You have more power to change your marriage than you realize.
Living in an unhappy marriage can feel like you're living in a trap. You're stuck in a situation that you wish could be better, but deep down you're afraid that this is as good as it gets.
Most of us marry with some expectation that we and our spouse will always be as attuned to each other as we are when we take our vows. But very few married couples continue dating, flirting and wanting to learn more about each other on a daily basis as they did before they said "I do". And it's perfectly understandable because the reality of married life (and parenthood) are WAY different than the realities of being single and in love.
So, how can you take your unhappy marriage and breathe some happiness into it?
The first step is to get real about what your idea of "happily ever after" is now. It will be different than it was when you got married because now you know what living with your spouse is like, what the daily challenges of running your family and home are, and what trying to live a fulfilling life as an individual within a marriage is like.
So, what does "happily ever after" look like for you today?
- Do you want to spend more quality time with your spouse?
- Do you want to have more sex?
- Do you want to feel respected and appreciated?
- Do you want more freedom to be you?
Just in case you're feeling kinda stumped (like I was) about how to articulate what "happily ever after" is to you now, here's an example:
- Our marriage is the model to which all other relationships aspire.
- We honor and respect each other to be uniquely ourselves.
- We have a shared faith in God.
- We honor our values and vows.
- We are united and support each other first before others.
- We enjoy the intimacy our marriage brings sexually, intellectually and spiritually.
- We are friends.
Once you have some clarity about what a happy marriage would look like to you, it can be really easy to fall into thinking "yeah, but". Yeah, this new "happily ever after" is great, but s/he will never go for it. Yeah, this new "happily ever after" is great, but it's just a pipe dream and could never be real.
All "yeah, but's" ever get you are more of what you've already got. They disempower you and keep you stuck.
Instead of falling prey to the negative thoughts, ask yourself what one thing YOU can do today to make your marriage less unhappy and more like your ideal? (By this I mean that it's something that's totally within your control not something that you expect your spouse to do for you when you ask.)
Keep your one thing simple. Some examples are:
- Remember the first time you realized you loved your spouse.
- Be on the lookout for just one thing that is good about your marriage today.
- Think about the values that you and your spouse share and how those shared values make your life easier.
If you can do one simple thing each day to move your marriage toward your ideal, you'll start shifting your perspective from everything that makes you unhappy and start noticing what is good about your marriage. And as you start noticing more of what's good, you'll probably be surprised by how much power you have over the happiness you can crate in your marriage.
But this won't solve everything. Changing your perspective to one of hope and power is just the first step. Part 2 will share some ideas for creating a foundation for a better marriage based on your new "happily ever after".