If you’re dating, in a long-term relationship, or engaged, you may be wondering what marriage is like. You probably have friends with good marriages and those who have so-so marriages. Perhaps you’ve got questions, but you don’t know exactly how to ask. Questions like: Is it hard? Is it worth it? Why get married? 

Well, there’s a lot to learn! Here are 10 things you need to know about marriage that will give you some food for thought.

1. Marriage is hard work (but it’s the best kind of hard).

Marriage requires intentional time and attention from both partners. You’ll have times that seem easy and effortless. Other times require more energy.

2. Marriage takes compromise and respect on both sides.

People often say marriage is a two-way street. I like to think of it as a one-way street where you and your spouse are walking together in the same direction. Finding common ground and respect for each other, especially if you disagree on the path, is vital.

3. Marriage: You + Me = We. 

Marriage is two individuals who know themselves (likes, dislikes, stressors, etc.) and continue to grow. When you grow as individuals and learn more about caring for each other, your marriage thrives. 

4. Marriage requires rearranging your priorities.

Life is busy, and you’re probably juggling all kinds of priorities, including work, family, friends, community service, self-care, etc. After you get married, you may have to rearrange some of those priorities. Friends may be a little lower on your list. There are special considerations if you’re already a parent thinking about getting remarried or married for the first time. Preparing for marriage is a great, FREE course to help you make sure you’re ready!

5. Marriage has seasons.

Marriage changes, like all relationships do. There are ups and downs, highs and lows, smooth and rough times. These seasons are natural and sometimes predictable. It doesn’t necessarily mean something’s wrong with your relationship. Seasons can be times of change and growth instead of trouble, depending on how you handle them. 

6. Marriage has benefits.

Not just that one (wink, wink)! Research shows that married people are healthier, happier, and wealthier. They’re less likely to be depressed. And guess what? Healthy marriages also lead to healthier communities with better schools and lower crime rates.

7. Marriage requires skills.

For a marriage to flourish over time, you’ll need a variety of skills. Communication helps you understand your partner, know when to listen and when to speak. Problem-solving skills help you work together to manage complicated situations. If these tools aren’t your strong points, we’ve got some great resources to help you fill that toolbox! (Check out The Magic of Communication in Marriage, 5 Days to Better Communication in Your Marriage, or do a quick search for communication here.)

8. Be aware of unrealistic expectations.

Many couples enter marriage with unrealistic and/or unspoken expectations on topics like sex, money, and how they’ll spend their alone and together time. Talking with your spouse goes a long way toward minimizing issues that come from unrealistic expectations

9. Marriage is impacted by your family.

No matter where you live, your families affect your marriage, for better or for worse. They raised you and influenced who you are. Some of the things that’ll get on your nerves will probably be habits that started in the homes you grew up in. Remember, this isn’t about blaming anyone, but it’s just so you can be AWARE.

10. Marriage is a daily choice.

After you get married, you get to choose every day to stay married. You get to show your spouse how much you value and love them daily through words and actions. Even if you have a hard day, remembering that you get to start over and choose each other again can give you hope and strength.

I hope this list does not deter you. Marriage is all of these things, but it’s so much more. Marriage is fun. It’s exciting. And it’s an opportunity to grow as a person while you’re part of a couple. More than anything, “Marriage is choosing someone, again and again, to love and to cherish with each new dawn.”

You expect a campfire to burn hot and then turn into ashes. But you didn’t expect the fire to die down in your marriage, did you? Love… sex… connection… You expected them to go through ruts, maybe. Highs and lows? Sure. But nobody expects to wake up one day and realize the intimacy is gone.

And we’re not just talking about sex. Intimacy is way more than sex. It happens when you and your spouse fully know and experience each other—sexually, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

If your intimacy is gone, there are some things you can do to understand why—and find ways to reignite the flames. These questions and “fire starters” may heat things up a bit.

Has your marriage become child-centered? 

Before kids, the backseat was for… you know. (Oh, don’t act like I’m the only one!) But maybe now the backseat is full of car seats. Does your marriage feel like it’s taken a backseat to the kids?

Children can be exhausting. (I know. I’ve got seven of them!) They keep you awake, and they require a lot of energy. It’s hard for parents to be intimate. It can be different, though!

