Marriage Arguments: Fighting About Little Things Can Mean a Lot

Arguments about small things are a signal that it’s time to find the big issues and firmly, but lovingly put an end to them.

 

When I was working on my degree in clinical psychology, I lived in a small apartment with paper thin walls in Vista, California.

The neighbors who lived on the west side of my apartment were a young couple in their twenties. To say that their relationship had problems is like saying if you fall into Niagara Falls you will get a little wet. Their marriage arguments were hard to drown out with my TV.

When they were mad at each other, there was constant shouting and when they were very mad with each other, there was complete silence.

Being their neighbor rather than their counselor, I found myself hoping they would be very mad at each other so that I could have some peace and quiet in my own apartment.

The interesting thing was that when they were shouting at each other, they were always blaming each other for things that did not seem to be very important.

In the time it takes to drive to the store and buy a whole cart load of groceries, the husband could repeatedly blame his wife  for forgetting to buy the milk and always forgetting things, while the wife could spend the entire time blaming her husband  for always expecting her to be a mind reader.

Why would a couple spend so much time blaming each other for small things?

It certainly wasn’t helping their relationship and it wasn’t really fixing their problems. I got the answer one day when I noticed that a woman would sometimes visit their apartment while the wife was working. The husband’s routine with this “guest” seemed quite different from that with his wife and from the sound of things, they had quite a good time.

Sometimes fighting about things creates an emotional distance that people actually want.

It is very hard for the average human being to cheat on someone he has a good relationship with. But if the relationship is not so good, if there is something to hold against his wife, then it becomes easier to rationalize his (or her) behavior, like having an affair.

Marriage arguments are also common from people who are having difficulty being committed to their spouse for other reasons.

Sometimes when people first  commit to a relationship, it’s not done wholeheartedly, and even after the marriage ceremony there remains much doubt. Emotional distancing can be a way of trying to hold on to independence and individuality even while married.  This is common for people who marry very young or when people marry after having been single for most of their life.  And people who were previously committed to  their relationship may push away if they feel they are being controlled by their husband or wife.

Emotional distancing can also be used to rationalize heavy drinking, drug abuse, computer gaming, pornography addictions, and other harmful behaviors.

A close relationship would take away the person’s excuse to behave this way. Does your spouse blame you for everything? See this for what it is–a defensive reaction to shift attention away from your partner’s problems. Of course you are not to blame for your husband’s or wife’s problems. Don’t be distracted into looking for the problem within yourself. Angry people are often people who spend a lot of energy pointing their fingers at others so that they don’t need to look at themselves. Blaming helps people to feel justified for their emotional distance and their choice to damaging things, like overspending, affairs, frequently staying out late, or even refusing to go to bed with you.

No matter anything your husband or wife tells you that you did, it doesn’t really justify his or her behavior.

The reason is that your husband or wife could have responded in a better way.  He or she could go to drug or alcohol rehab; she can work on her relationship with you.  Together or separately, you both could have consulted a relationship coach or marriage counselor.  We can decide to break the cycle of arguing by not justifying our own distancing based on our husband’s or wife’s behavior.  To start to change things you need to realize that you have more choices than to either fight or withdraw.  Because neither of these choices will fix anything.

When our spouse is the one creating the distance, we have a better choice than just creating more.

First, we can look at a couple of things.  1) Is our spouse arguing in order to create a comfortable emotional distance from us; and 2) Is our spouse pushing us away because he or she feels pushed away by us?   Sometimes when the arguments have gone on for a while, the original reason for arguing is long gone.  Then it’s all attack and defense with no good reason at all.  Knowing which is the case will help us to react in an appropriate way.

As a relationship coach, I help people to do the unexpected thing–the effective and loving thing.

I help people to make their husband’s or wife’s bad behavior toward them not work anymore.  Imagine if your husband or wife pushes you away with petty arguments and you respond in a way that is actually loving and assertive (but never, ever sarcastic).  What would happen?  Interestingly, instead of your husband or wife pushing away more, he or she would tends to decrease the  bad behavior.  Real communication would start to happen. Then there would be less need for games, pornography, affairs, etc.  Remember–to be effective, your response must make your spouse’s actions toward you not work anymore.  At the same time, you will need to have a way to set good boundaries and help him or her feel loved.  Like a lock and a key love and boundaries must be used together to be effective.

It goes against our natural tendencies to help someone who is hurting us.

But, that is part of love.  Feeling “in love” comes naturally, but loving when things are hard takes guts. We need to help our husband or wife to have the best relationship with us as possible.  We need to work for our spouse’s benefit because that is to our benefit to.  We need to see our husband or wife as an imperfect human being who is doing what he or she knows to get a little bit of happiness out of life.  Of course, you need your spouse’s love too.  I help my clients to be both strong and loving. I don’t teach them to be patient and loving because that’s not going to fix a bad situation. And to think about breaking up over stupid arguments? I don’t think so.

Resources:

Making Up After Fighting: 10 Proven Methods for Your Marriage

No one wants to fight, but they do anyway. Understand why and what you can do about it.

If you have an occasional fight, that’s alright

It happens to the best of us. The real measure of a good marriage or committed relationship is not whether or not there are fights, but how long it takes people to make up. If it takes hours, there are moderate problems. If it takes days, there are severe ones. Continue reading “Making Up After Fighting: 10 Proven Methods for Your Marriage”

Lonely Wife: Solutions for a Failing Marriage

No one has to be lonely in their marriage

 

Read and Learn from My Client, Janet

Janet had been married for 15 years but told me that she had been feeling emotionally lonely for the last 14 years.  Her husband was not abusive and spent time with time with her.  They talked and laughed together, went for walks and had sex on a regular basis.  But, she felt that her husband didn’t really know her and that she was holding a lot inside.  Sometimes she just felt like letting it all out—letting her husband know all of her feelings and thoughts, which confused even herself.  But she didn’t.  Although she didn’t really like the way her marriage was, she was afraid to make it worse.  Her husband wasn’t a bad man and she didn’t want to hurt him and say things that she would later regret.  She was also afraid that it would interfere with their love making.  Although she valued an emotional relationship more than a physical one, it was when she was making love with her husband that she felt the most loved.

