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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.

How to Deal With the 15 Most Common Marriage Problems 11 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak How to Deal With an Emotionally Unstable Partner How to Handle Emotional Blackmail in a Relationship What To Do If You Think Your Husband Hates You

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Published on September 23, 2020

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

I don’t know about you, but many times when I hear the word negotiate I think of lawyers working out a business deal or having to do battle with a car salesman to try to get a lower price. Since I am in recruiting, the term “negotiation” comes up when someone is attempting to get a higher compensation package.

If we think about it, we tend to negotiate almost every day in a wide variety of things we do. Getting a handle on the important negotiation skills can be incredibly beneficial in many parts of our lives. Let’s take a look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

What is Negotiation?

First, let’s take a look at what negotiation is. Put simply, negotiation is a method by which people settle their differences. It is a process in which compromise or agreement can be reached without argument or dispute.

Anytime two people or sides disagree on something, they are almost always looking for the best possible outcome for their side. This could be from an individual’s perspective or someone representing an organization.

In reality, it’s rare that one side gets everything they want and the other side gets nothing that they are seeking. Seeking to reach a common ground of sorts where both sides feel like they are getting most of what they want is the key to being successful and maintaining the relationship.

Places We Negotiate

I’ve mentioned that we negotiate in just about all phases of our life. For those of you who are shaking your head no, I invite you to think about the following:

1. Work/Business

This one is the most obvious and it’s what naturally comes to mind when we think of the word “negotiate”.

When you first started at your current job, you might have asked for a higher salary. It could be that you delivered a huge new client to your company and used this as leverage in your most recent evaluation for more compensation. If you work with vendors (and just about every company does), maybe you worked them to a lower price or better contract terms.

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In recruiting, I negotiate with candidates and hiring managers all the time to land the best talent I can find. It’s very common to accept additional work with the (sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken) agreement that it will benefit your career in the future.

Recently, I took over a project that was my boss was working on so that I would be able to attend a conference later in the year. And so it goes, we do this all day long at work.

2. Personal

I don’t know about you, but I negotiate with my spouse all the time. I’ll cook dinner with the understanding that she does the dishes. Who wants to mow the lawn and who wants to vacuum and dust the house?

I think we should save 10% for retirement, but she thinks 5% is plenty. Therefore, we save 8%. And don’t even get me started with my kids. My older daughter can borrow my car as soon as she finishes her chores. My younger daughter can go hang out with her friends when her homework is done.

Then, there are all those interactions in our personal lives outside our homes. The carpenter wants to charge me $12,000 to build a new deck. I think $10,000 is plenty so we agree on $11,000. I ask my neighbor if I can borrow his snowblower in the winter if I invite him over the next time I grill steak. And so on.

3. Ourselves

You didn’t expect this one, did you? We negotiate with ourselves all day long.

I’ll make sure I don’t skip my workout tomorrow since I’m going to have that extra piece of pizza. My spouse has been quiet the last few days, is it worth me asking her about, or should I leave it alone? I think the car place charged me for some repairs that weren’t needed, should I say something or just let it go? I know my friend has been having some personal challenges, should I check in with him? We’ve been friends for a long time, I’m sure he’d come to me if he needed help. I’ve got the #4 pick in this year’s Fantasy Football draft, should I choose a running back or a wide receiver?

Think about that non-stop voice inside your head. It always seems to be chattering away about something and many times, it’s us negotiating with ourselves. I’ll finish up that report that the boss needs before I turn on the football game.

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Why Negotiation Skills Are So Important

Put simply, negotiation skills are important because we all interact with other people, and not only other people but other organizations and groups of people as well.

We all rarely want the same thing or outcome. Most of the time a vendor is looking at getting you to pay a higher price for something than you want to spend. Therefore, it’s important to negotiate to some middle ground that works well for both sides.

My wife and I disagree on how much to save for retirement. If we weren’t married it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d each contribute how much we wanted to on our retirement funds. We choose to be married, so we have to come to some agreement that we both feel comfortable with. We have to compromise. Therefore, we have to negotiate.

If we each lived on a planet by ourselves, we would be free to do just about anything we wanted to. We wouldn’t have to compromise with anyone because we wouldn’t interact with anyone. We would make every choice unilaterally the way we wanted to.

