Few, if any, spouses are together constantly. So you’re undoubtedly apart from your spouse sometimes, too. Ask yourself when you’re coming home at the end of the work day, or after some other period of routine separation: Am I honestly looking forward to being with my partner? Or am I not? Why?
The first goal is to find out how you feel — not just on one particular day, but as a general trend. If, most of the time, you honestly don’t want to be with your spouse, then you had better start thinking about why. Make sure the reasons make sense. If they don’t make sense, then work to correct your own thinking and expectations. Do your part to make the relationship more satisfying, for both of you.
If they are good reasons, then develop a plan of action to do something about your unhappy marriage. Assuming the circumstances are not severe (as, say, in the case of verbal or physical abuse, or deception), the first logical step will be to simply talk with your spouse about the problem you see. Naming problems aloud can be powerful psychologically, and sometimes — surprisingly — your spouse will be in agreement with you.
A woman, for example, notices upon introspecting that she does not look forward to being with her spouse at the end of the workday. Instead of becoming alarmed and trying to push away or evade the emotion, she asks herself: Why do I feel this way? What’s not happening that I want to be happening?
After giving it some thought, she realizes that she wishes her husband were more spontaneous and flexible. They’re falling into a rut, doing the same old activities day after day.
She’s bored, but not just with him. She’s also bored with herself, and with life in general.
She decides to speak with him about it. He says that because of the stressful nature of his job, he likes to unwind with a set routine when he gets home. She thinks about it, and says she can understand his point-of-view. She would probably feel the same way if she had his job.
Yet, she goes on to say, her own job is rather routine and dull. She resolves to take some steps to find a more interesting one. But she also asks if he’s willing, one or two nights a week, or on the weekend, to do something unusual or different which they might select together: going on a picnic, seeing an unusual play or movie, going to an art exhibit, or simply taking a walk. She suggests he might find it surprisingly enjoyable himself. If he doesn’t like it after, say, a three-week trial period, he can drop the activities.
Because she’s understanding and does not try to impose her wish on him, he says he’s willing to try her suggestion. She also says that sometimes she can do something on her own or with a friend, and not always depend on him.
Consider another example. A man finds that he’s unhappy going home to his wife in the evening because she’s so consistently negative. She’s negative about him, about the world in general, and probably about herself too, deep down. His first impulse, upon realizing how he feels, is to just avoid her when she’s in a negative mindset.
But then, because he is rational and enjoys good self-esteem, he says to himself: “No. I deserve better than this. She deserves better too, but I don’t know if she loves herself and her life enough to see it. But I do respect myself enough to care about the company I keep. This especially includes my wife. I vowed to stay with her through sickness and health. Sickness could include a kind of mental sickness, which her negativity could be. But what I won’t excuse is her refusal to do anything about it.”
The man resolves to speak to his wife in a reasonable way about his concern. He does so. As he fears, she becomes defensive, hostile, and even more negative. In fact, she won’t even talk to him for a week — which is something of a relief, in a way.
During his wife’s “silent treatment,” he resolves to spend more time with positive friends and to meet new people. He won’t even rule out dating a woman if he met someone special, though he won’t lie to his existing wife about it. He realizes divorce, on the current course, is inevitable, and that he should start looking into the details of divorce on his own. But he’s not going to sacrifice his happiness for a woman who seems determined to sacrifice even her own. No marriage vows impose such an obligation — nor should they.
The moral here? If you find that you consistently don’t enjoy being with your spouse or partner, you should pay attention to this feeling and ask yourself why you’re having it.
Then take the proper course of action. Sometimes it will lead to an improved relationship; and sometimes it will lead to the end of your relationship. But your life is too important and too valuable to sacrifice personal happiness. You help nobody by living a life where happiness is given up, except perhaps to “help” your troubled spouse feel more comfortable in her own misery.
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