 

The Underlying Problem

What Janet told me is not so different from what I hear from a lot of women.  Her situation was perhaps a little more emotionally difficult for her because her husband was not doing anything really destructive, although he didn’t know how to connect with the deeper part of her that she wanted him too.  If he had been some kind of scoundrel, she could have blamed the distance on that, but that still would not have dealt with the basic problem which was related to her fear of rejection.  That she would be rejected if her husband really knew her, or that he wouldn’t care, which really amounts to the same thing.

 

The Husband

When women do coaching with me, one of the questions that I ask them is if they feel lonely in their relationship, even when they are with their husbands.  For troubled marriages, the answer often is “yes.”  I also ask them if their husbands feel alone, even when they are together.  They almost never know.  It is quite possible that their husbands do, but that they are also afraid of upsetting the apple cart and not being able to deal with all the spilled apples.  When I get a chance to talk with their husbands in couple’s coaching, their husbands are often stunned to find out their wives were feeling lonely.  It is a time of tears when the secret comes out, but I have yet to find it to be a time of rejection.  I’m sure that could happen if it was presented in a way that puts the man on the defensive, but that’s not the way we talk about things in coaching.  I have many times witnessed husbands and wives crying together when we get to this point.  As a marriage coach, I think it’s a beautiful thing.

The Choice

The most basic choice is whether to do anything at all.  Although it is difficult for most people to understand, this is the hardest part of the whole process.  This is the question which can literally be struggled with for a lifetime.  It is the immobilizing, paralyzing decision.  Psychologists call it an avoidance-avoidance conflict.  This means that internally, the woman is struggling to decide between two terrible choices.  The one is to continue a relationship that she feels is fake and the other is to risk losing the relationship altogether.  The other possibility, that things will go better if she “lets it all out,” does not seem like a realistic one.  She has been with her husband long enough to predict how he will respond.  She thinks that maybe if she had a more sensitive husband, then…But, in fact she doesn’t.  She has the one she has.

 

The Lonely Woman’s Choice Impacts Her Husband

You see, often the things lonely wives are doing are making their husbands feel needed, but not accepted.  Their husbands often get the feeling that their wives think they are inadequate to the ability of loving them the way they need.  It presents a world of hurt and rejection in the mind of the husband that he may only pick up on on a subconscious level.  The lonely wife, who doesn’t say anything for fear of feeling rejected, unwittingly makes her husband feel rejected in the process.  Men respond differently to this, but they often don’t respond well.  It can mean fighting, but it can also mean shutting down, alcoholism, workaholism, or affairs.  If it sounds like I am blaming the woman for this, that is not true.  Men also have good choices open to them like talking, counseling, and coaching and never have to do any of those destructive behaviors.  I am just saying that many men who do such terrible things often have been feeling rejected and especially unaccepted by their wives prior to their doing them.  Everyone deals with rejection in a different way.

 

Love is the Answer

If you notice from my other articles, I work with many women who are needy and insecure.  The lonely woman syndrome is part of the married version of this.  It’s not realistic to ask someone just to overcome the fear of rejection that fuels all neediness.  So, instead, I take the approach of helping them to love their husbands more.  Although they risk rejection by communicating their true thoughts and feelings, they reject their husbands if they don’t.  Whether they say it or not, they think “You are not capable of loving me as I am, so I have to hide myself from you.”  It is a vote of no confidence which affects how much love she can feel for him, and how much love he feels from her.  But, I agree that just blurting everything out would not be a good approach.  I work with women to specifically craft the way they talk with their husbands.  And, as is often the case, I help them to have very specific secure and loving responses to any damaging behaviors their husbands are doing.  Men may get angry when you reject their behaviors, but that anger can be managed.  But, when you reject them personally, the hurt cuts deep and men are typically very poor at dealing with such rejection.  I am constantly helping women to put strength and love in their words and their actions. Perhaps that is not always necessary, but I work with women with the most severe marriage problems.  If it works for them, then it is probably good advice for lesser problems as well. We always need to combine strength and love when we are working to make a relationship better.  The basic thinking that can help women to break out of the lonely wife syndrome is, “I love him enough to help him have the best relationship with me that is possible—even if he rejects me in the process.”  It is a real test of love, but this test is passed by the women who really love their husbands.  The biggest test of whether we love someone is not whether we feel it at the moment, but whether we do what is best for them.  It works for God, it works for parents, and it works for spouses, too.

 

Love is Stronger than Fear

Why do I use this approach?  Because I have learned that love is stronger than the strongest fears than a human being may have.  That, although we can’t just get rid of our fears, we can love enough to act in spite of them.  It is not strange for me that a woman wants to stay with her husband even though she feels lonely.  Love motivates people to make sacrifices. What I have learned about marriages though, is that many of those sacrifices are unnecessary and actually destructive to the marriage.  Being lonely turns out to be a destructive thing.  The easiest way to tell a good sacrifice from a bad sacrifice is by the amount of regret you expect to have later.  If you believe that you will later regret holding back, or regret not giving your husband the opportunity to love the whole you, or regret not having taken a loving stand against something that your husband is doing that is harmful, then what you are doing is not loving.  It is fear based.  And, the person who is hurting you most is the one that you see in the mirror.  Love your husband despite your fear and learn to  live your marriage without regrets.  I would be happy to help you to say and do things in a way that is secure and loving at the same time.

Resources:

Husband Won’t Go to Counseling? Here’s How You Can Handle this Situation

Don’t let his refusal spell the end for your relationship

Does your husband want things to be better–as long as he doesn’t have to do anything about it?

Your husband won’t work on the relationship, but he doesn’t want to lose it either.  What is going on?  What can you do about it?

Seemingly, your husband would love for you to change things about yourself so that he can enjoy the relationship better, while making no changes in himself.  More than likely, you have even tried to do what he wants and still have not seen any improvement in the relationship.  To most women in this situation, it feels hopelessly stuck.

Creating a better relationship from this situation is not only possible, it is very possible.  Every day of the week I help men and women to improve their relationships.  Most of them have spouses who feel even more hopeless about the relationship than they do, but who will not work with them in either counseling or relationship coaching. What makes my client’s different is that they love their husbands but will no longer wait for improvement to just somehow happen. They will either make that improvement happen or they will end their relationship. It’s my job to make sure that we do everything we can to improve the relationship.

