing the situation, learn to adapt to your circumstances and accept them as they are.  It’s not about making your circumstances into some kind of a drama; remember, what you focus on expands which means you’ll get more of it.  You then don’t become your problems and you’ll feel a lot less burdened by them.

4. Ensure that you use your time wisely.

Time is of the essence, some might say; whilst others will say that time is an illusion.  One thing we do know is that you have one life on this planet, so how you use that time is of the utmost importance.  So how can you use your time wisely? Only you know how to do that, but look at how you currently spend your days: do you sit working all day, get home, eat and then sit slumped in front of the TV for the rest of the evening?  Your time on this earth is precious, so isn’t it time to make use of the time you have left? Try something new, go for a walk, learn a new language or meditate but make sure it’s something you absolutely love.

5. Always be consistent.

A wonderful way to self-improvement is to make changes to how you do things.  For example, with your friends, are you always the unreliable one who bows out of an arrangement just before it happens? Or are you someone who starts a new exercise routine and then stops doing it 3 weeks into it?  Whatever it is and whatever you do, always be consistent. When you make a commitment, stick to it. It will improve your life immeasurably you’ll feel more confident and happier with yourself, especially because you’ll know that whatever you tackle, you’ll be able to consistently do it!

6. Go and find your happy place.

No, I’m not saying “place” as in popping to your local bar or restaurant and gorging yourself on your favorite drinks or food. What I’m saying is to find out what you love to do, what makes you happy and go there.  Your happy place is a place where you find peace, where you lose yourself and feel contented.  Meditation is a great way to find your happy place; it brings you back to you and ensures that you are always living in the present moment.

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7. Make sure you embrace all your emotions.

In life you are going to find that it throws you some difficult challenges, sometimes it will bring out your fears and lead you into uncertainty, and other times it will be joyful.  It’s important to embrace all emotions that come up in your life, embrace them wholeheartedly and understand why they are there and then let them go.  Try not to dismiss or resist them because remember “what you resist, persists,” so embrace them each and every time.

8. Always be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

The idea of stepping out of your comfort zone for some people can leave you paralyzed with fear; however for any changing in your life, your comfort zone will always have to be stepped out of.  It doesn’t have to be something big, like doing a sky-dive or something just as crazy. However, it’s worthwhile to change something that you’d once have feared, like going to the cinema on your own or eating at a sushi restaurant when the thought of trying raw fish which would normally mean you running for the hills.

So try something new—it doesn’t have to be wacky, but it has to challenge you!

9. Be on hand to help others.

Whether it’s helping a stranger on the street or a family member or a friend helping someone else either in their time of need, lending a helping hand is a wonderful and simple self-improvement to make.  Giving to others is not only beneficial to those you are helping but also to yourself; it can give you a sense of purpose, of contribution and also takes your mind of your own troubles and worries.

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10. Live in the present moment.

A wonderful self-improvement tool is to live in the present moment, to live in the now.  It is within this moment that you’ll appreciate all that you have and see the beauty in the simplest of things.  Being mindful of your current circumstances and bringing your mind back to where it belongs will bring about a happier way of life instead of constant worry or stressing about the past or future—both of which do not exist. Only the present moment exists. When you get used to living that way, you’ll never want to go back!

11. Learn something new.

There is nothing so liberating as learning something new; it can lift both your confidence and self-esteem and give you a great reason to meet new people.  If you continually top up your brain activity by learning something new all the time, you’ll feel on top of your game and want to share the knowledge you have learned. There is nothing quite so empowering as learning a new tool in life that can either improve your circle of friends or raise confidence levels—or both!

Reading is also a great way to help you learn something new:

12. Exercise daily.

This seems an obvious one, but exercise is so important not only to your health but also to your spirit.  We all know that after exercise, the world can feel a brighter and more positive place, so why don’t we do it more often?  Exercise isn’t about getting the perfect body or losing weight; it’s more about feeling good inside and out!  With a healthy body comes a healthy mind—so start something today. Even if it’s just a daily walk, it’s better than staying on that couch, again.

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13. Go to new places, travel a bit.

I’m not saying go fly off to some far away distant forgotten land—although you can if you so wish. It’s more about going to new places and experiencing life outside of your own back yard.  Too many of us stay in one place too often. We only see the same people, the same streets and do the same things each and every day.  If you want to improve your life, get out there and see the world and what it can offer.  You can start by going to a town or city you’ve never been to in your own country and checking out the architecture, the landscapes and the people.  Anything new is good, so get out there!

14. Listen to uplifting music and dance.

If there’s one thing that can really improve your life and get you excited about it, it’s listening to great uplifting music and dancing.  When was the last time you really let go?  Let it all hang loose and got into a piece of music and let yourself go?  Dancing, like exercise, makes you feel great. It releases all kinds of emotions and can make you feel unbelievably good.  Self-improvement isn’t all about the serious stuff; it can be something as simple as finding new music, music that inspires you and makes you dance and have fun!

15. Get up earlier than normal.

This is the last one, and it’s last because it’s one of those self-improvement tips that we all know is a good thing, yet we seem to avoid it at all costs!  If you think about it, the earliest part of the day is when your brain is most active because it’s been turned off for the last 7 hours or so.  So don’t you think it’s best to get all those things above done in the morning?  Things like exercise, meditation and dancing, which can all be done in the first part of the day.  Take it from me: this early morning stuff can really get your day started with a bang!

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Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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