Your partner isn’t the problem, sweetheart … YOU are.
A marriage takes work — lots of it — and from each spouse. And the rewards for your effort are: happiness, contentment, peace, and, of course, loving and feeling loved.
But, what happens when you begin to question whether the hard work is worth it? What happens when the bad times significantly outweigh the good (and have for a long time)? The rewards suddenly seem more like a pipe dream than a reality.
What usually happens once someone reaches this point is … they blame their spouse.
They blame their spouse for being a sorry, excuse for a mate and they fuel their resentment of their spouse with fantasies about divorce.
But, whoa ... wait a minute. Let's back this divorce train up for just a moment. True, being married takes work, but it's nothing compared to the effort and work that divorce requires. Getting and then being divorced is at least ten times more frustrating and infuriating than the common annoyances of marriage. Once the marriage ends, you and your spouse become straight up adversaries, who must now come to some kind of agreement about: child custody, parenting, finances, and possessions. And there's nothing easy about that.
Also, you don't just get divorced and then the hard part's over. Once the legal divorce is "final," you then begin living into the terms of your divorce. Your life remains firmly tethered to this other person (through children and finances) for years and years and years to come.
So before you decide your mate is the problem and convince yourself that your partner and your marriage are disposable, maybe you should pause first and ask yourself if it's possible that YOU are the one with the lousy attitude in your marriage. Maybe YOU are the lousy spouse. Not sure if you are? Here are five harsh but honest ways to tell:
1. You keep a running log of every mistake
You might even throw temper tantrums or pity parties every time your partner doesn't bend to your will in an effort to make them "behave" better. Either way, if they misstep, you're right there to point it out to them.
And doing this makes your partner feel extremely belittled, badgered and miserable. They wish you'd disappear when you behave like that, and the longer it goes on, the less they even want to try to please you (or put up with your self-centered crap).
2. You pack your schedule full, leaving zero time for your partner
Yes, life is busy ... and your dreams, desires, and responsibilities are important. However, in marriage, the health of "the relationship" is just as important as your individual wants or concerns. Ignoring your partner or telling them to "get out of your way" so you can "get things done" fuels resentment, driving a deeper wedge between you and your spouse. After all, no one wants a partner who continuously pushes them away.
3. The sound of their voice (or chewing, or breathing) grates your nerves
You cringe when they open their mouth, because you just know they're going to say or do something you find annoying. You pretend you can't hear them, walk away, or do just about anything to avoid them.
But here's the thing, when your spouse (the person who promised to love and accept you the most) acts as if you merely breathing is a disgusting affront to them, you feel tortured and humiliated. Why would anyone want to open their hearts to someone who so clearly despises them? Doing this is just mean. And if it keeps up, your relationship won't last long.
4. You insist they "never change" (when actually, they have)
You're so busy assuming your partner is exactly the same person, you haven't actually talked with them about "them" in forever. All you talk about is you and what you want. They feel diminished and unimportant to you. They constantly wonder whether trying to make the marriage work is even worth it — your selfishness drowns out any effort they make in favor of the "relationship."
5. You begrudge every minute they spend away from you
In your head, marriage means you "own" your spouse. As such your spouse "owes" you their undivided attention, unless they're doing something you approve of or gave them permission to do. Nobody wants someone controlling them this way — that's slavery, not marriage. Your partner having a life of their own is not betraying you. You trying to micro-manage their existence, however, IS a betrayal to them.
So how did you fair? Are you a lousy spouse?
The truth is ... we're all lousy spouses ... at times. This doesn't mean all is lost. But it does mean it's time you take accountability for the part YOU play in poisoning the marriage you claim you're so oppressed by. Maybe skip running to the lawyer's office, and head to a relationship therapist's office instead. Maybe work on changing yourself before you throw your partner and your marriage away.
If you wish to improve your role in your marriage, but don't know how, there's only one thing you can do — ask for help! Grab a book on making marriage work. Read more articles about how to have meaningful conversations with your spouse. Talk with a marriage counselor, religious leader, a happily married couple, or coach to get the support you, your mate and your marriage deserve.
The work you put in will pay off. You'll either be on your way to having a flourishing marriage or you'll have healthy clarity about what your next steps are.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you're ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.