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What is “Romance” in Marriage?

Here's what you need to know about it.

The moonlit walks, late-night talks, candlelit dinners, flowers… it all spells romance. Or does it? These gestures may be romantic, but are they “romance”? What is “romance” in marriage, anyway?

Romance: What It Is

I’d like to offer you a different way to look at romance. Now, this may be new to you, or you may be like, of course, that’s what romance is. But, I personally haven’t always thought of romance in this way…  Romance is the ongoing mission of making your spouse feel special. Does that mean you are off the hook for flowers, gifts, dinner? Not exactly. 

So, where do I start?

How do I make my spouse feel special? Well, sorry to tell you but there is no one answer. To know what makes them feel special, you have to be a student of your spouse. Now, I don’t mean being a student like in school when you learned just enough to pass a test, then forgot it all the next day. (Please don’t have nightmares of the periodic table or trigonometry.)

Romance in marriage is a lifestyle. It’s not confined to one day in February, but it’s a daily choice to be selfless and put your spouse first. It’s intentional—and it’s not expecting anything in return.

You need to be a lifelong learner of your spouse. What does this mean? Start with these questions:

  • What do they enjoy? 
  • What do they desire? 
  • Their dreams? 
  • Makes them feel loved? 

It’s the little things as well as the big ones. Part of being a lifelong learner is discovery. Now that sounds fun!

We all have a burning desire to be seen, heard, and understood. You play a huge part in fulfilling this desire for your significant other.

So that sounds great and all, but let’s get practical. 

How do I romance my spouse? 

You’ve done your research. Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned. I mean, what good is knowledge if you can’t use it?

Maybe you get up every morning and prepare your spouse’s coffee or warm up their car. Perhaps you recognize they’ve had a rough day, so you prepare dinner or take care of chores around the house, not because they asked you but because you recognize that it will make their day easier. That’s romance!

Fellas, sitting and listening to your spouse, not interrupting or trying to fix everything, is romance. It shows your wife that you value her thoughts and emotions and genuinely care about what she has to say. 

Ladies, sitting with your husband and watching the big game or race, asking genuine questions, and seeking to understand what he is passionate about is romance. (Here’s Why It’s Important to Care About Your Spouse’s Interests.)

Now, those are general examples, but you get the picture. Romance is caring about what they care about.

I love to run. It brings me joy and relieves stress… yes, I said running brings joy, don’t judge me. My wife takes the time to ask me about my run. She listens, she encourages, she pushes me. She stood out in 30-degree weather holding signs of support for my first half-marathon. Now, that’s romance! I feel understood and loved by those actions.

Romance is showing your spouse that you see them and desire to know them more deeply. Become a lifelong learner of your spouse. If you’ve been married for several years and you feel like romance is missing, own it and make it a priority. 

If you need help knowing where to start, check out First Things First’s online experience Romance Your Mate. You’ll learn even more about what romance looks like and how to romance your spouse for a lifetime.

Commit to making romance central to your marriage! Start today.

The Key Trait Found in All Happy Marriages

It's probably not what you think it is.

We search for the secret of a happy marriage like Jack Sparrow searching for the fountain of youth. If he could find the ever-elusive fountain, eternal youth would be his. It can be easy to view a happy marriage through the same lens. It seems elusive and out of reach. But it’s not! 

In fact, there just may be a key, a secret recipe, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. After examining 174 studies (whew, that’s a lot), researchers at the University of Rochester found a key trait of happy marriages. 

That trait is, drumroll, please… psychological flexibility! Wait, what?!?! (That’s me echoing how my 5-year-old would react!)

What is psychological flexibility?

According to the Journal of Behavioral Science, psychological flexibility is “a set of skills that individuals engage when presented with difficult or challenging thoughts, feelings, emotions, or experiences.”

Not to get too brainy, but it’s made up of six things. (Hang with me for a minute.)

  • Acceptance: Being open to all experiences, good or bad, no matter how challenging or difficult. (Maybe trying out that new hobby is a good thing!)
  • Contact with the present moment: Being mindful of day-to-day moments in life. Being present with your spouse in everyday conversations and experiences. Not fixated on the past or focused on the future.
  • Cognitive defusion: Being able to gently experience thoughts and emotions. This means thoughts and feelings don’t overwhelm you. You don’t immediately think the worst or overly stress out.
  • Self as context: The ability to see the bigger picture even in the face of difficult thoughts and feelings. You’re not the center of discussions or decisions. The focus is on the relationship as a whole.
  • Contact with values: Being rooted and grounded in a deeper set of values.
  • Committed action: Resiliency to continue moving forward.