The right mindset for improving your relationship with your husband:

Although your husband may not want to work on the relationship, and may blame you for everything, he does not want to have a bad relationship.  I have yet to meet one single person who wants a bad relationship.  Don’t think that his refusal to work on the relationship means that he likes it like it is. Many men who won’t work on their relationship nevertheless end up leaving their wives or having affairs. Their refusal usually has to do with a fear of being found to be inadequate. Their refusal to work on the relationship is connected to their desire to protect themselves. So, they often won’t go to counseling unless they feel even more threatened by something else.

Threatening him into counseling is usually not a good move

In my many years of experience doing marriage counseling, before becoming a relationship coach, men who are threatened into counseling often spend their energy trying to prove to their wives that the counseling is not working. They may go with their wives to multiple counselors, each time undermining the counseling to prove their point. The sad result is that their wives have to agree with them that counseling really isn’t helpful. There is a time that men will participate willingly in counseling or coaching, but that usually is not at the beginning.

In every relationship, one person is always ready to work on the relationship first

For some reason, people often unreasonably expect that their husband is going to have the same conclusions as them at the same time.  But, in actuality, one person wants to date before the other, one person wants to commit before the other, one person wants to marry before the other, one person wants to have a baby before the other, one person senses problems before the other, one person wants to do something about those problems before the other, and if problems go on too long, one person wants to break up or divorce before the other. Husbands and wives have different sensitivities and tolerance levels. It’s very natural for either the husband or wife to want to work on problems first.

Should you wait for your husband to be ready to go to counseling?

If things get bad enough, then your husband may be ready to work on the relationship. There are multiple problems with this strategy, though. By the time things are that bad for him, you may be long burned out and no longer have the energy or desire to work on the relationship. I often work with men whose wives have separated from them precisely at that point. Another problem with this strategy is that your husband may find other ways to deal with the stresses of a failing marriage. Alcoholism, workaholism, gambling, gaming, and affairs are some of the unhealthy ways that men sometimes cope with a stressful marriage. These create bigger problems and when men have them, they are even more reluctant to enter counseling.

Coach Jack’s Recommendations:

Stop trying to convince your husband to go to counseling.  If you have been trying to do that for a while, you have learned that your words don’t mean that much to him and he either tunes them out or sees them as evidence that you have a problem.  Using more words will just get you less respect and that won’t help either of you. The surest way to know how much respect you have is to notice how much he cares about what you say.

Get help.  Learn how to combine your words with actions.  Your husband can disregard your words, but not your actions.  The more you combine your words with actions, the more meaningful your words will become and the more respect you will have as well. You must be careful though, because the wrong words and actions can also damage your relationship. To be effective in rebuilding your relationship, your words must be both tough and loving at the same time. This is completely learnable, but often the place where people have the most difficulty. My clients make rapid progress as we practice the words and actions that get them respect and rebuild their relationship.

Don’t be “patient.” Well meaning people may advise you to just be loving and patient. Having worked with Christian organizations for many years, I have heard this advice given repeatedly to the detriment of people’s relationships. Loving, yes. Patient, yes. But, to let your relationship gradually get worse and worse is neither loving nor patient. Loving our spouses requires us to take actions that rebuild the relationship so that love can flourish. Sometimes we need to do that in a gentle way and sometimes we need to do that in a tough way. If I am doing something that is damaging my relationship, the last thing I want is my wife just to patiently endure it. Fortunately, I know that she loves me too much to ever let things get bad for us.

The husbands of the women I work with have all different sorts of problems.  Most are not good at communication. Some have anger problems, some are very selfish, and some just don’t seem to know what they want.  Sometimes there are  affairs or other severe problems. Because of the success I see each day, I know that none of these are reasons to end your relationship if you are willing to learn what you need to do to rebuild your relationship.

The last thing your husband wants is for you to give up on him.  And, if you do, then the relationship will be over.  As much as your husband may not want to work with you(right now), he wants to be loved, and he wants to be loved by you. He does not want to feel like he has failed your relationship.  Showing him that you love enough to do what is required to have a good relationship may be a kind of love that your husband has always wanted, but never received.  If he had other relationships before yours, he’s likely to only know that things get worse and that relationships end. He doesn’t know that his experience with you can be different.

Wife Not Attracted to You Anymore? Here are Eight Ways to Rebuild Her Attraction and Desire for You

Women can lose their attraction to their husbands for many reasons. You can stimulate her attraction again.

 

key to her heartWomen want to be attracted to their husbands

Men want to look at their wives and think that they’re hot.  They want that feeling like they can’t wait to get home at night to be with their wife.  And men know that there are things that women can do to make them feel that way, regardless of how they compare to the magazine covers.  But, men all too often don’t consider the other side of the coin.  Women also want to desire their husbands. And it has nothing to do with looking like the man on the cover of GQ. This article will help if you are still together. If she has already separated, you will want to see my article on how to reconcile with a separated wife.

Loving includes doing those things that create desire in your wife.

You know it’s true the first time a woman meets you–if she doesn’t have any desire for you, she won’t give you the time of day.  Your wife is not so different from the woman that you first met.  Except that now, she doesn’t want to hurt you by telling you how she’s not attracted to you anymore, or not so much, because she knows how much more that will complicate things (for her).

But, you can make it so she doesn’t have to fake it.

Your wife really can long to be with you.  And she really can still think that she got the best fish in the sea.  Giving her this feeling is the best gift you can give to her.  As her partner, you won’t be giving this in order to get something from her, because that will change your focus.  But, giving gifts of love will bring you rewards nonetheless.

Here are eight ways to attract your wife and increase her desire for you:

Attraction via Interest

1.  Spend time with her where she is the focus of your attention.  Not the TV, not a movie.  Remove the invisible newspaper that is between you when you are together.  Make her feel like the only reason you are in the room is because you want to be with her.  Ask her about things that she likes to talk about.  Notice her eyes, her hair.  Touch her like it’s the first time you ever did.  Don’t let the fact that you can’t do this everyday stop you from doing it sometimes.

