The honeymoon is long over. The person waking up across from you in the bed every morning doesn’t have a halo on. He hasn’t measured up or stepped up or grown up as you hoped he would. She’s not the same woman you thought you were marrying. Bills, sickness, kids – LIFE – is taking its toll. And the worst of it is that you’re feeling disappointed in your marriage.
Unmet expectations are difficult to overcome. You really expected that once you got married he’d show more interest in going to bed with you than staying up playing video games or watching TV. You hoped once the pregnancy hormones were gone you’d have your wife back, but now it feels as though you’re competing with your child for her heart.
And sometimes things really do change for the worse. Your spouse develops a serious chronic illness. Or you discover a painful secret your spouse had successfully kept from you before you were married. Or they lose their faith in the aftermath of a family tragedy.
What choices do you have? You could resolve to wallow in your misery and stay married because that’s the “right” thing to do. You could shut your spouse out of your heart and life and seek happiness elsewhere even though you’re technically still married. You could leave the marriage, reasoning that God wants you happy, and you’re certainly not happy “chained” to this loser.
OR, you could do something positive about the disappointing marriage you find yourself in. Although you can’t change another human being, you don’t have to accept things as they are. You can take positive steps to improve your own satisfaction with life, and by doing so your marriage may improve also.
What Can You Do?
Here are 6 things you can do if you’re disappointed in your marriage, regardless of how your spouse responds:
- Find what fills you up, and do it. Learn to feed yourself. You may need time with friends, time alone, or time in nature. Music, a good book, volunteer work, or attending church may help fill your soul. Outside of sex, you can find many places outside of the relationship with your spouse to fill the needs that they can’t or won’t. And having your soul filled up means you’ll have more to give to your spouse and others.
- Do some honest self-reflection. Are you contributing to the malaise in your marriage? Are you constantly criticizing, being unavailable, or holding a grudge? Are you regularly investing what you can into the relationship? Are you constantly focusing on the negative to the point you miss seeing many of the good things around you? Are you expecting your spouse to do something that they are simply unable to do?
- Look for what you can bring to the marriage, and do it. Perhaps your spouse just isn’t spontaneous, or detail oriented, or romantic, or good with money. But you are. Don’t waste time berating your spouse for their personality; you married them, didn’t you? Bring your skills generously to the marriage. You design an evening of fun. You manage the money, with frequent and completely transparent conversations about it. You do your part.
- Find the parts of your spouse that you can enjoy. Has everything you enjoyed about your spouse when you got married completely disappeared? Probably not. It’s likely you’ve become focused on the parts of them that haven’t lived up to what you hoped. If your spouse has become violent toward you or addicted to something dangerous (i.e. alcohol, drugs), then you may need to move in the other direction. Otherwise, look for what’s good.
- Take a step toward your spouse. Move in their direction by choice, and it’s possible you’ll get a positive response in return. Say “I love you” when they least expect it. Give an extra-long kiss. Think of something to tell them “Thank you” for. Ask about something that matters to them, such as their job or a hobby. Look for a need they have, and see what you can do to fill it.
- Focus on purpose, not on happiness. As happy as good marriages often are, that’s not the reason to get married. God designed marriage to help us mature, to learn about love and intimacy and forgiveness and grace, and to join together with another human being for a larger purpose. Happiness is a common byproduct of a marriage where both people are working toward the purpose God has given your family to fulfill.
None of these steps guarantee a happier marriage. But they will guarantee a happier you!
Don’t settle for too little. Something good, including a good marriage, takes an ongoing and serious investment. It’s worth the effort.
Your Turn: How have you responded to being disappointed in your marriage? Can you do something about it?
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