So, what does all that mean? 

To break it down, psychologically flexible people are open to new experiences. Negative thoughts or feelings don’t hold them back. They maintain perspective. They keep moving toward their goals and don’t give up. And they understand their spouse does things differently, but they don’t let it frustrate them.

What does psychological flexibility look like in marriage?

According to the study, marriages with psychologically flexible spouses showed greater sexual satisfaction. Those marriages also showed more emotional support and less negative conflict. Focusing on the components of psychological flexibility improves marriage quality.

Psychological flexibility is within your reach. You have the power to develop it. Here’s how…

Think of it like yoga, except in a mental and emotional kinda way. Practicing yoga helps your body become more flexible, but it takes time. If you plan to start yoga, you’ll look for resources like online videos, a class, or a more experienced yoga practitioner—a yogi (that’s a fun word). You’ll seek someone who has experience and knowledge. You can cultivate psychological flexibility the same way. Find resources and books to help you fine-tune the skills. Do your due diligence and find a reputable source to guide you to where you want to be. (How to Actually Use Relationship Resources Without Getting Overwhelmed can help you out!)

Your marriage is the most important relationship.

Giving it your time, energy, and attention can help you create the happiness you’re looking for.

And if you have kids, you’ll be glad to know that many of these psychological flexibility skills are learned early (at least that’s what the researchers say). Practicing these skills in your marriage can help your kiddos reap the benefits, too.

So now you know, the key trait found in happy marriages is psychological flexibility. You also know what components make up psychological flexibility. Where will you start today to show flexibility in your marriage? You don’t have to tackle it all at once… baby steps are all it takes to move forward.

YOU CAN BE DEEPLY KNOWN AND DEEPLY KNOW YOUR SPOUSE!

Do you feel like your marriage is in the shallows? Listening well, vulnerability, and mutual respect are some of the hardest parts of marriage. But without them, your relationship may never thrive in the deep end. This online course will guide you and your spouse through the 5 simple steps to taking your marriage to the deep end – and help you stay there!

GET THE TOOLS YOU NEED TO TAKE YOUR MARRIAGE DEEPER.

INSIDE EACH MODULE YOU’LL FIND…

  • An Instructional Video hosted by marriage experts – Gena Ellis and Reggie Madison
  • 3-5 Couple Activities you can do on your own time, at your own pace
  • 3-5 Questions to Answer about your marriage together
  • A Downloadable Couple’s Guide filled with tips, insights, and ideas you can use to get to the deep end and stay there
  • PLUS, purchasing this course will give you exclusive access to Gena Ellis and Reggie Madison, so you can ask them your questions and reach out for any help you may need along the way!

What to Do When You Feel Disrespected in Marriage

These tips can help you find out what's really going on.

*This article does not refer to verbally or emotionally abusive behaviors. If you think you are a victim of marital abuse, immediately seek help from a local agency or call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1.800.799.7233.

No one deserves to be disrespected. 

And it feels awful when someone disrespects you, especially the person you love the most. 

The bad news is we know that contempt and criticism increase the likelihood of marriages going sour. A marriage simply cannot thrive in an environment of disrespect. (Communication Killers has more on this.)

But there’s good news. Disrespectful behavior can change. Marriage can get stronger. And you can feel better about your spouse’s behavior.   

And here’s where we start. 

As I wrote in 4 Reasons Why Respect Matters in Marriage, respect is how you show genuine appreciation for another person. Respect is an action, not just a feeling. It’s a declaration of value for someone. We show respect by how we behave toward our mate. 

Before declaring your freedom from disrespect, it’s crucial to stop and reflect on what’s going on. Examining what you’re feeling helps you approach the problem in a healthier way. 

I find it helpful to dissect the disrespect. 

Separate the disrespectful behavior and the feeling it produced. I know you feel disrespected. But for a moment, view disrespect as merely your spouse’s behavior. 

Consider: I was disrespected when my spouse did or said… 

And then dig deeper: Their behavior made me feel… (angry, upset, incompetent, hurt, sad… but don’t use the word “disrespected.”) 

Separating the disrespectful thing they did from what you feel helps in a couple of ways. First, it helps you consider your spouse’s intention. 