Attraction via Personality

2.  Be consistently positive around her.  This doesn’t mean you need to be happy all the time or someone you’re not.  It means looking for the good, especially in her.  When you notice things you don’t like about the world, write it down if you have to, but don’t tell her about it.  She has enough negative things to deal with already.  You giving her more negativity won’t make you any more appealing.  Put it in the same category as farting. (More help on being positive).

Attraction via Socialization

3.  Be nice to other people.  Treat other people well and your perceived value will go up.  You will be more of a prize.  Your partner will be perceived by other women  as having a prize (just as you might with a new Mercedes).  Wives who are envied by other wives feel more special.  You want to be admired by other women.  It makes you feel like an attractive man.  She also wants to be admired by other women.  The diamond ring on her finger and your behavior to others are both things she shows off to get that admiration.

Attraction via Attention

4.  Listen to her.  Impress her with your ability to listen rather than your ability to talk.  When you listen, don’t listen to figure things out or solve problems.  Just listen and show you are listening (by focusing on her).  Instead of giving advice, just say, “Tell me more about it.”  Don’t give advice to her unless she asks for it.  You will become much more attractive–regardless of how great your advice might have been. (More help with communication).

Attraction via Uniqueness

5.  Notice little things about her that others don’t.  If you notice little things (positive things), it means she is important to you.  It means you are paying attention to her.  Just telling your wife she is attractive isn’t enough to attract her to you.  If you notice specific things about her that are attractive (that most people wouldn’t pick up on), then you are making her feel special and attractive.  Contrast:  “You are a beauty,” with “The little flecks of blue in your eyes are beautiful like the sky.” The more special you make her feel, the more attracted she will be to you.

Attraction via Care

6.  Really care about her needs.  Faking caring will not help in a long term relationship.  How can you make yourself care more?  By asking yourself (not your wife) what you can do to help her enjoy her life more, and then doing it.  By taking the “have to’s” out of your thinking and replacing them with “want to’s.”  “I want to go to work so my wife can get the things she wants.”  A woman knows when you are doing something because you “have to” and when you are doing it for her.  If this sounds too subservient for you, just think how you are doing it for the both of you.  And don’t try to get credit for what you do.

Attraction via Desire

7.  Have something of value you want to give her.  Those words, “want to” are key here.  Many men give things to to their wives because they believe they have to or because it is their responsibility.  Beyond those things, what do you want to give to her?  For some people, it may be sharing their dreams.  For others, it may be a rose bush in the back yard.  But, there needs to be something that you want to give to her.  If you really love her, then you want to give her great things, right?  If not, then…  That will be in her mind, too.

Attraction via Security

8.  Take care of yourself.  Neediness is unattractive to any woman who doesn’t want to be your mother.  Your ability to take care of yourself  will be  received consciously by a woman as you not needing her.  But, it is received subconsciously by a woman as your being able to take care of her.  (This is why unneedy jerks often score, while needy nice guys don’t). Since our subconscious rules our lives and is the seat of our emotions, you will be more attractive to her the less needy you are.  When she does things for you, appreciate it, but don’t need it.

You may see the common thread that ties all of these together—making her feel important.

Yes, you can catch a woman’s attention by being a man of importance (money, power, fame), but you keep a woman by making her feel important.

You may have missed the other thread that ties these together–

That is that what you do, determines how attractive you are.  To all women, everywhere, but especially to your wife.  Trying to become powerful in order to attract women is a losing game since power doesn’t keep women.  But, when you learn to attract women (like your partner), you  gain a power that you cannot lose.

What if you are doing these things already, and the attraction is not there?

If you are having difficulty attracting your wife, even though you are doing the things in this article, there is another issue. That issue is blocking her attraction to you. It could come from her past, it could come from something that has happened in your marriage, or it could be something that is still going on. You will need to deal with this issue or help her to because her lack of attraction to you may lead to the end of your marriage. I work with many men whose wives have already separated from them. We use some effective methods for reconnecting and re-attracting. It will easier for you though, if you don’t wait for things to get to that point.

How to prevent your wife from separating or divorcing you

Marriage coaching for reconnecting and rebuilding

How to Work on a Marriage

Six steps you can do alone or with your spouse to fix your marriage and become closer.

 

wife problems1.   Identify the main issue causing problems

Just as a huge truck tire can become completely useless from a little hole, our marriages can be drained of love from one single issue.  Love could be draining out of your marriage because of communication issues, sexual issues, financial issues, family issues, a lack of trust or forgiveness, or difficulty getting past  a traumatic event. Get a piece of paper right now and in one sentence write where the leak is in your marriage. 

2.   Understand your spouse’s motives

Whatever your spouse is doing, the reason is NOT to make your marriage worse. Although sometimes people end a marriage, no one wants to have a bad marriage. Getting clear about what he or she wants and is trying to have (not trying to do) will put you in a better position to help the both of you. On your paper, write down what your spouse is trying to have with his or her behavior.

3.   Make a plan.

The best plans involve communicating and problem solving, as well as increasing intimacy. These are not done at the same time. For example, communication needs to happen before problem solving. Trying to do both at the same time will just shut down the communication. People often waste their time trying to find one single answer that will solve all of their problems. A multistep plan will allow you to focus on one small thing at time and will keep you from needing to figure it out as you go along. Even one session with a marriage coach at this point can make sure you are on the right path.

4.   Anticipate and Prepare for Resistance

People don’t react to change optimistically–even when those changes are beneficial to them. This includes your spouse. Expecting a bad reaction, and understanding that it is a normal and temporary adjustment will let you know that what you are doing is working. Put in your plan how you are going to deal with those expected negative reactions. They are as necessary to change as feeling sore is when you first start working out at the gym.

5.   Give your spouse extra praise and attention.

It’s important that you encourage the change long before you feel like being encouraging. He or she may still have a long way to go, but if you see effort, encourage it. Try to overlook bad facial expressions and tone of voice that happens while changes are being made. They are often the last part to change.

6.   Work together with your spouse after the initial improvement

Many people try to work together too soon, before good communication. Working too soon with your spouse can cause conflict which turns your spouse off from wanting to work together. By improving communication and respect first, your efforts to work together will be more successful and more enjoyable.

