Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT has been a therapist for over 30 years, specializing in work with couples, families and relationships. She has expertise with clients
Being married is supposed to mean that you live with your best friend and confidante, right? When someone believes that is not happening, it can lead to empty and lonely feelings.
Staying in this “stuck and lonely place” can be destructive to both the individuals and to the relationship.
There are many ways that marriages walk down the path of distance and isolation. Understanding how you got there may be helpful. Figuring out what to do to move forward might be a better use of your time.
Here are 7 suggestions for ways to take action and learn how to feel better in your marriage.
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1. Examine your own expectations for the marriage.
Are you expecting too much of your spouse and the relationship?
Read some of the literature about healthy relationships. Talk with friends about the amount of time that they spend with their spouse. It may be that your marriage is more in the normal range than you think.
Consider the fact that you and your spouse may have different needs for time together and time alone. This is a very common difference for couples. Other couples have figured out how to make it work; it is likely that you and your spouse can as well.
2. Try talking about it, but not often.
Feeling disconnected can lead to a desire to want to talk about it a lot. To a spouse, this may feel like complaining or “nagging” which is very destructive to a marriage.
You certainly want to share your sadness and disappointment with your spouse as well as learn how he or she is feeling. It is just that you want to do it in the best way you can to be heard. In this case, less is best.
3. Make specific requests in direct and positive ways.
Rather than saying “Don’t watch television in the basement every night”, consider framing it like this. “I would love it if we could start a ritual of watching (name a television show) together each week.” or “Any chance we could have dinner together without the television?” or “Can we make a date for one 2-hour date each week, even if we do nothing more than go for a walk and stop for ice cream?”
4. Focus on the good that is there and make that the main source for your communication.
You will feel better when you think about the positives more than the negatives. Think about what is good and what you are grateful for in your relationship. Find ways to talk with your spouse about them as well. He or she will be much more attracted to you if the content of your communication is more about their positives than their negatives.
5. Look for times when you see your spouse giving you what you want and need and find a way to acknowledge it.
Be sure to acknowledge (not praise or compliment) when your spouse does show you that you and the marriage are important. Be specific in your acknowledgement with words or actions.
“It was really nice that you came home right after your golf game and we could have a long lunch together today.”
“I loved the texts from you today. I know that you are really busy at work; however, you showed me that you thought about me today and that meant a lot.”
“I know that you like to talk with your mother every night; however, keeping the conversation short and telling her it was because we hadn’t connected really meant a lot to me.”
6. Take care of yourself.
Many people can be alone without feeling lonely. Figure out what you need to do to make that happen in your life.
Feeling miserable is more harmful to you than to anyone. It rarely, if ever, makes a positive difference in the quality of an unhappy marriage.
Learning how to think and act in positive ways for yourself and your life is the best pro-active route to take.
7. Consider seeing a counselor to help you figure out what other avenues you might try.
A good therapist can help you examine the situation carefully from all angles. Best case scenario, your spouse will go with you because he or she is not happy if you are not happy. Even if you have to go alone; however, be sure to go yourself.
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