By: Leslie Cane: I often hear from folks who are tired of feeling as if they are carrying their marriage entirely on their own shoulders without any help at all from their spouse. Often, this gets so old that you can begin to wonder for how much longer you are going to be able to take it.
I heard from a wife who said: “I feel like I am the only who pulls her own weight in my marriage. When my husband and I first met, he was romantic and he made an effort. He used to bring my flowers and he would put a lot of thought into where he would take me for our dates. If I did something nice for him, he would always notice and then he would reciprocate. If I made dinner, he would wash the dishes. He would always pick up after himself and he was just an easy person to love and to live with. Well, after about eight years he’s stopped all that. He basically just sits back and waits for me to do all of the work. Last week, he forgot our anniversary and I didn’t even get so much as a card. He leaves his dirty clothes all over the house. He never helps me with anything to do with the house or with our marriage. There is no longer any romance in him. If I want to go on a date, then I have to plan it and do everything. He no longer lifts a finger in our marriage. There is absolutely no effort on his part. I feel like I’m the only one in my marriage. And it’s a lonely place to be. If things don’t change, I don’t think I’m going to be hanging around. What can I do?” I’ll try to address these concerns below.
Before I start offering insights and tips, I want you to know that I do understand and validate your concerns. I know you might have had people tell you that the spark leaves after several years of marriage and that if you demand at least some romance or spark, you are asking too much. I very much disagree with this. When my own marriage got stale and the resentment started to build, I listened to everyone who told me that I was overreacting and I backed off and hoped for the best. I ended up separated and broken hearted, until I was able to turn things around. So I firmly believe that taking no action and hoping for the best is about the worst imaginable plan. I believe that it is best to take immediate action, while not overreacting enough to make your spouse defensive. I will discuss this more below.
Ask Yourself If The Little Things That Bother You Are Symptomatic Of A Larger Problem: Your mom or some other wise person may have already told you that fighting about leaving the toilet seat up has nothing to do with the toilet seat. Well, she’s absolutely right. Often, after disappointments and resentments have built for a while, you will notice people finding small and subtle ways to show their displeasure. They may not even realize that they are doing it. But you will often see them putting in less of an effort in every area of your marriage.
And often you will find yourself arguing about basic things like sharing chores or not making a romantic effort when those things aren’t the core of the issue at all. It is often about a loss of intimacy that manifests itself in those small housekeeping issues of your married life.
I am bringing this up because I want you to be aware that even if you come to a compromise on effort and household chores, you always also want to look at your bond and at your intimacy. Because if you are having mundane issues that are common to many marriages, it’s highly advisable to make sure that this is all there is.
Frankly, if you can restore the intimacy in your marriage and have that “in love” or even “in lust” feeling once again, little things like the dishes don’t bother you nearly as much. And, since both of you are fulfilled, you will find that your spouse actually wants to do better because he wants to keep that pay off constant.
It Always Helps To Make Him A Willing Participant Rather Than Using Negative Feedback: I know that is so tempting to point out that your husband is selfishly allowing you to carry all of the responsibilities all by yourself. The words lazy or selfish might escape your lips. But honestly, this strategy is going to make him defensive and it will make him feel unappreciated and things may even get worse. He may even pull back even more.
So the better bet is to make him want to do better with positive reinforcement. You might start by cheerfully asking him to help you with the dishes. When he does this, praise him liberally. Tell him when he helps out, it makes you remember those early days when we used to do everything as partners. You might say something like: “I miss those early days as partners. I miss the closeness we had. We’ll have to do this more often.”
At that point, if it is appropriate, you should offer him a physical connection. This just reinforces that positive reinforcement that is going to make him want to do better. You could even make a comment like “see what happens when you help me out?” It won’t take very much for him to connect the dots and figure out that helping you out is absolutely to his benefit.
Once you’re bonding and clicking again, you could playfully ask him to plan and execute a night out or weekend away. Again, you should be flirty and playful. Because this is often the most effective currency with men and it helps you both get more of what you want, which equals a happy and more equitable marriage.
As I alluded to, many people told me that I was overreacting when my husband and I began to fight about small, typical things. But ignoring the problem lead to a separation that almost turned into a divorce. I had to work extremely hard to get our marriage back on track. If it helps, you can read that story on my blog at http://isavedmymarriage.com
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