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Schedule kid-free time.
  2. Give kids a bedtime that allows you to be friends and lovers.
  3. Schedule a good babysitter for date nights.
  4. Teach your kids to do some things on their own.
  5. Intentionally put the married back in married parents.

Where’s your focus? 

It may seem logical to you that if intimacy is gone, more sex will help—but it doesn’t work that way. I said this earlier, but it’s worth repeating: Intimacy is about so much more than sex! In fact, there are 6 different types of intimacy in marriage. (If you want to learn what they are and how you can grow them, check out this toolkit.) When intimacy is gone in your marriage, focusing on emotional intimacy is a great place to start rekindling the flame.

Fire Starter Tip: 

Schedule 15-20 minutes daily to learn about each other’s thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, emotions, etc. 

No technology. No kids. And no interruptions. 

This consistency will reignite and deepen your intimacy. If you’re too busy, cutting something out of your schedule to focus on each other will help. (Try these marriage conversation starters.) 

Are you holding back? 

Being vulnerable is hard. I get it. Especially if there’s been hurt, distrust, or betrayal. But hiding parts of yourself from your spouse (or feeling unsafe) can smother the fire of intimacy. Without transparency and vulnerability, the disconnection grows and blocks the airflow.

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Breathe life into your relationship by identifying why you may be holding back.
  2. Discuss why it’s hard to open up. A good marriage counselor can help.

Are you both at your best? 

I feel like I’m a better husband when I’m:

Esther Perel, author and marital intimacy expert, says we can offer our best when we are most connected. Different seasons of marriage—having a new baby, caring for a loved one, or working an intense schedule—call for different responses. Being sensitive to extra stress your spouse may be experiencing can increase intimacy.

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Look at your schedule together and prioritize your marriage. 
  2. Talk about how you can help each other.

What do you expect? 

The early stages of marriage can make you think intimacy is natural. There’s a 2-year honeymoon phase when your body naturally produces chemicals that drive your passion. After that, your body stops producing those chemicals, so it may feel like the natural intimacy is gone. It can hit you unexpectedly. You wonder if you married the right person or if you’re just not in love anymore. More than likely, you’re just moving to a different season of marriage. Perel tells us that our desire for our spouse increases as we see them in their element. It reminds us why we fell in love and increases our curiosity about them. 

Fire Starter Tips:

  1. Don’t look at what you’ve lost; look at who you’re missing. 
  2. Acknowledge and appreciate what your spouse does well. 
  3. Stay curious. 
  4. Do something different.

Intimacy dies when we stop exploring each other (in all the ways) or put up walls. But sometimes, fresh eyes or fresh adventures can get that flame burning high and hot once again. Don’t give up!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

DISCOVER DEEPER INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE

READY TO HAVE AMAZING, MIND-BLOWING SEX?

A better sex life is totally possible.

Your marriage goes through ups and downs, highs and lows, crazy passion and mundane routine-filled days. But sometimes you can get stuck in that monotony. Not only does your sex life go out the window, you may find conversations are lacking and that you’re both just generally not connecting with each other.

Discover Deeper Intimacy in Your Marriage offers simple, practical strategies to help you reignite the passion and connection with your spouse in 5 intimacy-building modules.

You probably never thought it would get to this. You always seemed to like the same shows, movies, and activities, and you spent all your free time together. Now, it feels like you NEVER do anything together, or that your husband never WANTS to do anything with you. If you’re honest, it seems like all they do is, well, NOTHING. 

You’ve got questions:

When did this happen?

How did I not notice the changes?

How am I married to such a BORING person?

Maybe these thoughts are new. Or perhaps they’ve been nagging you for a while. Either way, it’s gonna be important to get to the core of the problem. 

You can work through this together! Here’s what I suggest:

Share your feelings.

If you’ve thought about how things have changed in your relationship, tell your spouse what you’re feeling. Maybe you’ve learned that your “Love Language” is quality time. If so, let him know you miss spending time with him and give him the chance to meet your needs. Demanding time with those you love can negatively impact your relationship. 

Maybe one or both of you has changed. You may have a need/desire for more in your life. But if you tell him what you need, he may surprise you. And vice versa! Newsflash: your hubby can’t read your mind. You have to tell him!

Seek to understand what’s going on with your man.