 

A real life example

Angela knew there were things that she should do, must do, if her marriage was to improve. But she was afraid of making things even worse.

When Angela first consulted me, she said that she used to be such a positive person. However, her marriage had become so stressful that her her good mood would burst like a bubble with just one uncaring, irritated look, or one sharp tone from her husband. She felt emotionally and physically drained. She played reruns of the past over and over in her mind. She was focused on how bad her marriage was. She had little hope about improving her marriage and was contemplating ending it.

Angela had been so wrapped up in what her husband did that she hadn’t considered what her husband wanted.

Together with Angela, we listed the problems that were obvious in her marriage. Most of them had to do with a lack of sharing. They couldn’t get closer because of the protective “walls” they each had. Conflict, not sharing was the result. But, Angela knew that her husband didn’t like conflict either. And in all probability, her husband wanted the marriage to improve as much as she did. Taking some steps to improve it would help him as well as her.

Angela needed steps that she could manage

We made a step by step plan which included starting conversations with her husband, managing his responses in a positive way, learning to communicate assertively (rather than aggressively or withdrawing), problem solving, and increasing intimacy. By focusing only on one step at a time, and by knowing what to do, Angela was able to reduce her stress and be more realistic. She didn’t expect any one of her efforts to “solve” all their problems. As long as she could see progress toward that goal (restoring intimacy), she was able to be more hopeful. Angela told me that just being able to do something was very helpful.

Angela’s partner resisted, as expected

Angela told me that her husband reacted exactly as we had predicted. He was hostile and attempted to shut down her communication. Knowing how to respond to his predictable behavior really helped her not to escalate their problems. And it also helped her to gradually make the talking more productive. It helped her and her husband to be on the same side. It was only a matter of a couple of weeks before they had a long heart to heart talk.

Angela did the work

Although I taught Angela the skills, she really did the work. She praised and encouraged her husband at first just for talking with her, even though she had to work hard at not complaining. She often needed reassurance that she was on the right track, which I was happy to provide. It was the first time in her life that she had done such marriage work and I was proud of her. Together, we worked on increasing communication, and then on increasing respect. We worked on making win-win outcomes. Thanks to her persistence, Angela and her husband learned to work together and to really talk. She really did save the marriage for both of them.

 

What about you?

You can improve your marriage

I wish everyone could just love their partner and feel secure. But, when that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t need to be the end of their marriage. And it doesn’t have to be the end of closeness, either. Rather, it is the time to start re-creating what was lost, and to get back what both you and your spouse want–a loving and close marriage. I sincerely hope that you can do what is necessary to have that for yourself. And, if you want my help, I will be happy to help you, too.

Resources

 

My Husband Doesn’t Love Me Anymore

Why some men stop loving their wives and what you can do about it

 

angry couple broken heartAngela was starting to despair

When she first contacted me she doubted if her husband loved her anymore. But, she loved him. When she tried to talk to him, he insisted that nothing was wrong, but she could see that their marriage wasn’t close like other couples. And she couldn’t feel the love from her husband the way she used to. She asked me, like many women do, if there was hope for her marriage. It was a very heavy question for her to ask and I knew that. I couldn’t give her a simple answer in an email and leave it at that. There never is a simple answer when marriages become distant. But there are answers. As we started our work together, I needed to know what her marriage was like and especially what she was doing or not doing because of the difficulties.

Angela didn’t have the kind of experience that would help her to effectively deal with her marriage problems.

She tried to think positively, but her good mood would burst like a bubble with just one uncaring, irritated look or one sharp tone from her husband.  So, most of the time, she just tip-toed around him. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she also felt drained of energy.  Like a wind up toy which had been wound up too often.  She used to have so much energy and things she wanted to do. The mirror on the wall was not her friend anymore because she didn’t like the person she saw when she looked in it.  Instead of her reflection telling her she was the fairest in all the land and the apple of her husband’s eye, it just told her she was  getting older.  She could see the future more clearly because each day was the same.  So she preferred to think about the past.  She was on a road going  nowhere with a traveling companion who didn’t enjoy her company.  She was in a bad marriage.  Being positive seemed hopelessly out of the question.

As you know, we can’t continue to think positively when our life continues to go negatively.  We can’t force it because it’s not connected to anything good in our future.

What Angela was doing and what many people are doing is “reacting.”  Reactions are what come naturally, like quickly moving your hand away when you feel something hot, or jumping back when you suddenly see a spider near you.  It doesn’t take any preparation.  It is instinctive.  Reactivity is a built-in safeguard that keeps us safe when we are in immediate danger.  But, when the danger is ongoing, and more stressful than life threatening, quick reactions are not helpful.  Like Angela, people become worn down and burned out by being in reactive mode day after day.  And by being careful all the time. They condition themselves to fear their husband’s (or wife’s) reactions to protect their own feelings.  That doesn’t work, though, because it continues a bad marriage, it doesn’t improve it.  People live for today, but in anticipation of the future.  When what we anticipate looks gloomy, our day to day life is drained of positive emotion.  We are drained. We can only smile at what used to make us laugh.  We feel nothing where we used to feel something.

Becoming positive means making a shift from being reactive to being proactive.  From avoiding the bad to doing the good. From seeing what is to seeing what can be.

We don’t need to take on all of our problems at once.  We can be proactive just by knocking down one major obstacle, and then after that another. Each proactive change we make gives us more energy for the next. When we make these changes, our partners also become more motivated by our relationship. Becoming proactive in a marriage means temporarily taking the lead.  When you lead, you don’t have to make sure that your husband follows.  He will because, deep down, he loves you. If your husband really didn’t care about being left behind, he would have left already.  Your husband may or may not feel as hopeless as you, but he wants a better situation too.  Being proactive means starting the process that makes it possible for you to change your situation to a better one and for your husband to have a better situation too, with you.

Becoming positive means becoming proactive.  Being proactive means taking steps to deal with your immediate situation and moving forward to a new and better way of relating.

