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Is Your Marriage Stuck In a Rut?

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Is Your Marriage Stuck In a Rut?

Is your marriage stuck in a rut?  If you said yes, you are certainly not alone.  Most couples report feeling like they’re a bit stuck after several years of marriage, and especially when they have small children.  The focus often switches from each other to work, children and other obligations.

Exhaustion can lead to frustration, short tempers, and just a lack of kindness.  When the marriage falls to the bottom of the list of priorities, resentment can build and it’s easy to get caught up in a negative pattern of interaction.  This takes a toll on love and intimacy.

It is quite easy to blame your partner for all of the problems.  “If he would just…then everything would be better,” or “She never/always/constantly does…and it drives me crazy.”  You likely have the same arguments over and over and over again.  “How many times do I have to show you how to load the dishwasher properly?” or “Every night I ask you not get the kids all hyped up right before bedtime” are some common ones.

Eventually, you might even give up trying and simply succumb to feeling defeated.  This is never healthy or good for a marriage.

The good news is that your marriage is not doomed.  Many troubled marriages have come back from feeling stuck in a rut, and been even better than they were before.  Yours can, too.  Here are three easy steps to getting your marriage back on track,

  1. STOP TRYING TO CHANGE YOUR PARTNER. While you cannot control the actions or behaviors of others, you do have complete control over yourself.  When you realize that you have zero control over your partner, you are more likely to stop trying so hard to make them change.  All of your efforts to get them to change really only leads to defensiveness and actually make them less likely to change out of spite.Honestly, your partner wants to be loved just the way they are, with all of their good and bad traits, just like you do.  When you constantly criticize them, they feel unloved.  Instead, change how you communicate and react, something you actually have control over.  Their actions might still bug you, but you can express your feelings calmly and kindly, rather than nagging, criticizing and reacting negatively.

    For example, try saying something like, “When you get the kids hyper right before bedtime, I feel very frustrated because it makes it so much harder for me to get them to go to sleep.  At the end of the long day, I really need them to be calm and go to sleep easily, so that I can spend time with you and everyone can get the rest they need.”  This is much more effective than, “Here you again, getting the kids all riled up.  How many times have I told you not to do that?”  You might even learn to show a little empathy and understanding as to why your partner acts the way they do.  I’m quite sure they’re not doing it purposely just to annoy you, even if it might seem that way.

  2. EXPRESS APPRECIATION EVERY DAY. If you and your partner have been angry with one another for a while, there is a good chance that neither of you are saying nice things.  The truth is, even if you’re angry about certain things, it is likely that your partner does a lot of good things and both deserves and needs to feel noticed and appreciated for that.Only dwelling on the negative can really leave you stuck, build up a great deal of resentment, and cause irreparable damage to your marriage. On the other hand, a little praise can really turn things around.  Let your partner overhear you telling someone how great you think they are.  When you say or do something positive, you create a shift that is contagious.

    Happy feelings begin to replace negativity, and your partner will likely begin to return the favor.  All of a sudden, resentment and anger turn into kindness and happiness.  There is even a really good chance that your partner starts doing more of the things you’ve been asking of them.

  3. INITIATE SOME ROMANCE AND SEX. It is really easy to put intimacy and sex on the back burner when you’re a busy couple.  If you’re exhausted all the time and have young children, you might feel like you barely have time to sleep, let alone be intimate.  You might be so tired and angry that you don’t even care.  This, of course, is a dangerous pattern to fall into in a marriage.It is important to make your marriage a priority and find ways to stay connected, even when it’s hard.  Plan and cook a dinner or schedule a date night.  Buy your wife flowers, or agree to see that movie your husband’s been asking to see.  Take a nice walk together or spend time without devices.  Make time to connect and give your partner and your relationship the attention it deserves.  Be present both physically and emotionally.  Be the one to initiate sex, without pressure of course.  Stop with the “I’m too tired/angry/headache…” and remember this is the person you love and chose to spend your life with.  Sex is an important component of any healthy marriage, and it actually helps couples stay more deeply connected.

Go ahead.  Give this a try.  It’s easier than you think, and almost always gets results quickly.  Be the one to go first and keep on going.  Watch how it changes everything.

Your marriage is worth it.

Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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