People show disrespect for several reasons: 

  • They’re trying to cover insecurities
  • They don’t realize how their behavior affects others.
  • They let their anger get the best of them.
  • They’re just being a jerk on purpose. 

Now, I can work with the first three reasons. They don’t excuse the disrespect, but those obstacles have concrete solutions. And they give insight into my spouse’s intentions. 

The fourth reason, well, is a little more complicated. But I’m gonna make a huge assumption that you didn’t look deep into your spouse’s eyes on your wedding day, knowing they were a big jerk. 

And if you did (I’m not gonna judge), or if something happened and they just turned jerky one day, seeking help from a professional may be the best approach. 

Separating disrespectful behavior and the way it makes you feel also helps you examine yourself more closely. When you’ve been disrespected, it’s essential to call out the emotions. What I mean is, label them. Give your feelings a name: anger, frustration, sadness, incompetency. You can deal better with what you can name.

Finally, separating disrespectful behavior and the resulting feelings helps you consider other important questions: 

  • What specifically was the disrespectful behavior that occurred? 
  • Is the disrespect a one-time thing, or has it been repetitive?
  • Does my spouse know they’re being disrespectful? Do they see how it affects me?
  • Is my spouse being intentionally disrespectful? Is it on purpose?
  • How sensitive am I usually to what others do or say? Does this paint how I see my spouse’s behavior? 
  • Is there something else going on in my own life that could affect how strongly I feel toward my spouse’s disrespectful behavior?

Let’s think about one more thing: It’s entirely possible for a person’s insecurities to cause them to take another’s well-meaning words or actions as a sign of disrespect. We all have to stop and ask ourselves, when we feel disrespected, “Is there something inside causing us to perceive disrespect in something well-intentioned?” 

No one deserves to be disrespected, and it can be painful. But if you feel that your spouse disrespects you, you need a healthy approach to deal with it. Listening to each other, along with good reflection, determines a healthy approach. And this can lead to a better conversation with your spouse, so you can work through this 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 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.***

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Is Stress Killing Your Relationship?

Find ways to manage stress before it does major relationship damage.

Are you overwhelmed with deadlines at work, kids in school, the weekly to-do list, health concerns, drama on social media? Is stress taking a toll on your relationship? Do you find yourself taking out your stress on your significant other? If so, you’re not alone. 

Stress, handled wrongly, hurts relationships. It’s a reality. Often it’s the small stressors that build up and do damage. 

We all face daily stresses. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use a magic wand and remove all the stress in our lives? The reality is we have to learn to manage stress, not let stress manage us.

Here’s how to tell if stress is impacting your relationship:

Stressed out people are more withdrawn. 

When you’re stressed, you may pull away from those you love or be less affectionate. Maybe you’re working longer hours, spending more time alone, or camping out in front of the TV as a way of escaping all you have to deal with. Isolating yourself can damage your relationship.

Stressed out people see the worst in others. 

When we’re stressed, it’s easy to allow the small things to overwhelm us. A minor thing your spouse does, like not picking up their shoes, suddenly becomes a sign of disrespect and a lack of appreciation. Maybe they just forgot their shoes. But stress is blurring your vision and you see them doing it out of spite.

Stress leads to exhaustion. 

Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Whether the tension stems from work, kids, or our calendars, it bleeds over into all aspects of our lives. Have you ever noticed that when you’re mentally exhausted, you just want to sleep? Stress takes a toll on our bodies. This can leave our spouse (and others) feeling neglected.

Stress makes us irritable. 

Who wants to be around grumpy people? The longer the stress lasts, the crankier you get. This can lead to arguments and hurtful words. 

[How Not to Blow Up On Your Kids When You’re Stressed Out: The Timeout is a great read if you’ve got kids]

Stress causes us to put other things in front of our relationship. 

Technology is a fabulous tool but can also be a source of stress. Endless work texts or emails can interrupt time with your spouse. When we are stressed due to work or other obligations, it becomes easy to prioritize those above our relationship.

So, if you find yourself resonating with these common signs of stress…

Make a plan…when you aren’t stressed out. 

If both of you are in a place of little stress, plan how you will deal with stress once it increases. Help to identify each other’s stressors and stress patterns. Look for ways to reduce stressors before they take over.

Reduce your stress. 