As you see more clearly and feel more deeply that reactivity is not helping you, like Angela, you will become more and more willing to take a new approach.  You will begin to see that being brave, and loving, and admirable, means doing whatever is necessary to get love, and affection, and positive attention.  And that while many people can’t do those things, that you can, because you realize that life is short and marriages are important and that life is for living.

Your feelings let you know that things are not the way they are supposed to be, or could be.  Already you have learned many things from wise and experienced people. And you know, if you want to, you can learn to deal with your marriage problems in a positive and effective way. A good marriage coach is both a caring and know leg able person, who can help you to be more effective. After all, you deserve love, affection, and attention for your sacrifices and commitment to your marriage.  You don’t really want to continue to be reactive any more than your partner wants you to.

Here are some steps Angela took with me: 

1.   Finding immediate small and important changes she could make without her husband’s help.  Just like a huge flat tire can be fixed with a little patch, sometimes our marriages are like that.  One hole may have caused a lot of love to leak out.  Angela’s marriage was leaking love in specific places like communication and sexual issues. These problems as well as financial issues, family issues, and getting past a traumatic event leaks love for many couples. Learning skills to plug each of those leaks can make a big difference.

2.  Working on understanding what would motivate her husband to make changes.  Angela had not realized that her husband was missing out on a good marriage as much as she was. But, he certainly didn’t know what to do about it either. We began to look more at his motivations, his desires, and how to talk to him about those. This was important for helping her and her husband to get on common ground–working together to build their love instead of arguing about whether their were problems or not.

3.   She learned to predict, plan, and practice. Angela learned to recognize the interactions that happened between her and her husband as patterns. Instead of just reacting to what he said or what he did, she could tell herself that this wasn’t something new. Then, in coaching, we practiced the changes that would help those patterns to change. Not all at once in some drastic way, but in a loving and persistent way. She soon realized that almost everything that happened in their marriage was a pattern. It really helped her to feel in control and to gain her husband’s respect.

Angela continues to work on her marriage and knows that she will have to be on guard not to let things slip back to where they were before. But, she and her husband are much closer now and walking on eggshells is a thing of the past. As Angela said to me, “I will never do that again!”

How important are these kinds of changes to your marriage? How much better would you feel about being that way?

Only you know if it would be helpful to wait for change or learn to make changes. If you want to wait, then counseling may give you the support you need to feel better until that happens. Or, if you are ready to make changes, with marriage coaching you can learn positive steps that you can take now to draw the both of you together again. If you would like, you can get a Love Discovery session with me so that we can talk about your situation and some positive options. If you want to, I can teach you how to be tough and loving at the same time. Won’t you start to take the steps that heal, and help both of you, to fall in love again?

 

How to Help Your Wife Feel More Love for You

Loving your wife is not enough if she doesn’t feel it. Fortunately, you have a lot of control over that.

heart and keyIf you love her so much, why is she loving you less?

When women start to lose their feelings of love for a man, they reason that it must be something about the man.  They compare the way you are now to the way you used to be, back when those feelings of love were strongest.  It used to be pillow talk for hours, frequent sexual encounters, listening about all those little things in her day.  And now, it is no pillow talk, sex a couple of times a week and an expression of “get to the point” on your face when she tells you about something. 

Never make your partner have to guess whether you love her

Many women have to wait until Valentines’ Day or her birthday to hear “I love you,” or more likely just see it as part of the prewritten message on the card. So, you can see that it would make sense to your wife that the change in her feelings is because you have changed your behavior toward her.  And, then she thinks, if you have changed your behavior that way, you must not love her as much as you used to. 

When your love doesn’t count

See where this is going?  Kind of an emotional spiraling out of control with you left holding the blame.  So, when you take her out to dinner, give her compliments or work your butt off to support her, she sees these as obligation behaviors because obviously you don’t love her as much as you used to (she thinks).  It’s enough to drive you crazy!  Depending on how you react to this kind of finger pointing or depression in your wife, things will either get worse or better. 

The bottom of the spiral can be the end of your marriage

Men who don’t know how to deal with this rapidly declining situation sometimes get help from me early on, but most wait until their wife or girlfriend says that she no longer loves them anymore and couldn’t possibly in the future and oh by the way, she is divorcing/breaking up with you.  By that time, the couple seriously need help, but only the man is willing to work with me because his wife/girlfriend sees it as useless. 

Love can be rebuilt

Fortunately love can be rebuilt even at that point and it’s my special skill to be able to help people with this.  But the more effective thing is to learn to show love on a regular basis in a way which makes your wife or girlfriend “feel” loved.  Because no matter how much you may actually love her, if she doesn’t feel it, it’s not going to count.  Fair or not, that’s how women are.  So, unless you would rather trade her in for a man, it’s a reality you need to deal with.

Turning things around

If you are not yet at that breaking point (and I hope you aren’t), then you can really start to turn things around in your marriage.  The very best way to do that can be summed up in one word, “attitude.”  You know that your work and efforts on your wife’s behalf are an expression of your love, but she needs to feel that and not simply be able to reason it out from your behaviors.  In most cases, you won’t need to work any harder, but you will need to change your attitude.

You don’t need to build a deck or buy a diamond necklace…just make a little attitude change

We change our attitude when we show enthusiasm on our face, in our touch, and in our voice.  Remember those three things—face, touch, and voice.  There is a big difference between looking at someone and looking at them with love.  Determine to show in your face the love you feel in your heart.  What will happen is your eye contact will be deeper and brighter, and your facial expression will be softer and lighter.  With your touches, you can do the same thing—determine to let your wife/girlfriend feel your love in your touch. 

The parts of your body that she likes the best are your ears

Use a gentle voice and listen without solving problems.  Just listen.  If she asks for help, then solve her problems.  Most of the time, women just want you to listen and care.  Focus on the listening and caring rather than problem solving.  Forget questioning all the “facts.”  If you aren’t problem solving, you don’t need all the facts.  Just listen.  Even if she is angry with you, just listen.  Don’t feel like you have to change, point out the real problem, or fix anything.  For many men, just making this one change of listening can boost their wife’s love for them.

Don’t despair–it won’t help

Don’t despair if it has gone beyond this for you.  If you really love her, there are still things we can do. If she is saying really tough things, you may want to start to learn how with this free ebook written especially for husbands.

