If you’re stuck in an unhappy marriage, you know the signs. The disconnection. The loud fighting or the silence of a cold war. The loneliness. His glaring, intolerable flaws. And the grief as you fear you’ve made a huge mistake.
If only you hadn’t married the wrong person, none of this would be happening, right? Should you get a divorce? After all, it doesn’t make sense to keep slogging through if it’s never going to get better.
What if you don’t want to end up as another statistic or break up your family, but you just can’t stand your husband? Then you’re probably feeling as stuck and hopeless as I did when I was on the brink of divorce.
I know it’s hard to love a man who has checked out and this isn’t your idea of what marriage should be. What if you could fall in love with him again and actually make it work this time?
Here are four ways you can tell if your husband is still “the one” – and what to do if he’s not and you married the wrong person.
1. Ask the Right Questions
The very question “Am I married to the wrong person?” fosters indecision and even contempt.
What if you asked these questions instead?
- Am I the right person for him?
If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking, “Of course I am! He’s the one with the issues.” But stick with me here, as I promise this is going somewhere great.)
- How can I work with his flaws just as he works with mine? (Even if his seem way, way, worse.)
- Am I able to communicate without getting our wires crossed?
- Could I be less judgmental in our disagreements and more self-aware? (Maybe you’ve been a saint, like I figured *I* had been. But a saint stuck in a sucky marriage.)
Write down all the things you’re not satisfied with. Then, take an honest look at your part in each of those things. For example, if he’s a TV-addicted couch potato, have you been nagging him not to be a TV-addicted couch potato? (When a man feels controlled, he’ll dig in his heels even harder.)
Or, if your sex life is on the brink of extinction, have you been acting like his mother? (Nobody wants to have sex with his mother, by the way.)
Now it’s time for a new list. What are some of the things you appreciate about your husband? Does he support your family by working hard or show your children lots of love? What does he do to help make your life better?
As you can see, problems in your relationship don’t always stem from the fact that you married the wrong person. What you’re mistaking for red flags could actually be reasons to stick by his side.
You may feel neglected because of his demanding work schedule, when he’s actually busy providing for you and the kids. Or you may feel criticized even though his frustration is really because he hates seeing you sick or overwhelmed.
2. Get on the Right Track
“Happy wife, happy life” is a cliché for a reason. Miserable people don’t have very good relationships. With everything on your plate, have you lost touch with what made you the happy woman your man fell in love with?
Rediscover things that make you happy, things you can do yourself rather than having to depend on him to do together. What would you do if only you had the time: take a bath, paint, play the ukulele, read a juicy novel, or do Zumba or a puzzle?
I know these ideas sound frivolous when you have much more important things to get done. But if you’re wanting to fix your marriage, the more frivolous, the better! Such self-care has a beautifying effect no spa can beat (though the spa is on my self-care list too!).
When a playful, contented look overtakes the frazzled old shrew face, he will notice. Believe it or not, becoming pleasable will actually make him want to please you even more. Teaching him to treat you well starts with treating yourself well.
If you feel guilty putting yourself first, do it anyway! That just means you’re on the right track.
3. Cut the High Cost of Helping
As bruised as you feel, is it possible he’s been feeling like a punching bag himself?
Maybe you complained about him not helping around the house or not listening to you. Maybe you questioned his choice of friends or criticized his inability to wipe the counters after doing the dishes. Maybe you lectured him about getting the kids riled up right at bedtime or innocently suggested that he ask for a raise (the subtext being “You don’t make enough money”).
I know you were just trying to be helpful and probably didn’t know that “helpful” in wife language means “controlling” in husband language. Relationship expert Laura Doyle explains it in her blog: “My Husband Doesn’t Listen To Me”. It’s so frustrating trying to get your needs met when you don’t have the tools to do so in a way that he can actually hear.
What women consider disrespectful and what men consider disrespectful are just not the same.
I love being right (and used to think I was always right). I was like a dog with a bone when it came to debating the correct way to heat taco shells, much less something important like what my husband needed to do so we could have a decent marriage.
When you win the argument, what do you lose?
I lost loads of intimacy trying to be right all the time and making my husband wrong. Sometimes he would concede to keep the peace but then not do what he’d said, which meant resentment for me and even more intimacy lost for us.
Now I do things a little differently. Like hearing him out. Instead of defending yourself or being “helpful,” there are three little words that will give you communication superpowers: “I hear you.” You’re not agreeing or disagreeing, just showing respect for what he’s saying.
When you don’t need to help or solve anything, you may find it’s actually a relief. You will find him opening up and talking to you a whole lot more!
But if things get heated and you can’t help but let him have it, go back to step #2. It’s much easier to show up as your best self when you’re filled up.
4. Forget Prince Charming
Cinderella has killed more marriages than Divorce Court. If things haven’t panned out for you, it’s natural to fantasize about the guy on the white horse rescuing you and sweeping you off your feet. When you believe that you married the wrong person, it’s tempting to hold out hope for someone better the next time around.
But you know how that story ends in real life, right? Mr. Charming 2.0 ends up being just the same as the last one, and Cinderella is beating her head against the castle wall lamenting to her bird and mouse friends, “Why do I keep attracting the same man?”
The reason she keeps reliving the same story is because she is the same woman. Even with a change of scenery, her circumstances won’t change until she changes.
You already know this because you’ve tried and failed: You cannot change him. The only person you can change is you.
But what if when you changed, it turned out your guy was prince charming all along?
Conventional wisdom says you’re just not compatible when you seem to have nothing in common. This is when you start to think that you married the wrong person. But it’s your differences, their duality, that bind your marriage.
Once the honeymoon phase is over, conventional wisdom also says you’ve fallen out of love, so move on. I say you can revive your newlywed love and keep it alive.
Accepting the man you’re with, exactly as he is, is the key to getting back the man you chose even if sometimes it feels like you married the wrong person.
He made you feel so loved that you married him. Through these trials you’re in, that love is now maturing into something that could actually be more gratifying than a divorce could ever be – if you let it.
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