I am a marriage therapist. It makes complete sense, then, that people expect me to have a perfect marriage.
OK, well it might make sense to them, but it doesn’t make sense to me. The reason that my marriage has struggles and ups and downs just like yours is that it is made up of two “very human” humans. Just because I know what to do, doesn’t mean I always do it. Is that true for you as well?
Yes, I can find myself drawing away when my husband doesn’t act the way I want him to act. I can get bitchy, just like you. (Ask him.) We can each feel betrayed, have our expectations upended, or just feel unloved from time to time.
Why am I telling you this?
To remind you that marriage…any marriage…requires constant nurturing, focused attention, flexibility and honest, straightforward communication. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you’ve told your partner something a thousand times.
Here are a few tips that might helps you straighten things out. At least for the moment.
1. Speak Your Truth Kindly
Let your partner know what’s on your mind. Tell him/her how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid of negative reactions. So often we think negative feelings and reactions are bad. They are not. There is no such thing as an unjustified feeling. A feeling is not right or wrong; it just IS. Rather than ignoring it, validate it by acknowledging it and speaking it. Kindly. If you ignore or push down your feelings and thoughts, they will manifest somehow: either in your physical health or a blow up over something trivial.
2. If Your Partner Is Sad or Angry or Cries in Response to What You Have Expressed, Let Him/her Have the Space to Feel His/her Feelings Fully
You don’t have to fix it. You don’t have to get angry back. And you don’t have to back down. Just be in the moment. It will pass. Having said that, it is never ok to use physical violence. There are healthy ways to express hurt and anger.
3. Then Ask What You Can Do Differently
Or ask them what you want them to do differently. Kindly.
4. Repeat What You Hear Him/her Say, So There Can Be Clarification if Necessary
Resist getting defensive; that only invites your partner to also defend his/her position.
5. Express Love Physically
No, this doesn’t mean you have to jump into bed. It means stroke her hair, give him a hug, give sustained eye contact…this is completely different than the evil eye! Turn toward him when he’s speaking to you. Put down the phone so you can focus on her.
6. Make a List of Things You Want to Do Together
Fun things. New things. Certainly the kids can be involved, but do things with just the two of you as well. Take turns making plans and getting childcare.
7. Forgive Quickly and Completely
This does not excuse bad behavior or a transgression, but it allows you to move beyond it and start anew.
Marianne Clyde, LMFT