Other articles you may be interested in:

 

Get Respect from Your Husband and Improve Your Relationship

Getting respected will make sharing easier and intimacy deeper. What are the changes that will help you to get more respect?

 

Start by listening to your feelings

Your feelings are like traffic signals for your behavior.  “Green” feelings (the good ones) mean keep it up, “red” ones (bad, bad, feelings) mean stop right away, and “yellow” (worry and confusion) signal change.  Feeling used and feeling unappreciated are yellow lights that signal a lack of respect in your marriage.  What is changing for you is your love and connection to your husband. It is decreasing and getting weaker. The less he respects you, the less your husband will love you. Fortunately, whether that happens or not is completely under your control. 

First, decide whether you are giving or doing too much

The place to start is with what you are giving or doing that makes you feel used.  Are the things you are doing unreasonable for a marriage?  Are they far above and beyond what you would expect from your husband?  Or is it that the things you are doing are not really the problem; rather it’s how little you are getting in return.  If you really are doing too much, then doing less is your prescription for decreasing resentment. 

Are you getting too little in return?

If you are not doing too much, but you are getting too little, then doing less will make things worse.  Doing less will give your husband a legitimate reason to complain about you.  Of course then you can complain back, but this will just become a downward spiral of bitterness, resentment, and holding back love.  Not a good way to build your marriage. Getting even never gets us more. In my book, What to Do When He Won’t Change, I help women with three levels of intervention for different types of difficult men. For the selfish man and the unappreciative man, the first step always includes communicating clearly what you want.

Communicate clearly what you want

Don’t let your husband’excuse ever be, “You didn’t tell me.”  If you believe that your husband should know what you want, but you are not getting it, then it is time to assume his cluelessness.  Nicely fill him in on what you want.  “Honey, I want you to thank me and give me a hug when I do things for you,” for example.  Or, “I want you to spend two hours with the kids in the evening so I can have some time for myself.” Be positive, and be specific.  If you have a problem asking for what you want, it’s probably a self-esteem problem on your part.  If you assume your husband should know without your saying, it will just make you angrier when you don’t get it. If you spell things out and he refuses, then at least it’s not because of your lack of communication. Don’t let him ever be able to say, “You should have told me.”

Communicate clearly what you don’t want

Often husbands are trying to show their love by giving their wives what they want, enjoy, and need.  That’s great if they both have the same needs and desires.  But often that is not the case.  One person likes gifts, while the other prefers practical help.  One person likes to spend time talking, the other prefers activities.  If what your husband is doing does not make you feel loved and appreciated, say so—nicely.  “Honey, I know you are showing your love by giving me little gifts, but it doesn’t really make me feel loved.  What would make me feel loved is your helping around the house (going bowling with me, sitting and talking with me, etc.).”

Make sure you are not giving too much of what your husband doesn’t want

Could you be speaking the wrong love language to your husband?  Are you doing things for him when he would rather you do something with him?  Are you spending 3 hours a day cooking when he would be just as happy with TV dinners?  If you are not speaking the right love language with your husband, there is also a good chance that you are not speaking the right love language with your children, family, or friends.  Everybody has different needs and desires.

Become more valued and respected

Your husband may be doing things which are harmful for the marriage.  This can come in many forms–from directly mistreating you, to not being responsible, trustworthy, or by neglecting to put time into the marriage.  It may be beyond his recognition that those things are bad for your relationship.  He may see you as a whiner or complainer.  Have good boundaries by:  1) refusing to participate in damaging behavior; and 2) refusing to allow yourself to be mistreated, and he will respect you more.  Getting love and respect go hand in hand.

Know your husband’s emotional limitations

If you believe your husband is not very concerned about your happiness in the marriage, expecting him to become that way, or thinking that he should be that way, will not actually result in change.  Realize that he does not have your sensitivity (otherwise this problem wouldn’t exist). Empathy and giving are skills that many people are not good at–even if they do other things very well. They didn’t choose to be that way.  But, they can improve with help and practice.

Help your husband to see the connection between his happiness and your own

First, make a list for yourself, of how your husband treating you better would benefit your husband.  These are not “bribes” to get your husband to change.  They are the natural results that a better marriage would have for him.  They are the natural results that many people would realize, but that your husband may not. Then, communicate these to him. For example, you would be more trusting, so that he would feel less controlled;  you would be more willing to do things with him that he enjoys, etc.

Skills are required to increase your husband’s respect and love for you

The skills required to get respect are building your self-esteem, communicating clearly and positively, boundary setting, and understanding what motivates your husband.  If the respect in your marriage has already dropped very low, these skills alone may not be enough. You will want to explore more power options for saving your marriage, like marriage coaching. Whatever you do, don’t wait for your yellow lights to change to red.

 

Feeling Used or Unappreciated in Your Marriage or Serious Relationship?

Why your husband, wife, or significant other is not appreciating all your efforts and how you can turn that around, starting today

 

Feeling used signals your relationship is getting worse, but it can also signal that it is time to start making it better.

You have in front of you right now an opportunity for making important and positive changes.  By using your feelings, you can pinpoint just how you are being used or where you are being unappreciated. Then, you can use that as a guide to necessary changes that you need to make. Because the truth is, if you are being used, you are the one who is letting it happen. Blaming your spouse feels easier and that makes it feel right, but it doesn’t change anything. It puts you at odds with your spouse when really you would be better off working together. The more you blame, the more you hurt your relationship, and the easier it will be for you partner to succumb to the temptations of a sexual or emotional affair.

To make things better, you need to give up blaming.

Whenever we have a problem with what our spouse is doing, no matter what it is, blaming will just throw fuel on the fire an will never get you to where you want the relationship to be. You can only get the relationship to where you want it to be by taking responsibility to at least start the changes necessary for that to happen. And, if you blame, you may end up going from feeling used to feeling ignored, and that is not an improvement.  Our mates never believe that they are using us, even when they are.  Blaming them will cause them to defend and distance, or attack and distance, or avoid and distance. 

