When I was little, I dreamed about prince charming rescuing me from my circumstances and building this perfect life with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids.
When I got married, I quickly realized that Prince Charming doesn’t exist and that marriage wasn’t what they make it seem like in the movies.
I’ve been married now for 18 years to my husband Nick. A lot of you know him from appearances on my Instagram, and many posts that I’ve shared about our story of restoration. I get asked almost daily from struggling women about my relationship with Nick and what steps I took to “fix” our relationship. I thought I’d blog about the things that were the most helpful to me in hopes that it helps those out there who are struggling in their relationship.
1. You can’t fix anyone.
Fixing is a behavior disease that will kill your relationship. We all do it at some point in our relationship even if we mean no harm. We often try to “help” our loved ones because we see things in them that they can’t see. Please hear me… There is nothing that you can do to change the person you are with. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, if they don’t want to change, they aren’t going to change. You have to decide for yourself IF they NEVER change, are you able to stay with them? If the answer is no, then you might as well just move on now. If you are willing to work on yourself and change the way you engage with your partner, your relationship will change regardless if they stay the same. You may even inspire them to change, but don’t expect that. Expectations are the footholds of resentments.
2. Stop accepting the unacceptable.
Often when I heard this advice after my husband and I separated, it really pissed me off. I didn’t understand how I could “accept” him yet also “stop accepting” his behavior. I didn’t know anything about boundaries and consequences. What I knew how to do was complain, bitch, and vent about what I didn’t like about him. I accepted behavior that felt was unacceptable because well, I didn’t know any other way to handle unacceptable behavior. I never set boundaries and consequences. What were those? They were non existent in my life. After working my 12 step recovery program for codependency, I learned to communicate to husband what my needs were, understand and communicate what was unacceptable, and clearly state the consequences if lines were crossed. My husband also learned to do the same.
You may be wondering what a boundary and or consequence is? If your partner yells at you, curses at you, or verbally abuses you – that is unacceptable behavior, right? You first need to communicate to your partner that you don’t want him/her to speak to you that way. You then tell him/her what you intend to do if they cross your boundary. This is the tricky part. You have to be willing to deliver on your consequence otherwise it is just an empty threat. Only set consequences that you are actually willing to enforce. If they raise their voice in an argument, you need to communicate to them their behavior is unacceptable. Clearly tell them if they continue, you will not engage with them anymore. If they continue, you have to be willing to get up and leave the room. Boundaries are a big deal in relationships and they only work if you are willing to enforce consequences when lines are crossed.
3. Focus on what you love, not what you don’t.
I was driving in the car about 11 years ago, struggling with all the things I wish were different in my marriage and decided to flip on the radio. I heard a speaker talking about the seeds that will grow in marriage are the ones we water most. He went on to say that if you only have one good seed in your marriage, make sure you are only watering that one. I immediately realized that I was focusing on watering the wrong seeds. The minute I shifted my perspective, I noticed a huge shift in our marriage.
If your spouse or partner only does one thing good in your eyes, compliment them on that one thing as much as you can. What we focus on expands. If you focus on the flaws you will literally magnify them not only in your eyes but in theirs as well. Tell your partner every day something that you love about them. Be an encourager. It will lift their spirits and they will be more inclined to do more of that which they are getting attention for.
4. Speak their love language.
Did you know that we all have a dominant love language that makes us feel love from others? Find out your partner’s love language is and make a conscience effort to show them their kind of love. My husband loves physical touch. I am quite the opposite. Having Fibromyalgia, I rarely want to be touched and because of that I often forget that my husband craves it. I try my best when we are laying on the couch or in the car to always have my hand touching him or massaging his arm. In the beginning I found it so hard, but now it’s second nature. My love language is acts of service. My husband knows this and will clean the kitchen or make me coffee when he wants to show me love. I can’t tell you how amazing it is when he does this for me. Knowing how we express love to each other was a game changer in our marriage.