As we all know, this isn’t how things are. We are constantly interacting with other people and organizations, each one with their own agenda’s, viewpoints, and opinions. Therefore, we have to be able to work together.

6 Negotiation Skills to Master

Having strong negotiation skills helps us create win-win situations with others, allowing us to get most of what we want in conjunction with others around us.

Now, let’s look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

1. Preparation

Preparation is a key place to start with when getting ready to negotiate. Being prepared means having a clear vision of what you want and how you’d go about achieving it. It means knowing what the end goal looks like and also what you are willing to give to get it.

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It also means knowing who you are negotiating with and what areas they might be willing to compromise on. You should also know what your “bottom line” is. By “bottom line” I mean what is the most you are willing to give up to get what you want.

For instance, several years ago, I decided it was time to get a newer car. I say newer because I wanted a “new to me” car, not a brand new car. I did my research and figured out what type of car I wanted. I decided on what must-have items on the car I wanted, the highest amount of miles that would already be on it, the colors I was willing to get it in, and the highest amount of money I was willing to pay.

After visiting numerous car dealerships I was able to negotiate buying a car. I knew what I was willing to give up (amount of money) and what I was willing to accept, things like the color, amount of miles, etc. I came prepared. This is critical.

2. Clear Communication

The next key skill you need to be an effective negotiator is clear communication. You have to be able to clearly articulate what you want to the other party. This means both clear verbal and written communication.

If you can’t clearly tell the other person what you want, how do you expect to get it? Have you ever worked through something with a vendor or someone else only to learn of a surprise right at the end that wasn’t talked about before? This is not what you would call clear communication. It’s essential to be able to share a coherent and logical vision with the person you are working with.

3. Active Listening

Let’s do a quick review of active listening. This is when you are completely focused on the speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information, and respond appropriately. This is a necessary ingredient to be able to negotiate successfully. You must be able to fully focus on the other person’s wants to completely understand them.

If you aren’t giving them your full attention, you may miss some major points or details. This leads to frustration down the road on both sides. Ensure you are employing your active listening skills when in arbitration mode.

4. Teamwork and Collaboration

To be able to get to a place of common ground and a win-win scenario, you have to have a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

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If you are only thinking about yourself and what you want without giving much care to what the other person is wanting, you are bound to wind up without a solution. The other person may get frustrated and give up if they see you are unwilling to meet them halfway or care little for what they want.

When you collaborate, you are working together to help each other get what is most important to you. The other upside to negotiating with a sense of teamwork and collaboration is that it helps create a sense of trust, which, in turn, helps provide positive energy for working to a successful conclusion.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another key negotiation skill. When you are working with the other person to get the deal done many times you’ll face new challenges along the way.

Maybe you want a new vendor to provide training on the software they are selling you but they say it’s going to cost an additional $20,000 to provide this service. If you don’t have the additional $20,000 in the budget to spend on the software but you feel the training is critical, how are you going to solve that problem?

From what I’ve seen, most vendors aren’t willing to provide additional services without getting paid for them. This is where problem-solving skills will help continue the discussions. You might suggest to the vendor that your company will also be looking to replace their financial software next year, and you’d be happy to ensure they get one of the first seats at the table when the time comes if they could perhaps lower the pricing on their training.

There’s a solution to most challenges, but it takes problem-solving skills to work through them effectively.

6. Decision-Making Ability

Finally, having strong decision-making ability will help you seal the deal when you get to a place where everyone feels like they are getting what works for them. Each step of the way you can cross off the list when you get what you are looking for and decide to move onto the next item. Then, once you have all of your must-have boxes checked and the other side feels good about things, it’s time to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. Powerful decision-making ability will help you get to the finish line together.

Conclusion

There you have it, 6 effective negotiation skills to master to lead a more fulfilling life. Once we realize that we negotiate in one form or another almost every day in every phase of our lives, we realize how critical a skill it is.

Possessing strong negotiation skills will help you in nearly every one of your relationships at both the workplace and in your personal life. If you feel your arbitration tools could use some sharpening, try some of the 6 effective negotiation skills to master that we’ve talked about.

More Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

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