As I hung up the phone, I could feel the anger swelling up inside of me. I had tried my best to be calm and nice. I had even practiced what I was going to say and the tone of my voice. I was trying to reach out. And I really didn’t want to. But this was my marriage. He was my husband. And I knew that in moments like this, I had to make the effort to connect.
I asked “is there something wrong?” He had left for work and barely said goodbye.
And now, I could tell that he was not ready to talk about whatever was bothering him. The conversation was going nowhere. I felt rejected after reaching out, and my feelings were hurt.
In that space, a million negative thoughts tried to creep into my mind.
This is ridiculous.
He’s such a jerk.
Why do I always have to be the one trying?
This is too hard.
Nothing I do matters.
My mind was flooded with all the things he was doing wrong.
Maybe you’ve been there too. I know many of my clients have similar marriage problems. And we all know that it takes hard work to create and maintain a strong marriage. When we have disagreements, and feel hurt and rejected, the best way to open up your heart to your husband again is to recreate the story going on in your mind. Waiting for him to say the right thing at the right time is not always going to happen.
In this instance, I could have chosen to stay mad all day, and when he returned home, I could have given him the silent treatment. We’d spend the evening trying to ignore each other, saying as few words as possible, avoiding eye contact and any interaction. Or, I could choose to stop blaming him, look at myself, and create an experience that would give me peace and reduce my own stress and anxiety.
So I learned to say the right things myself. And I practiced these things over and over again. These are the same strategies I use with my clients going through similar issues. And if you can commit to trying them out, I’m sure you’ll see some important changes in how you view your marriage and your husband during some those difficult times. Here are 5 things to do when marriage problems arise and things get really tough:
1. Give him the benefit of the doubt.
So much of what causes us upset has to do with the story we tell ourselves. When you are experiencing a rough patch in your marriage, it seems like your husband is your enemy. That he spends his time thinking of ways to get on your nerves, make you upset, and disregard what you need. What may really be a simple oversight on his part is now a flat out attack on you. I remember early in my own relationship where if my husband was running late from work, I could easily find a reason to cut him some slack, and it was easy to believe that it wasn’t his fault. But in the times when things are not so great, his lateness can easily become a total inconsideration for how I could use his help here at home, if I let it. I could decide that it’s easier to point the finger at his wrong-doing rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt.
What I have found though, is that is takes about the same amount of time to find fault as it does to create compassion. As women, it’s natural for us to want to make sense of everything we experience, and we are already searching for some explanation to hold on to. So, you can choose to come up with reasons that lead you to believe that he just doesn’t care, or you can come up with reasons that give your husband grace and mercy. I know I would want the latter for myself. So give him the benefit of the doubt, believe he does want to be helpful, and loving and kind. Find evidence that you are on the same team and that he really is your best friend, there for you when you need him, and has your best interests at heart. And by giving him the benefit of the doubt, you always win.
2. Make a list of some of his good qualities.
No matter how quickly we can think of all the negatives – the ways he is not meeting our expectations, the things we want to change, the habits he has that annoy us to no end, our husbands still have many redeemable qualities, if we choose to remember them. You can start with anything that’s positive – maybe he takes out the trash or keeps the cars serviced, maybe he’s a good father, a good son, maybe he remembers birthdays and anniversaries, works hard to support the family, or perhaps he just comes home every night.
Whatever positive qualities you can think of will move you in the right direction, even if it’s the smallest little thing that you have to dig really deep to find. It’s worth the effort – not for him, but for you. In the moments where your heart is racing, the tears are welling up, and you are in total despair, thinking about what’s still good about your spouse will literally cause a change in your bodily response. I know sometimes it seems like the negatives outweigh the positives, but that’s usually not the case. If your ultimate desire is to have a happy and strong marriage, then being able to focus on what’s working and what’s great about your spouse is an essential skill to practice. For every negative thing you think, challenge yourself to come up with three positives that you know to be true.
3. Ask yourself an empowering question.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but it’s definitely worth repeating. So often we are quick to ask ourselves disempowering questions. You know, the one’s like, “Why does he have to be like that?” “Why can’t he just do the right thing?” “Why am I always the bad guy?” “Why does everything have to be so hard?” When we ask these kinds of negative questions, we get negative answers like – “because he’s so selfish, because he only thinks about himself, because he blames you for everything, because this is a bad marriage.” And when you get these answers, it’s really easy to continue on a downward spiral that’s hard to dig yourself out of.
