Okay mama, grab some coffee and let’s chat about the elephant in the room.
You’re unhappy, unfulfilled, or just in general not satisfied with the current state of your marriage. You’ve been married a good while and though there’s nothing catastrophically wrong, you’re just not happy with where things are. And you’re 98% sure that he needs to change. Make that 100%. He’s not really there for you. He doesn’t listen. He’s emotionally detached. And a bunch of other things. But since this is the most important relationship of your life, maybe it’s worth it to step back and see if there’s something we’re missing. Maybe it’s time to self-examine and self-reflect and see what’s lingering just under the surface. I did this about ten years ago and it has made all the difference.
-1-Unfulfilled in your own life
I think the first reason I was feeling unfulfilled in my marriage is because I was unfulfilled in myself. At the time, I had just quit my job as a family physician and I was lost. So, I took up some bad habits to temporarily make myself feel better. But those temporary dopamine hits that make us forget about the pain or doubt or insecurity or resentment that we’re feeling don’t last. And so, we need another and another. I found myself in debt and though my kids had EVERY cute swimsuit there was to be had, I was still miserable inside. When I began to take responsibility for myself and decide that I wanted more, I began to see that my unfulfillment in life was making me secretly blame my husband.
Stevie surprised me for our ten year anniversary with a trip to Atlantis. Everything from how he told me about the surprise to how he treated me while we were gone was magical. But all fairy tales end and a few days later we were back home and I was getting my feelings hurt over something insignificant and the anniversary was over. On that trip, I read The Notebook. (And also UGLY CRIED in the Nassau airport to the degree I have never ugly cried in my life. Stevie was probably mortified.)
As much as I love the book and movie version of The Notebook, life long love doesn’t look like that for very long, if ever. If we’re getting our cues from pop culture, we’re going to be sorely disappointed in marriage.
And then there’s the expectation we get from seeing our friends and family who are married and we begin to wonder why our marriage doesn’t look like that. Then we hear some sermon or podcast about how we should be holding hands and having devotions every day together.
And the list of expectations doesn’t end.
I finally found peace in my marriage when I quit expecting it to be EVERYTHING and just let it be what it was—normal, amazing, exhausting, beautiful, stressful, demanding, life-giving, and everything in between. If we decide to live our lives awake to what’s there and stop buffering the bad away with food and shopping, etc, we usually find that it’s a mix of good and bad. That’s what makes it life and that’s what makes us human. When we expect it to always be blissful, and when it’s not, make that mean that something’s wrong, we make it way harder than it should be. Marriage is hard and amazing. Let it be both.
(When Stevie and I have a fight or misunderstanding, I audibly remind myself that this is the part where it’s hard. It helps me allow the negative feelings, instead of pushing them away.)
We all have them, but we don’t often speak about them. If he does this and says this and acts this way, then all is well. My coach calls it the manual. We have a secret manual for the people in our lives and we expect them to follow it, even when we haven’t actually written it all out and given them a printed copy.
What’s your manual for your spouse? What are all those unwritten rules and standards that you are holding him to? And what would it be like to just drop the manual, to stop wanting and wishing and expecting him to be different and just accept him for exactly who he is?
We carry so much resentment towards our husbands because they are not obeying our secret rules and we fail to realize that the resentment we carry poisons US, not them. I feel the resentment and anger in MY OWN BODY, so it is worth it to question the resentment and consciously decide if I want to be holding onto it.
AND? We don’t like it when people have secret rules for us.
We want to be accepted for who we are. But that is the very thing we have trouble giving other people. What if we dropped ALL THE DRAMA and just decided to love? I’ve tried it over and over and over again as I practice being the kind of spouse I want to be and here’s what I can tell you—love is always the best option and YOU GET TO FEEL IT IN YOUR OWN BODY. When you decide to love without condition, you get to experience unconditional love and that, my friends, is what makes the world go ’round.
-4-Unmet Emotional Needs
This one is probably the most important because we’ve been taught that we have emotional needs and that something or someone else is in charge of meeting those needs. If we continue to believe that, we will always be at the mercy of someone else—held hostage emotionally until they give us what we think we need.
What if we met our own emotional needs? What if we began to function as emotional rock stars and paid attention to what we need and gave that to ourselves. We want him to show us love, but are we showing love to ourselves in the way we care for ourselves and talk to ourselves. We want him to BE THERE for us and have our back, but do we have our own back? Are we showing up for ourselves in a meaningful way? We want him to love us just as we are, but WE don’t love ourselves just as we are.
I promise that when I started taking responsibility for my own feelings and emotions, my life changed. No one can hurt my feelings. I hurt my own feelings by letting someone else hijack my thoughts and emotions. And sometimes I want to feel hurt, but at least I acknowledge that I’m choosing it.
Imagine going into a relationship with someone who was confident in themselves, who was not emotionally dependent on others, who took good care of themselves AND good care of those around them? That is what we all want, and the quickest way to get it is to BE IT.
Stop waiting for someone else to change. YOU ARE IT, mama. And who else, but you? You’re amazing and you are fully capable of meeting your own needs. Then, you can head into your relationship fully whole, fully well, without depending on someone else for what you can only give yourself.
I think we forget that we are part of a grandest story ever told.
God is writing a story to the world of love and sacrifice and he is using YOUR MARRIAGE to do it. This is so much bigger than you, so much more than your bills and your stress and your squabbles. This is life and death. This is Christ sacrificing for his bride and this is his bride loving him with her whole heart.
There’s also the story that you tell others and yourself about your marriage. Does your story sound something like, “He’s so selfish and he never does anything for me or the kids,” or “I wish for once he appreciated all I do around here.” That used to be my marriage story.
Then I decided that I’m in charge of the story and there’s JUST AS MUCH good to tell as bad. So, I rewrote the story. If you give me half a chance, I’ll tell you all the things I admire about Stevie. I’ll tell you I’ve never met anyone else quite like him. I’ll tell you how he has sacrificed everything for us. Is it true? Yes. And it’s a much better story than the one I have told in the past. And how do you think I show up in my marriage when I’ve been telling that story all day? Powerful, isn’t it, how we can change everything by deciding what story we want to tell about our marriage?
Now, I know some of you are going to get defensive and you’re going to tell me all kinds of things about your spouse or your situation that make it different. And I’m not saying that you should even stay married. Maybe you should have left a long time ago. Maybe there’s abuse and infidelity and all kinds of stuff. But what I’m saying is that if this marriage is here to stay, you might as well be its biggest fan. You might as well give it the intention and prayer and work it deserves.
And you can do that without your spouse ever changing one thing. Want to be more fulfilled in your marriage? That has ALWAYS been your job alone. You being fulfilled is a result of YOUR thoughts and YOUR emotions and only you can think and feel those. It’s always been you. I can’t think of anyone better.
Being unfulfilled is a story you’ve been telling yourself.
Maybe it’s time you told a better story.
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