Today, I feel like I need to address one of the most insidious myths about troubled marriages. Ready?
The myth is that trouble marriages appear at random, seemingly out of nowhere.
Troubled marriages don’t just happen. They are created.
It might seem like they just happen. And despite our perceptions to the contrary, the undoing of many marriages is written into the daily grind of life. With our lives full of commitments—the job, the kids and their 90 hobbies, your 90 hobbies, making time for friends, fixing up the house, paying bills… and then there’s that spouse who is also asking for your attention…
You get the idea– the stress of managing all those hats causes many people to simply check out mentally and emotionally from their lives and subsequently, their marriages.
Pain or Pleasure?
Honestly, checking out mentally and emotionally is nothing to beat yourself up over. First off, playing the self-blame game does absolutely nothing to set your relationship back on track. Second, studies have shown that humans will go to great lengths to avoid pain, far greater than even for pleasure. So it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that people check out for days, weeks, months, or even years, only to wake up one day shocked to see their relationship has gone awry, astray, or just completely flat.
But EJ, I am surely at least partially to blame!
Sure, I’ll give you that. And to be fair a little humility and a sincere apology are often a welcomed olive branch for a marriage gone flat. But after…
Quite frankly, you don’t have time for hours upon hours of self-blame. You’ve got a marriage to resuscitate!
Which leads me back to my point: flat, passionless, disconnected or otherwise troubled marriages often break down while our attention is elsewhere. The fact that we co-create our relationships with our partners, however, means we have the power to start changing these relationships just by readjusting our focus.
Just like troubled marriages, good, fulfilling, exciting marriages don’t just happen either. They’re cultivated when we invest in the relationship with our partner.
So here are 3 Simple Solutions you can implement today:
1) Start talking.
It’s fairly common knowledge these days that communication (or lack thereof) between partners is one of the best indicators of the health of the relationship. So first, ask yourself, “Do I talk to my partner?”
If so– about what?
Is it mostly about the bills, the kids, coordinating schedules, and other surface topics? These are all conversations that you could have with your accountant, babysitter, or the neighbor up the street.
Do you share genuine secrets, dreams, hopes and stressors—the kind of stuff you shared when you were dating? Moreover, do you seek to get to know your spouse more? Or do you just assume you know them so well that you don’t even bother to ask anymore?
Want more? Check out EM.com’s 7 Tips for Talking to Your Spouse.
2) Invest in Yourself
Chances are that when you and your spouse first started dating, you invested a little more in aesthetics—physical appearance, keeping your space neat and clean—and in personal interests. A lot of people would refer to this as the “Honeymoon Phase.” And yes, eventually Prince Charming reveals his physical inability to put socks in the hamper, and Princess Charming reveals that flipflops and yoga pants make up more of her wardrobe than originally thought.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with getting “comfortable” around your spouse, sometimes folks use “comfort” (or even necessity) as a reason to stop investing in themselves whatsoever.
Chances are, your spouse found something about you that was interesting, enticing, and intriguing when you first met. You had individual interests, thoughts, dreams and activities. If those have fallen by the wayside, it might be time to invest some personal time in rediscovering them. Allowing yourself to find passion and joy in life may ultimately re-light the intrigue and passion that initially brought you together.
3) Grow Together
Of course you can’t just grow as an individual if you want to save your marriage. Great marriages also possess the quality of couples growing together as well. Share a new experience. Go to an outdoor concert together. Agree to pick different activities from each other’s areas of interest—or possibly something entirely new.
Rediscover the joys of spending time with the person who vowed to accept you and all your quirky weirdness. While you’re at it, remember that you vowed to accept all their quirky weirdness too. And if all else fails… consider attending couples counseling together.
E.J. Smith is a Nationally Certified Counselor, motivational speaker, writer and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. She is also the face (and mouth) behind SimplyEJ.com. Born in New Jersey, and transplanted to Texas, this self-professed holistic health nut enjoys a wide variety of athletics, reading, and cooking. Raised Catholic and the wife of an active duty Marine, E.J. uses introspection and pragmatism to help readers create loving, fulfilling relationships from the inside out. Follow EJ on Twitter @SimplyEJS