Marriage is never easy, but thousands of successful marriages over the years show that it’s not impossible to make it work, either. Chances are, you know an older couple who has made it through thick and thin, but don’t try to fool yourself into think theirs has never been an unhappy marriage. When it comes to this lifelong commitment, there are as many ups as there are downs, and those ups might be as bad as the good times are wonderful.
If you’ve come here looking for help with your unhappy marriage or you’re perhaps even wondering about divorce, we’ve got plenty of advice. There are two things you must absolutely remember. First, problems won’t go away simply if you ignore them. If you don’t make the time and exert the effort to not only fix problems in your marriage but to proactively look for issues and prevent them from becoming bigger, you may be facing a divorce or, even worse, cheating.
Secondly, just because you’ve been working at your marriage in the way that seems natural or was exemplified to you by your parents doesn’t mean it’s the right way. If you’re not communicating in a way that works for your man or the two of you don’t find ways to compromise about issues such as finances, keeping up the home, taking care of the kids and dealing with in-laws, your unhappy marriage isn’t going to work out happily ever after.
Below, you’ll find some of the most common problems that cause people to be unhappy in their marriages, along with advice to fix those issues!
THESE PROBLEMS LEAD TO AN UNHAPPY MARRIAGE
1. YOU DON’T SPEND ENOUGH TIME TOGETHER
Perhaps you both have full-time jobs, there’s kids and a house to take care of. The pets need shots, PTO meetings must be attended, and your outside family demands attention. At the end of the time, you might not spend much time with your husband at all, and you may be busy enough that you don’t even notice it!
However, not spending enough time eventually leads to growing apart. If you don’t want to wake up one day and realize your spouse is a stranger, you’ve got to be proactive. Rather than letting the worst happen, make a mental note of how much quality time you’re spending together — and we don’t just mean making the kids’ lunches or talking at each other as you eat dinner and tune in to the TV!
Try this: schedule a date night weekly, if you can. Have someone watch the kids if you need to, and head to your favorite restaurant, check out what’s playing at the movies or enjoy a concert. It’s better if you can talk to one another to check in, but doing something fun that doesn’t require a lot of thinking can be beneficial, too.
And while it doesn’t replace dating your spouse, making time to talk to each other, even if it seems insignificant, helps keep you connected over the day. While grocery shopping or folding the laundry might seem like it’s not contributing to your relationship, those little moments add up big time in the long run!
2. YOU TAKE EACH OTHER FOR GRANTED
Yes, you swore that you’d be together ’til death do you part, but that doesn’t mean you should be complacent in the meantime. Take time to express your gratitude for your husband. Perhaps he works hard outside of the house, always takes the time to let you kvetch about your sister or he’s great as making delicious dinners. Letting him know how much you appreciate him will encourage him to continue doing those things as well as expressing his appreciation for you.
While it’s always good to express your gratitude verbally. you may also be able to do the same by speaking your partner’s love languages. The 5 Love Languages are a system and a book by author Gary Chapman, who suggests that every person has their own love language. The five total languages — words of affirmation, gifts, service, physical touch and quality time — apply to each person differently, and you’ll have an easier time making your man feel loved if you recognize and fulfill his love language, even if it’s different from yours. Even if you don’t do this explicitly, the different love languages play out in this article!
3. LACK OF SEX CAUSES AN UNHAPPY MARRIAGE
Physical intimacy isn’t just a way to create babies, nor is it all about feeling good. While sex can cause the first and hopefully always results in the latter, it can also bring you and your husband closer together. Now, sex itself won’t solve other problems when you’re not communicating and working through your problems outside of the bedroom. That’s why swinging doesn’t heal a broken relationship. However, even a strong relationship can be damaged when the two of you don’t take the time to connect physically.
Don’t let yourself think that sex must always be spontaneous. To some people, planning isn’t sexy or romantic, but it may be practical. And it’s better to have planned sex than to have none at all because life won’t stop for you to get naughty with your spouse!
4. YOU FIGHT ALL THE TIME
No one wants to be in a relationship where they fight all the time, but it’s important for you to determine why you’re doing it. Perhaps you don’t communicate well enough, so fighting is one way you try to communicate, even if it’s subconscious. You might crave the super-hot makeup sex, or you may not feel like your husband makes enough time for you. If you’re always taking care of home or hearth, it can get old and fast! However, fighting typically doesn’t change anything, and if you’re never getting to the bottom of these problems, you’ll continue to have the same fights.
Not fighting at all isn’t a better option if it means there’s no communication happening at all. The trick is to learn how to argue effectively. It’s not just about having your say or being ready to counter your partner’s thoughts. Consider the speaker-listener technique, which has been recommended by counselors and even the Marital Therapy & Research Clinic at the University of Notre Dame! In this technique, you and your partner take turns having the “floor” or being the speaker.
