Stop making these two mistakes and you’ll have a happier marriage.
It’s absolutely exhausting trying to make your marriage work and keep up with all of your other responsibilities. You feel like you’re in it all alone with no hope of things ever getting better. When you took those vows of for better or worse, you really didn’t think that it would be for worse or you’d probably never have gotten married in the first place.
The good news is not all unhappy marriages need to stay that way. It doesn’t always require your spouse to join in with you from the beginning of your plan to make the marriage better. Sometimes you hold the key to turning everything around if you just stop making two basic mistakes.
But before talking about the two biggest mistakes people make in marriages, it’s important to know what a good marriage is.
A good marriage consists of two whole, happy people who choose marriage. You can think of these two happy people as each existing in a separate circle. These separate circles are inside of another circle which represents their marriage. Together these individuals focus on building their marriage.
Most married couples have children. By becoming parents, the couple is choosing to work together (ideally) to provide and care for their children.
Going back to the circles, the children are in a circle outside of the marriage circle. They’re outside because both parents and children need a solid base to build the family on and that’s two whole, happy adults who have a vibrant marriage.
That’s the ideal situation. But obviously that’s not your situation. You’ve got anything but an ideal marriage because you’re so unhappy in it.
There are two really common mistakes people make that result in an unhappy marriage.
The first is to abdicate responsibility for yourself being a whole, happy person. Instead of each spouse being in their own circle as in the ideal marriage situation, in this case at least one spouse is without their own circle. They’re looking outside of themselves for what makes them whole and happy.
Looking outside of themselves doesn’t necessarily mean having an affair. It could also mean that they’re seeking experiences that at least used to bring them joy (or maybe just a sense of peace): drinking, gambling, shopping, eating excessively, pornography, drugs, even only living life through or for their spouse or children.
The second common mistake people make that’s at the root of an unhappy marriage is mixing up the order of the circles and putting the children before the marriage. It can also happen when couples eliminate the marriage circle and put their focus on raising their children.
Your children are precious and deserve your best efforts to allow them to grow into happy, healthy adults, but not at the expense of your marriage (or your individual sense of being a whole, happy person).
One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an example of a healthy happy marriage. So it’s important that the order of the circles remain you first, marriage second, and children third. This doesn’t mean that you ignore your children’s needs. It means that you each spend the time taking care of you and taking care of your marriage so that you both have the energy required to care for your children.
Recognizing that you are making either one or both of these common mistakes and contributing to your unhappy marriage is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s so much easier to simply point your finger at your spouse and say it’s their fault.
But the truth is there’s always culpability on both sides of an unhappy marriage. Carefully examining what your contribution is and discovering ways to correct it may not ultimately make your marriage happy, but it will allow you to know that you’ve done everything in your power to make your miserable marriage better.
And knowing that may not make getting through the day any easier, but it will remove the endless exhaustion of struggling with an unhappy marriage.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are struggling with how to turn their marriage around. 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.
Looking for more ideas about how to turn your marriage around? You’ll find lots more tips in Unhappy Marriage.