Whether you’re still in the honeymoon phase or you’ve been married for some time, find out what’s happening in your husband’s world. He may be processing stress you don’t know about. Whether it’s financial stress, job, or family issues, understanding how things impact his heart and mind goes a long way. He may be trying to protect you, which may affect his willingness to be spontaneous and fancy-free.

Find common interests.

Spouses will sometimes “claim” to like an activity because it matters to the other spouse. They can go along for a while, but it can’t last forever. Discovering that your spouse participated in an activity that didn’t truly interest them because it mattered to you is swoon-worthy, for sure. Your task now is to find things you can both enjoy together. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but finding new common interests together can be a relationship booster! 

Spend time alone so you can enjoy time together.

Many couples think they need to do everything together. On the contrary! Believe it or not, your relationship benefits when you grow as individuals, too! Everyone needs to have personal space and activities that feed them as individuals. It doesn’t necessarily mean something’s wrong if you don’t do everything together. 

If you’re resistant to your spouse having some alone time, you may want to ask, “Why am I afraid that they want to spend time alone? What makes me uneasy about that?” Having space to do things they enjoy alone may increase their desire to do something with you. 

Here’s an example: I enjoy shopping for a bargain. When my husband encourages me to go find some deals, I’m much more inclined to watch his favorite movie with him. 

Be willing to shake it up a bit.

Marriage is a two-way street. Maybe you like to go, go, go. Your spouse may tend to chill, chill, chill. Neither is good or bad, right or wrong; the key is respecting the differences. There may be times when it’s good to run at full speed (like holidays), but once you’re done, be willing to have some chill-out time. You may have to fight your internal voice saying, “There is so much to do,” or, “This is a waste of time.” Sometimes learning to just Be (spend quiet, quality time with your spouse) rather than Do (Go, Go, Go) builds the connection between you. What can it hurt for YOU to try something new and different? The result may shock you.

Whether you see your husband as boring or not is all about YOUR PERSPECTIVE. You get to choose how you look at him. Being open to a little self-care for yourself AND your spouse can only enhance your marriage relationship. You can continue to grow, learn, and love each other better when you look for excitement in the right places. 

So your husband watches porn, and you’re wondering how you should feel about it. Perhaps you’re frustrated and wondering if you have a reason to be upset. Or maybe it doesn’t bother you, and that’s what bothers you. It’s probably hard to know just what to feel or think or do with this. 

Pornography can be a complicated issue in marriage. And the truth is, you could be dealing with a whole host of other emotions and thoughts about it. 

First of all, it’s okay to feel these things

I can’t tell you how you should feel (nor should I, nor should anyone). 

But here’s what I can do: I can share what we know about how pornography can affect a marriage. Because I imagine that’s the one concern you probably have above all else. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what some research tells us: 

  • Married couples who use porn are more likely to divorce than those who do not use it. 
  • Watching porn can create unrealistic pictures in people’s minds about how sexual relationships are supposed to function. This can affect relationships negatively. It can decrease the viewer’s perceptions of real-life intimacy because they compare marital sex with what’s on the screen (i.e., porn stars). 
  • Viewing porn can lead to sex becoming more about one’s own physical pleasure and less about the emotional aspect of sex in marriage. 
  • Pornography can create a vicious downward cycle; if something isn’t going well in the marriage, a person might turn to porn. But then, turning to porn can make marital problems even worse
  • Pornography consumption is linked to decreased intimacy, less satisfaction in marriage, and infidelity. Not to mention an increased appetite for porn that depicts abusive, illegal, or unsafe practices and a higher rate of addictive behavior. (Just to be clear, the research gives strong evidence that porn is, indeed, addictive. Keep reading for more on this.)
  • According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, over half of divorce cases involved “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.” 
  • Viewing pornographic material increases the risk of developing sexually deviant tendencies, committing sexual offenses, and accepting rape myths. 
  • Evidence shows that pornography affects the brain, much like a chemical addiction. It releases endorphins that cause an increased need for more arousing and shocking material. Over time, to get the same feeling or “high,” you have to get a heavier dose. Some studies indicate the chemicals released in the brain from watching porn are two-hundred times more potent than morphine and at least as addictive as cocaine. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
  • Watching porn also causes mirror neurons to fire in the brain, causing the viewer not merely to respond to the image on the screen but to put themselves in the main character’s place. 

Unfortunately, these are just a few of the negative insights researchers found. 