When you’re the speaker, you get to explain how you feel. Use “I” statements that focus on your thoughts and feelings rather than talking about your partner’s actions and assigning blame. You should try to focus on a specific thing and not ramble on to other ideas while you have the floor.
If you’re the listener, it’s your job to listen carefully to your partner to understand how they feel. It’s not your job to come up with a solution or even a response in defense of yourself. In fact, when your partner finishes speaking, you’ll want to repeat his thoughts in your own words to make sure you understand. If you’re not quite there, he can try to explain again.
Once a point has been made, the person who gets the floor changes, and you can discuss how you feel about issues in your unhappy marriage. Don’t try to solve problems. Just focus on understanding your partner and making yourself understood. After all, this might be more of a problem than your problems actually are. Because this method ensures both people can say their piece, no one has to push for a fight because he’s worried no communication will happen at all!
It also helps for you to take time to discuss problems that might arise within your marriage when you’re not upset about them. This might be difficult, but cooler heads always prevail. Consider setting aside once a week or less, if appropriate, where you and your husband sit down to talk about things. You can talk about he may have seem distant because of a work project or how this week has been stressful due to your own work or obligations to the kids.
However, this time can also serve to enable the both of you to say what you like. Perhaps your hubby picked up dinner on his way home from work and that was really helpful! Either way, setting up a safe space when you know you’ll be heard can help you to function as a team with your man during the rest of the week, and you won’t feel the need to push a fight or run away from one, whatever your typical modus operandi might be.
5. YOU HAVE FINANCIAL STRESS
According to one study, financial disagreements in a marriage, especially early on, are one of the biggest factors that lead to divorce. These disagreements can be because you don’t make enough money or even if just one of you perceives money to be an issue. If one or both of you feel uncomfortable about how much money you make as compared to the other, divorce might be looming on the horizon, too!
Discussing how to pay bills and debt, if any exists, can help lift a weight from your shoulders. Perhaps your husband believes the man should control the money, but you might spend more time purchasing things for your home, children or pets, so you’d be better at managing the checkbook. Have this conversation as early on as possible and repeat the conversation when your finances change as needed. Because society views bread-winning as the man’s job, financial troubles can even lead to an affair.
6. YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT MARRIAGE WRONG
There’s plenty of blame being passed around in unhappy marriages, but sometimes marriages become more difficult than they need to be simply because one or both of you isn’t thinking about it in the right way. For example, you might still act like a single person and not consider your husband or family when it comes to important decisions about school or work. This leaves him to deal with the things you won’t take responsibility for, and resentment can quickly build.
It’s important for the two of you to be on the same page, which is why communication is essential to a healthy relationship. However, communication doesn’t necessarily mean that the two of you will always agree. Sometimes it’s better to agree to disagree. You may have learned to do this with friends and family members about politics and other hot-button issues. The same goes for your marriage. While you should agree on some things, such as how to deal with finances or raise children, not everything requires an agreement.
Furthermore, you don’t need to correct your spouse every time he’s wrong. Even if you know he’s wrong, correcting him might not help you gain any ground. In many instances, the old adage “You can be happy or you can be right” rings true, so kick your ego out of your relationship. This can be done by looking inward at your own flaws and becoming a better partner to your man rather than just pointing out his flaws and shortcomings. It’s also important to forget about score keeping if you don’t want a toxic relationship.
Finally, it’s important to remember that your marriage doesn’t exist solely to make you happy. While you and your partner can — and should! — take turns doing things that makes the other smile, your marriage is simply a pact that you will be there for one another regardless of circumstance. If you’re an unhappy person to start with or not dealing with an issue such as anxiety or depression, marriage will not be able to solve those problems over the long term.
BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR UNHAPPY MARRIAGE
Unhappy marriages can quickly spiral out of control. This might mean that the two of you fight all the time or that infidelity becomes an issue. One you find out that your partner is cheating or vice versa, your marriage is bound to become even more miserable. Working to patch up a marriage that has suffered from cheating is much more difficult than trying to strengthen a marriage that’s under duress but still full of love.
One thing you may consider is seeing a licensed therapist or counselor to help improve the way you communicate and help the two of you to better understand one another. Of course, not all issues can be solved, and this is especially true if your partner doesn’t want to help. Although you may benefit from visiting a therapist by yourself and you may be able to improve your marriage to a certain extent, relationships are a two-way street.
If you’ve been dealing with an unhappy marriage for too long, you might have made up your mind that it’s time for divorce. Your support network may have offered input, especially if you have kids, but it’s ultimately up to you whether you want to end your marriage. Counseling can even help to make separation and divorce go more smoothly, and you may decide to continue seeing a therapist after your divorce has finalized if you find it helpful.
But if you consult the advice about unhappy marriages in this post, you might find that you can step back from the brink of divorce and make your marriage stronger, perhaps stronger than it’s ever been! This advice isn’t a replacement for talking with a professional, whether by yourself or with your spouse by your side. Many unhappy marriages can be improved, but sometimes you just know when divorce is the right option.