5. Don’t shove it under the rug.
The first 7 years of our marriage, we shoved pretty much everything under the rug. Although I liked to talk about things, my husband didn’t and if I’m being honest, I didn’t know “how” to talk about things. I just knew how to nag. My sponsor taught me to share my fears and my feelings and let go of the result.
This is what it would look like:
“I feel insecure about our finances because you don’t pay our bills on time”
“My fear is that we are going to go into debit and possibly lose the house and I don’t want to resent or blame you if that happens.”
Then you just leave it there, and you don’t try to fix it. Allow your partner to just hear you and decide how to respond. This technique was magic for my relationship with my husband. Often he would apologize for things that I wasn’t expecting and when I shared my fears, he would very often want to be my Prince Charming and fix the problem without me having to ask him. It was magical.
6. Work on yourself not your partner.
I found it really hard to focus on myself and I blamed my husband for everything. At that time, I felt like I was really pretty awesome and he was really pretty terrible. It wasn’t until I got a sponsor that I realized that no matter how bad I think he is, I still have a part to play, not to mention I also had my flaws. When I began changing my reactions, my perceptions, and my expectations, things started to get a lot better between us. Once I took ownership for working on myself, I couldn’t blame him for everything anymore. I now had to do the next right thing.
7. Do you want peace or do you want to be right?
Honestly, which is it? If you are so focused on proving your point or being “validated”, you will miss out on living in peace. Does it really matter if they think they are right and you are wrong? If it does, why? Why do you care? That is really the issue and tackling that will help you more than trying to prove you are right.
8. Choose your battles carefully.
There is a fine balance between sweeping things under the rug, and confronting all your issues. I have a general rule of thumb. If after 24 hours, I continue to think about it more than 3 times in one day, I need to share it with my husband. Usually, after 24 hours, I can’t even remember what made me upset.
9. Never start your sentence with “why”.
I really wish I could remember who told me this, but it is GOLDEN! This piece of advice has saved me from starting COUNTLESS arguments. Starting your sentences with why immediately feels like an attack to your partner. No one likes it… why is a trigger word that should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
“Why didn’t you call me and tell me were going to be late?” Do you need to know the answer to this? What you reallywant to say (and what your partner hears) is “I’m irritated that I waited for you and you didn’t even bother to call… WHY… and it better be a good reason or I’m going to stay upset?”
If you must know “why”, consider asking yourself what kind of answer you are hoping to hear and rephrase your question something like this:
“Is everything okay? I was worried when you didn’t call.”
When you have underlying resentment for your partner (maybe this is a pattern for them and it really bothers you), that negative energy will come shining through in “why” questions. Avoid it at all costs.
10. Be a good partner even if you feel they don’t deserve it.
This is hard I will admit. I am extremely sensitive and it’s hard for me to be nice and loving to someone if they aren’t being that way to me, but I can still be a good partner. What that means is if I’m making dinner, I still make him a plate. I also communicate with my husband that I want to talk or that something is upsetting me and no matter how long it takes us to come to a resolution, I treat him with respect and mutual kindness. I don’t curse at him or call him names, and I don’t speak poorly of him on social media, to my family or to our children. I have hope, pray, and believe that our marriage is stronger than this issue we are having.
If you can’t do that, it may just continue to get harder and the distance between you may continue to grow. I believe that when you say you love someone, you love them even when you feel like they don’t deserve it. Love is an action. Love is a promise. Love meets you where you are at. If you really love them, love them. Don’t judge their worthiness.
Being a good partner doesn’t mean you accept bad behavior, it just means that you keep your bar high. You rise above and do what it right. It can even mean that you need to separate because you know you aren’t capable of keeping your bar high. Being a good partner means you look out for the team, not just yourself.
This is obviously a short list of things that helped me during a really rough time in my marriage. I could write pages and pages about each one of these points, but I hope you are able to take away at least one nugget that will help your relationship. If you are interested in more, I’d be happy to share. Leave me a message below or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your kindness and love towards me! I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my blogs, posts, and messages.