The bottom line is that pornography is easy to access and can cause severe marriage rifts. Yes, you’ll find many misconceptions out there from mainstream media about how porn isn’t all that bad. Some counselors even encourage couples to use porn in their relationships for various reasons. 

I personally prefer to err on the side of good solid research, which suggests that, overall, couples should avoid porn for the sake of marital health. I encourage you and your husband to let the science and research about porn inform your feelings, reactions, and conversations about porn in your marriage. 

If you’d like to learn more about this issue or want more information to help you move forward together, these blogs can help you out:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages

If you don't reach your goals, it doesn't mean your relationship is a failure!

It’s mid-January; how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

According to data collected in 2018 by the fitness app Strava, January 17 is when many start to give up on their resolutions. By early to mid-February, many have thrown in the towel. What does this mean for you and for your relationship? 

If you set goals as a couple, maybe to rein in finances or invest in your marriage, failure can seem detrimental, especially if one spouse is ready to give up. At the same time, the other wants to push forward. When both partners aren’t on the same page regarding goals for their relationship, resentment can develop. One person throwing the towel in may lead the other to think they don’t care or are lazy. So what do you do?

A failed goal doesn’t mean that your relationship is a failure. 

Remember, your relationship’s health is most important. It may be time to press pause on the pursuit of the goal and reevaluate. Have a conversation about why one or both of you gave up. Communication is a necessity! Don’t wait. Talk. 

Ask yourselves if the goal is a mutual interest or if one spouse wants this and the other went along trying to support it. My wife and I have the goal to be a healthier couple physically. We want to be healthier for our kids, but we don’t go about it the same way. I may have my eyes set on running a marathon. She may be pursuing healthier eating habits and consistent cardio workouts. We support each other and are each other’s #1 cheerleader. We’re committed to helping each other reach our goals. 

Don’t worry; January 1 doesn’t hold any magical power when it comes to goal setting. 

You can adjust and start fresh on whatever day you choose. (YES!)

Here are some questions to ask if you feel like your relationship goals aren’t going as well as you hoped this year:

  • Who do you want to be as a couple? As a spouse?
  • What is the motivation for the goals?
  • Do you have a plan?
  • Are the goals realistic and achievable?

Knowing the why and how is essential to accomplishing the goal. Identify who you are as a couple and your identity, then work the plans out from there. Maybe as a couple, you want to influence others to prioritize their relationship by having consistent date nights. That’s your goal. How do you work it out? Schedule your date nights and make them a priority on your calendar. Other people will recognize this, and you may influence another couple to do the same. 

Realizing a goal is about who you want to be as a person; achieving it is a journey, not a pass/fail. 

You can and will make adjustments as you go. Adjusting is not a sign of failure but a sign of growth. Commit to working together and supporting one another.

Don’t let failed resolutions affect your marriage. Step back, have a conversation, reset your goals, and plan for success. 

Other blogs you may want to check out on this topic:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

I’m Trying to Save My Marriage, but My Spouse Isn’t

You can still make a difference in your marriage.

Each new year, people examine things they want to change or improve. Some people want to work on their marriage. That’s a worthy goal, but what if you’re one of those people who’s trying to save their marriage, and you feel like your spouse isn’t trying? That can be painful, for sure.

Marriage is two people who choose daily to walk together through life. It’s probably a good idea to find out whether you’re having a marriage problem or if you or your spouse are having individual issues that are impacting your marriage. A good marriage counselor can help with that. In either case, these steps can help you move forward. 

Take time for self-reflection.

Inventory your thoughts, feelings, frustrations, challenges, areas for growth, etc.

Ask questions like:

  • Why do I feel like I’m the only one trying?
  • What’s making me feel dissatisfied?
  • How do I want my marriage to be? 
  • Am I trying to change my spouse or trying to add value to my marriage?
  • What can I do differently?
  • How am I putting forth my best effort?

Walk a Mile in Your Spouse’s Shoes (Empathy).

Now that you’ve examined things from your perspective, put on your spouse’s shoes. Look at your marriage from their perspective. Ask them what they’re thinking and feeling. When you’re open and curious, they may be willing to share. Maybe they don’t want to add anything to your plate. Seeing through your spouse’s eyes may show you that they’re trying more than you realize.

Change the Dance (It Only Takes One).