Instead, ask yourself an empowering question – one that opens the door to new possibilities, different ways of seeing things, ones that are more productive and that move you forward in a positive direction. Here are some examples, “What is something about him that I fell in love with that’s still true?” “What’s a time in the past that I really felt cared for?” “When did he forgive me for something I did wrong?” “How can I become a better person out of this experience?” I love empowering questions so much that I created a FREE resource to share some of my favorites. It’s called 21 Days of Empowering Questions. I invite you to commit to asking yourself one of these questions every day over the next 21 days. You’ll see yourself, your husband and marriage in a whole new way. Click here to get your copy ==> 21 Days of Empowering Questions
4. Look at what you really want.
Usually behind any anger and frustration is a deeper desire to be loved, heard and accepted. We get upset when we feel ignored, or disregarded or unimportant. We feel hurt when our effort is not returned, when our feelings are not acknowledged, when we don’t feel appreciated. But I’ll ask, how do you communicate this to your spouse? I see that many of us withdraw, or yell and argue, or become completely indifferent. We act in ways that push our husband farther away rather than drawing him in. If we could look honestly at what we really want – to be paid attention to, to be let in, to offer and receive support – then we could express ourselves in ways that bring us closer rather than pull us apart.
The unfortunate thing is that we have been conditioned to first protect ourselves. If he doesn’t do it, then we have to do it ourselves which leads us not to depend on him. If he disappoints us, we learn to not have any expectations and believe he’ll never do anything for us. If he’s not demonstrating love, we take our love away and withhold any efforts to be caring and kind. I believe we receive what we give. If you want more love, be more loving. If you want him to really hear you, first listen to him. If you want appreciation, show gratitude again and again. So, right now, think about what you want most in your marriage. Is it love, respect, kindness, appreciation, support, help? Whatever it is, get very clear. And then find ways every day to be that quality, go out of your way to demonstrate that quality to your husband. And go the extra mile. Remember, you get what you give. If your own actions are not aligned with what you value and want out of your relationship, how will it ever become a reality?
5. Reach out, even when you don’t want to.
“But why should I?” you may be asking. I know it feels like you are the one making all the effort. But you are reading this post because you want to get through the tough times in your marriage. And it’s likely that what you’ve been doing (not communicating, withdrawing, doing your own thing) have not really helped any situation get better. It creates more disconnection, and leaves your marriage vulnerable for more problems. I know that when you are angry and are feeling hurt, the last thing you want to do is put yourself out there. You don’t feel safe, you are worried about being rejected, or that he’ll still blame you. All of that is rooted in fear.
Fear can immobilize us.
Fear can destroy us.
Fear causes us to focus on what’s best for me instead of what’s best for us.
I love the bible verse that states, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18. If you are afraid of being rejected, scared of being vulnerable, and worried that your efforts won’t make a difference, it’s likely that you are not doing much to make your situation better. And as a result, you remain in conflict, you continue to be distant, and you stay in some form of pain.
But ask yourself, is the possibility of a different reality worth being courageous – taking a step toward him, despite the fear? Have you ever considered in those moments where neither of you are being very loving toward each other, that both of you want the same thing?
If you take the first step in reaching out, there is the possibility that it will be reciprocated. It’s possible that the tension will subside. It’s possible that in your one step, he will then take two.
It’s important to realize that what’s happening in our marriages is the result of 1,000 little decisions every day. And a tiny decision to remain upset, or to withdraw made over and over again has huge consequences. At the same time, the smallest effort to move closer again and again can leave you with huge rewards.
On that day, I made the decision to send a simple text as my husband’s work day was coming to an end. It said:
“Hope you had a good day at work.”
And that was it. It was a simple and true statement. I did hope he had a good day at work.
That small gesture opened the door to compassion, understanding and an important conversation. What small gesture will you commit to making during a tough time in your marriage?
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Did this topic really strike a chord with you?
Did you feel like I was speaking directly to you and your marriage problems?
Do you find yourself wanting to go back to the time where your marriage was really happy?
Do you want to reconnect with your husband and capture the love you once had? Are you longing to feel cared for, appreciated and understood?
I’ve know how exhausting and stressful that place can be. I also know that there are specific things you can do right now to turn things around.
The truth is, we all have a decision to make when things get tough in our relationships.
If you are tired of watching your marriage unravel right before your eyes and want to learn how to change things – how to communicate effectively, how to break the bad habits of interacting with each other, let me show you how.
You deserve to be happy.
I am offering a free Marriage Makeover Coaching Session for the first 25 women who sign up and are serious about creating a happier more loving marriage. This session is designed just for you. Your husband does not have to participate. I’ll learn about what’s happening and offer my best advice for how you can move forward toward the marriage you want to have. To schedule your complimentary session, click the link below and select the time that works best for you.
Feel free to share as much information as you feel is helpful, the more I know about what you would like to change, the more we can accomplish together. I look forward to talking with you soon.
Yours in relating well,