You can’t help your spouse if you can’t help yourself, so identify what reduces your stress. When I feel overwhelmed, I like to go for a run. It’s time to decompress, soak in the fresh air, and clear my mind. Maybe it’s exercise, music, or getting in nature. Communicate to your spouse what you need to do to reduce stress. Make sure you both have time to de-stress and refresh. (Read How Couples Can Help Each Other De-Stress and Improve Their Relationship)

Prioritize your relationship. 

You’re a team! Commit to each other and to ensuring that stress will not take over your relationship. Dr. Michael Mantell, an Advanced Behavior Coach, puts it this way: “Help each other remember you cannot control the uncontrollable, to always look for victory not defeat, to agree to set aside time to talk and be each other’s defense attorney, not prosecutor.”

Ask for help. 

Your partner can’t provide for all your needs. Putting that expectation on each other isn’t healthy. Sometimes we need help, whether that’s a trusted friend or a therapist. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Protecting your relationship must be the priority. 

Stress is a reality. You can’t make it go away, but you can manage stress so that it doesn’t kill your relationship. What will you do today to reduce stress in your life?

***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 your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How to Help Your Spouse When They’re Burned Out

Move forward and grow closer through this challenge, one step at a time.

You may have noticed that your once ‘Energizer bunny’ spouse has no energy to do anything. Or they share they don’t feel right but can’t give any specific reasons. It seems like all at once, it ALL became too much. They have no motivation to work or deal with personal issues. They feel exhausted after sleeping all night. And they begin to question their capability to complete tasks from work or at home. Your loved one may be experiencing burnout. 

Yes, burnout is a real thing. According to WHO, burnout is caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It affects people in all areas of their lives physically, emotionally, and mentally. 

If you believe your spouse is dealing with burnout, these strategies can help you as you help them.

Listen To Them

This may be one of the hardest things to do, especially if you think your spouse can accomplish anything they set their mind to do. Now, they’re questioning everything. You have to listen to them ask questions like:

  • Am I a good spouse? 
  • Is my child getting what they need?
  • Are my kids falling behind academically because I’m not a teacher?
  • Am I a good parent? 
  • Is this my fault?
  • Am I a good worker?
  • Can I do my job now that it’s different from what I was hired to do?
  • Am I giving time and effort to my relationship?
  • Why is this so hard for me right now?

It’s not the time to try to fix it for them or ask questions. Instead, this is the time to let them dump it all out and try your best to understand. (4 Communication Exercises for Married Couples may be useful!)

Help Out As Much As You Can

Taking things off your spouse’s plate may help relieve the stress. It could be as simple as dusting around the house or taking on homework time from virtual school. If you don’t know where to start, simply ask, “How can I make what you do easier?”

Rely On Your Friends and Family (Use Your Village) 

Remember—you don’t have to do everything on your own! Encouraging your spouse to spend some time with friends, family, or alone can lighten the load. Not only should your spouse spend time with friends and family—so should you. You don’t have to be the sole person to assist your spouse. In fact, if you aren’t careful about taking on too much, it may lead to your own sense of burnout. 

Take Care of Yourself

While being supportive and non-judgmental of your spouse, it’s vital to take care of yourself. Try to get rest, good food and exercise, too. Find things that help you recharge your own battery. 

Encourage Your Mate to Find or Rediscover Hobbies

Being creative can help their brain get out of the fight/flight cycle (more on that here). Be intentional about searching for new hobbies or finding enjoyment again in something they used to do. It could be anything from crocheting, hiking, or woodworking. You know better than anyone what they enjoy. (Read Why It’s Important to Care About Your Spouse’s Interests)

Reevaluate Your Family’s Schedule

Take some time to sit down and have a conversation about your family’s schedule. List everything for everyone, including work schedules, in-person or virtual school schedules, and other things to consider, like: 

  • When the kids need more hands-on help 
  • Mealtime
  • When the kids work independently
  • When you need to focus on your job (if working from home)
  • Family time

Looking at the schedule with clear eyes can help you see patterns. From these patterns, you can make conscious decisions together about how to spend your time and energy.

People are experiencing burnout at all-time high levels, and it’s a tough thing to deal with. Watching your spouse struggle with burnout can make you feel helpless, but you can get through this together. It’s an opportunity to grow closer and remind yourselves that you can’t pour from an empty glass. Make time for the things that fill you 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 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.***

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.”

Help! My Husband is Boring

These things may change your perspective.

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 is just boring and never WANTS to do anything with you. If you’re honest, it seems like all he does 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. Could be your husband isn’t as boring as he seems to you right now.

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. 

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.***