Even though “It takes two to tango,” you can change the dance! It may be challenging, and you may be tired of taking the first step, but don’t give up! Marriage therapists say that if just one person is working to improve the marriage, there’s hope. There are many great resources out there to help. And who knows? Before you know it, you may not be dancing by yourself at all.  

Connect More by Criticizing Less.

Sometimes we think we’re “helping” when we point out our spouse’s mistakes or missteps. Sure, we have good intentions, but our spouse hears criticism. They may think who they are (or their effort) isn’t good enough, so they just give up. Criticism hinders connecting. I want to challenge you to say 5 positive things for every negative thing you say. Experts say this makes a massive difference in your relationship. (Check out 30 Days of Gratitude and Love here.)

Be The Change You Want To See.

The key to being the change is your attitude/perspective. Changing may require that you do things without expecting anything in return. Or just listen. Or just put one foot in front of the other. What kind of change do you want to see? Are you connecting in a meaningful way with your spouse and creating space for things your spouse enjoys?

Mark Gungor, marriage speaker, says we should try to “outdo the dog.” Think about how your dog greets you when you come home. Your fur baby shows you they’re excited to see you and spend time with you. What if you tried this with your spouse? What could it hurt? 

Nobody wants their marriage to go through changes and hard times, but it’s normal. If you’re in a challenging stage, your willingness to keep trying to save your marriage may help pave the way for your spouse to try, too. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

We’re Living With Our In-Laws and It’s Destroying Our Marriage

Here are a few reasons you might feel this way—and what you can do about it.

Maybe when you started living with your in-laws, you didn’t think it would be all that bad. After all, they raised your spouse. But now, living with them feels like it’s destroying your marriage. 

Criticism. Judgment. Parenting critiques. Lack of boundaries. Arguments. Living with them seems to be impacting your marriage—not for better, but for worse. How’d this happen? Can’t we all just get along? 

I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, lived to tell about it. (Full disclosure: We lived with MY family, so I know what it’s like from my wife’s perspective, too!) 

Maybe finances, illness, or some other reason led to your living situation. Regardless, it’s hard to foresee all that can arise when you and your in-laws live under the same roof. But why is it so hard and what can you do about it? 

Maybe you feel like living with your in-laws is destroying your marriage because…

1. You haven’t been clear about your expectations.

We’ve all done it. You decide to do something. Then you begin to imagine how it should go—how you’ll deal with food and groceries, parenting and finances. You may even think about how much you and your in-laws will help each other. But you never talked it out with your spouse or the in-laws. And it isn’t going how you expected. You’re disappointed, frustrated, and full of resentment.

Well, guess what? You have expectations. Your spouse has expectations. So do your in-laws.

ACTION STEP: Rewind the tape. Lay out your expectations. HEAR their expectations. 

You may want the same things but have totally different ways of getting there. Whether your living arrangement is temporary or not, a plan will help to keep you from being discontented about your situation.

2. You haven’t talked about boundaries, OR your boundaries aren’t being respected.

And that can be a massive part of what’s going on in your marriage. In-laws can totally obliterate bedtime schedules, eating habits, structure, and order in the home. Or maybe they want too much input into your parenting decisions and how you do your marriage. When you don’t feel like someone respects your boundaries or keeps finding fault with you, it can feel like a fire is burning inside.

ACTION STEP: Set boundaries as a couple and stick to them. Household upkeep, eating habits, and house guests (among other things) are all potential points of irritation. Having clear boundaries sets a culture of respect for everyone in the house.

3. You need privacy.

All married couples need time alone to talk and… you know. Sometimes it’s hard to see that the lack of it is keeping you from connecting. Make sure your spouse knows you need some private time together and talk about ways to make that happen. (A hotel room may be in order…)

ACTION STEP: Talk to the in-laws about it, but keep this in mind: it’s best for the spouse to talk to their parents about these issues. It just is. Trust me.

Most people can think of a time where they needed some alone time. Appeal to their own need to discuss how to get yours as a couple. 

4. You’re dealing with a case of role confusion.

Are your in-laws taking their parenting roles too far with your spouse or your kids? Are your kids confused about who’s in charge? Has your mate become a part-time child? It’s crazy how easy it is for an adult to change when they’re around their parents. There may be some things that bothered you before that are magnified now. This is an excellent opportunity for growth.

ACTION STEP: Lovingly address the issue with your spouse. Give specific examples where you see actions or decisions that have impacted your marriage. Get some help from a marriage counselor if you need it.

It’s tough when you feel like living with your in-laws is destroying your marriage, but remember, YOU ARE A TEAM. Turn toward your marriage. Not every issue will be solved. Some tension will just need to be managed. 

  • Teams stick together and grow through adversity. 
  • Teams see a challenge and plan for the best way to overcome the obstacles. (Just remember the obstacles aren’t necessarily the in-laws. Hopefully, they aren’t the opponents.) 

Making sure you and your spouse are on one page about how you’re doing marriage and family is vital. The security of being on one page will help you talk through your problems with the in-laws. And even if you don’t see eye-to-eye, your marriage will grow stronger because you’re together.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How to Overcome Built-Up Resentment in Marriage

Even though it may be hard or even painful, a healthier relationship is worth the effort.

If you knew a killer was in your house, you’d fight to protect your family, right? Well, built-up resentment can be a silent killer in marriage that’s hard (but not impossible) to overcome. 

Festering resentment affects what you think of your spouse and how much you trust them. It can erode emotional intimacy and connectedness. It can also lead to contempt, which is something you definitely don’t want in your marriage.

It’s painful when your spouse hurts, disappoints, or makes you angry over and over again. Those unresolved issues, repeated disappointments, and unmet expectations can leave you feeling stuck in a nasty rhythm. You may even be wondering if you can ever move past the resentment you feel. Or even like your spouse again. 

You’re not alone or crazy. And resentment is something EVERYONE struggles with.

Overcoming built-up resentment in marriage isn’t easy. These tips can help as you try to overcome built-up resentment toward your spouse.

Choose to let some things go.

Allowing your hurt or anger to determine what you think about your spouse is not helpful. Try to understand yourself and your triggers. Letting go of resentment is a win for your marriage.

Empathize and recognize.

We all want to know our feelings matter. When we’re struggling with resentment, we sometimes make short or snappy responses and snarky comments or give our spouse the silent treatment. And that resentment continues to build when we don’t feel heard. My wife and I are still growing in this area. We’ve been working on not having to be right all the time, understanding each other’s emotions, and trying to empathize with tough choices. Understanding each other has been a game-changer for us.

Try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Recognize that they may have good intentions. (Read more about empathy here, here, and here.)

Forgive and Apologize.

Easier said than done, right? This can be a hard one. But if you don’t forgive and let go of grudges you’ve been holding, you’ll continue to feel disconnected. You may be trying to punish your spouse by holding on to resentment, but forgiveness allows you both to heal and grow.

Retrain your brain.

Resentment often makes little things seem worse than they really are, and it can rewire your brain to think negatively toward your spouse. That may leave you in a resentment rut. Get out of that rut by focusing on the positive without ignoring what’s bothering you! Show your spouse you appreciate them, and acknowledge how they make you and your marriage better.

Be honest with yourself.

Is it really about your spouse, or is there something personal you may need to work through? Our past experiences and our self-protective instincts affect the way we see things. You may think your spouse is being inconsiderate or selfish, but it’s possible you made an assumption or tried to read their mind (been there; doesn’t work). You (or both of you) may have a blind spot or two. 5 Days to Better Communication may help you see a little more clearly. 

Dig deeper by asking: Why am I holding on to this anger? Does this remind me of something else? Am I afraid of something?

Be honest with your spouse.

Find a good time to talk about your feelings. Use as many “I” statements as possible and try to stay away from phrases like “You never” or “You always.” Tell them how specific actions and comments make you feel without accusing your spouse of being all those nasty things you’ve probably conjured up in your mind. (That kind of conversation goes nowhere, fast!) It’ll be much easier to talk to each other if you’re not focusing on the negative.

Get the support your marriage needs.

Sometimes you’re gonna need a little help to work things out. If there’s an unwelcome visitor in your home and you can’t handle it yourself, you’ll call for backup. A qualified counselor can help you deal with deep-seated resentment or move past that thing you can’t let go of. There’s no shame in seeking help when you need it. And your marriage may depend on it. 

Resentment can totally kill your marriage if you don’t deal with it, so working through resentment is worth the effort. Together, you can overcome the obstacles, attack the issues instead of each other, and move forward in your marriage.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***