Let’s Take a Look at What You Could be Doing to Contribute to this Problem

Three ways people set themselves up to feel used and unappreciated:

1. Poor boundaries and difficulty saying “no”.  It is not always desirable or necessary to say “yes” to our spouse’s desires and requests.  People who have difficult saying “no” are often afraid of the reaction they will receive from their spouse, or they are afraid their spouse will love them less.  Both of these reasons are connected to neediness.  In reality, a person who always agrees with us or does everything we want is not attractive. It’s hard to have respect for a doormat. If this is you, get to work today on getting rid of your neediness. You will love yourself more for it and your spouse will too. 

2. Out of touch with reality.  The things that you believe are important for you to give or do for your spouse may not actually match his or her expectations.  They may be a carryover from your earlier relationships or the way that you saw your parents behave.  Sometimes we blame our partners for things that we believe we have to do, but which they never asked us to do. This is a communication issue. It’s time to stop guessing what he/she appreciates and really find out. Even a free resource like my communication lessons can take you a long way in this direction.

3. Doing too much.  People mainly do too much when they are trying “earn” love. But, love cannot be earned by doing things which make us resent our spouses.  Giving and doing are great when they are motivated by our love.  If we try to get love by doing and giving, we come to expect a certain love “payoff” for our work.  When we don’t get it, our love for our spouse decreases.  If we then work even harder to try to get our love payoff, we just create a vicious cycle.  We end up doing more and more and loving less and less. Eventually, our feelings of love will be gone.

 

It’s very doubtful that you have the wrong spouse or partner

Use your emotions to help your relationship, not hurt it

When it feels like your spouse does not care about you, it is easy to think that you made a mistake. That this man or woman is not right for you. Your every encounter can feel like a reminder that he doesn’t love you as much as he used to. This way of thinking will make you pull away more and more and you will begin to seem as uncaring as your spouse. Because you are here, reading this now, I know that you don’t want this to happen to you.

Four action steps to take right now for the sake of your relationship

1. Communicate with your spouse.  Communicating clearly and positively both prevents and ends many of the problems that people have in relationships. Learning how to respond to the way your spouse communicates is also part of learning to communicate well. The better you can tailor your way of responding to your spouse’s habits and desires, the more effective will be your communication, the more your spouse will be the way you want, and the less you will feel used.

2. Cut back. Learn how to decrease your load and how to say “no” to your spouse in a way that builds the relationship. You will make your day easier as well as get more respect from your spouse. Saying “no” is positive when it builds your relationship. Sometimes it is one of the most loving things you can do. 

3. Ask for more rather than working for more. Asking your spouse for what you want in a way which is neither needy nor argumentative can increase your spouse’s desire to do more for you. It’s often a good idea to practice this kind of communication with someone who already does this well, before you attempt to do it with your spouse. 

4. Revise your stereotypes. You have the power to make yourself into any kind of person you want to be. Choose role models for yourself that inspire you to grow and approach life in a way that is appealing to you. Do you have a role model who is loving, but would never let herself (or himself) be used? Practice being that way. Any way that someone else has learned to be, you can learn to be also. 

Two severe problems to watch out for

When it’s not just your husband or wife

1. Feeling used by many people.  If you are feeling used by other people in addition to your spouse (family, friends, coworkers, etc.) or if you have felt used in your previous relationships also, then you have a serious blind spot that is preventing you from seeing how you create this pattern.  It is sabotaging your success and your happiness.  Getting help with this now will make other people and you see yourself in a new and more grown up way. You will feel like you are getting from your relationships and not just giving.

When your husband, wife, or significant other truly does not love you

2. Participating in a con.  Some spouses really are intentionally using their spouse.  They have little or no interest in the relationship other than what they can get from it in terms of money, maid service, sex service, child care, a green card, or other benefit.  Their words may say “I love you,” but their actions say that they don’t care at all.  They use and manipulate the relationship for years until they find an even better source of whatever they are getting from you.  It is the ultimate in rejection. If this is happening to you, get help with it as soon as you can.

 

Let Me Share with You How One of My Clients Ended this Problem of Being Used Without Ending Her Relationship

Maria’s husband was selfish

Maria’s husband was paying the bills, but using his remaining income for his “hobbies” of gambling and socializing with people other than his wife.  He didn’t help at home and treated his wife as though she should naturally desire to care for him, while he cared for himself. 

Maria’s attempt to help herself

When Maria had complained to her husband about how much she does and how she wanted to spend more time with him, he would strongly remind her that thanks to him she had a roof over her head, the children were financially taken care of, and she didn’t need to work.  He told her that he deserved to relax when he wasn’t working and that she was selfish to think otherwise. 

Maria’s thoughts and feelings

Maria had bought into this, but was becoming more and more sad and lonely as time went on.  She also felt used as she did a lot of work at home and all the childcare while her husband just enjoyed himself.  She couldn’t think about leaving her husband because of her obligation to the children, her lack of income, and her cultural beliefs about what a wife is supposed to do.  She was in a hole that was getting deeper and darker.

Maria’s search for help

Maria came to me for coaching as a recommendation from her friend, and with financial help from her brother.  Maria did not know whether her husband loved her or not, she felt like a failure, and she did not believe that she could continue to live like she was until the kids were grown.  As a marriage coach, my priority was to help Maria to reconnect on an emotional level with her husband. 

Maria’s coaching needs

Maria needed to build enough respect with her husband so that he would talk to her as an equal rather than as a subordinate.  She also needed to learn how to become less financially and emotionally dependent on her husband.  She had been expecting him to take care of all her needs and that was clearly not about to happen.  Being patient or a “good wife” was actually turning her into a miserable one.

Maria’s progress in marriage coaching

Maria learned how to effectively communicate with her husband’s traditional response, his selfish behavior, and his unreasonable expectations.  I prepared Maria for the inevitable anger her husband would have as she made changes.  She learned how to deal with his anger without fighting or withdrawing, and gradually her husband adjusted and calmed down.  It was an early victory for her. Her major breakthrough came when she began to become more actively involved with her husband.  Her husband came to say of her, “She’s one tough bitch,” but Maria was ok with that because of the way he meant it and because it gave his friends a way of understanding his change in behavior toward her. When we completed her coaching, Maria felt both loved and satisfied with her marriage.  I miss working with her, but I am glad she is happy.

Two great offers to help you make your relationship much better: