Do you sometimes need more love? More respect? More attention? More emotional or physical intimacy from your spouse? Do you wonder how to get the love and respect you need from your spouse or if you can make it work? Maybe you feel as if your spouse doesn’t understand you, know you or maybe even care about you today?
The idea that love relationships are always rewarding and romantic is misleading. There are going to be times when your commitment feels like it’s all you’ve got. You may not like him/her some days and even think maybe it’s over. You may feel overwhelmed, lonely, unloved, disrespected, unappreciated and your spouse may also. If you want your relationship to work, then you have to work at it. There will be times when you need to look inward, see what YOU are doing to sabotage (and what you can do to improve) your relationship.Both of you.
One of the things that couples tend to do first is to point fingers and tell the other one what they are doing wrong. Think about it. How could that be helpful? According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, It is actually destructive. During their studies on relationships, they found that there are 4 things people do that are so destructive that they are called the 4 Horsemen. They are stonewalling, criticism, defensiveness and contempt. During their research, they were able to predict with approximately 98% accuracy, if couples would stay together past 5 years based on these patterns of behavior in communicating with one another.
What if you changed your language? What we say matters. Instead of complaining that your spouse never picks up his/her socks, you could try asking for his/her help , “Hey babe, can you help me out by putting those in the laundry hamper?” Would they react differently?
When you get angry, do you storm off? Leave the room or the house for hours, letting your spouse wonder if you’re coming back? Do you say, “Fine,” when things are clearly not fine so that you don’t have to talk about it? Do you pretend nothing is wrong or just pretend your spouse isn’t there? Stonewalling your partner is not helpful. Sometimes we aren’t ready to talk and that’s okay.
What if you said, I’m really (angry, upset, hurt, frustrated…) right now and need some time. Can we talk in an hour (or 15 minutes or whatever short time you need to re-frame your thoughts and speak to your spouse like the calm rational adult you are)? Then you would be communicating your needs and not letting the other person wonder what they are, if you’re coming back or why you are leaving the situation.
Does one of you criticize the other’s driving? “You’re going the wrong way, ” or “What are you doing? You passed the exit!” You could try holding your tongue and waiting to see if they just chose a different way than you did. Is it the biggest deal if they are going a wrong way for a few minutes? Its possible that maybe you should say something at certain times. What if you smiled and kindly said, “Did you pass the exit or did you find another way?” One treats the other poorly while the other speaks with respect.
Do you bring up your spouses faults or actions from the past when arguing? If you want a fair argument which can be healthy, leave the past where it belongs. The fact that she doesn’t pick up dog poop has nothing to with the fact that you bought a boat without talking to her about the finances. If you crashed the car, don’t start blaming him for buying the boat that you argued about 2 years ago. It is not relevant.
On that note, leave the terms always and never out of your marital vocabulary. Does he/she really never show you respect? Does he/she really never pay attention to you? Does the other one always overdraw the checking account? For the most part, these are exaggerations and either way, put your spouse on the defensive.
Did you know that rolling your eyes at your spouse is contemptuous? How about name calling? Putting your spouse down in minor ways to others? Contempt is a form of hatred. Is that how you want to be treated?
Make eye contact. Listen without thinking of a response. Reflect what you are hearing and ask if that’s what your spouse meant. don’t just hear what is being said, but listen. You may be surprised to find that you weren’t hearing their meaning until you changed the way you listened. You may find that you can at least see their point of view and can appreciate their values and beliefs, even if you don’t agree. Keep private things between the two of you, and guard your spouse’s heart and reputation.
Talking to long term happily married couples, we can learn some things. There are going to be times when you’re down, don’t even want to be around your spouse. We are all human and make mistakes, do the wrong things sometimes. Be committed. Treat them the same when your relationship is rocky as when it’s going strong. The season will pass and your relationship will be better able to weather the storms. Let’s work together to bring up the statistics of couples who choose to stay together and work toward lasting love relationships.