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: