Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something. Please check out my full disclosure policy here.
I was 19 and I just loved what a tough guy he was. Broad shoulders, beautiful blue eyes and the cutest dimples when he smiled. It wasn’t just that or the camouflage Army uniform that made him manly, it was the care he showed his toddler daughter as a single daddy. It was also his courteous manners, confident demeanor and sooo non-emotional mentality that made me fall in love with him.
Mr Army Strong, as I like to call him on the blog, was the complete opposite of me, but I saw him as my other half who completes me and always understands just what I need to hear.
I knew people have marriage problems, but I figured we won’t have serious ones. Definitely not the kind when you’re totally disappointed with the person you’ve married.
2 years, a cross-Atlantic move and many more challenges later, I found out real quick that marriage problems are often caused by the very things you first loved so much about your spouse.
I complained that his confident demeanor seemed to have turned into inflexibility and control.
Courteous manners into people pleasing.
Non-emotional mentality into apathy and hardheadedness.
Needless to say I felt disappointed.
But was he the one who changed or did I? Did I cause our marriage problems by mistaking him for somebody else? Was this part of the deal that my favorite qualities would seem the most annoying?
The answer is not simple. Different people have different experiences, and I am most certainly not familiar with all of them. I will write down my experience during our almost 12 years of marriage and how we deal with our marriage problems. Take what’s useful and leave what’s not.
On this blog, I am all for minimalism, and I take that perspective into my marriage as well. Minimalism in marriage means one person for a lifetime. Read more about this in my article, “The Beginner’s Guide to Minimalism”.
The very reason why I deal with my marriage problems is that I want to stay married. I practice minimalism in other areas of my life so I have more time with my spouse and handle our marriage problems the right way. Relationships are the most important ingredients to life and I want to share with you how you can improve your marriage too.
MARRIAGE PROBLEMS? 6 THINGS TO DO WHEN YOUR SPOUSE DISAPPOINTS YOU
When we got married, things were rough. Not only were we newlyweds, but we were also from two different countries and had a sassy preschooler to take care of from day one. Life has only gotten more difficult and disappointment reared its ugly head.
I remember a conversation we had years ago when my husband told me I either love him and accept him for who he is today or I will always be miserable in this marriage. It was a tough thing to hear because I wasn’t sure what that meant.
Is he not planning on changing EVER? Or does he want me to put up with everything he does and love him for it? No way! So if I am miserable, is the solution packing up and leaving, not caring that we had kids together and my stepdaughter would lose another mom?
Is this why marriages end because people get disappointed when they truly get to know their spouse?
Thoughts were racing through my head and I was trying to figure the answers out. They didn’t come immediately and to some questions, I am still looking for the answer. But we both have grown and matured and learned a lot since then.
So how do you deal with waking up one day and realizing that the person you married ain’t all that?
The answer lies in expectations and perspective.
Why Do Expectations Cause Marriage Problems
Expectations in and of themselves aren’t bad. But they can choke the life out of a person burdened by them. When day in and day out you are expected to be somebody or do something, after a while all you’ll want is a break. Especially if the expectations are too high and unrealistic.
So first, let’s see what type of unrealistic expectations we bring into our marriages.
1. Expecting him to be a girlfriend.
Geez, it took me like 10 years to figure this one out. I honestly believed that Mr. Army Strong would be my best friend and the one and only person I would run to whenever I needed to talk or have emotional support. Marriage was supposed to be the most important relationship, right? The one that completes me and provides a lifetime companion, right?
2. Expecting him to read your mind
Wouldn’t that be a nice one to come true! When he asks you “what’s wrong” and you tell him “nothing”, you want him to know that’s the furthest thing from the truth. You want him to surprise you and know what you want for your birthday or Christmas. Without you having to say a word.
You want him to know how you feel, what you think and how to respond. You want him to know what you need even if it changes three times a day and even you lost track of it. If he loved you and really paid attention, he should just know!
3. Expecting him to be perfect
Pull off the perfect proposal. Be a skilled lover. Come up with the perfect vacation. Be your solid rock but still chat about feelings. Always remember every important date and never be late when picking you up.
This isn’t too much to ask after all, if he really cared.
4. Expecting him to make you happy
I often hear people say that they just want to make the other person happy, or that they wish the other person made them happy. We totally use marriage interchangeably with happiness. All the fluffy feelings at the beginning of a relationship fill us up with giddiness and we never want to let go of it. I get it. But is he really supposed to make me happy?
What To Do Instead Of Expecting
I put so many of these expectations on my husband, that he was buckling under the weight. Maybe I didn’t know I was doing it. Maybe I wasn’t sure of the difference between expecting and asking. Maybe he was falling short and I was right. Maybe. I am not always sure about the answer, but I am sure about one thing: expectations will slowly choke a marriage relationship. Looking out for myself and expect to be treated a certain way in order to be happy will inevitably cause heartbreak and disappointment.
So, I decided that instead of expecting, I will be accepting.
By accepting, I view the situation as is. It does not mean I agree with it or support it necessarily, though sometimes that may be the case. It means I accept my spouse for who he is on the most simple level.
I also accept that fact that the only person I have control over is myself. I can decide how I will react, what my attitude is going to be and how I handle situations. Acceptance is a daily, sometimes moment by moment decision for the rest of my life.
The realization of being in control of my own self brought me to the next step: change in perspective.
How Does Change In Perspective Give A Marriage New Life
In order to have a marriage worth keeping, you’ll have to go through pain, difficulties and tough times. Everything beautiful and great in a marriage requires a lot of work, compromise and constant commitment to keep on going.
Changing your perspective and giving yourself this reality check will help you better handle marriage problems life throws your way. (I am talking about the trials married people all go through, not about abuse, cheating or otherwise harmful type of behavior that needs to be handled differently)
When you intentionally change your perspective, you gradually let go of your idea of what marriage looks like and adjust to what it actually is. You choose to see the good parts and focus on what is important.
So what can help change your perspective and make steps toward lowering your expectations?
1. Erase The Word “Should” From Your Vocabulary
Should is a word that carries blame, judgment, guilt-tripping and wishful thinking. Should is not an assertive word you use to express what you feel and what you want or what you like. It usually tells the other person that they failed to measure up, failed to notice and overall just didnt meet your expectations.
When repeating “should” to yourself, the consequence is taking responsibility for things that may not even have been your fault and beating yourself up for things that actually have been your fault. Neither one of these is healthy.
As a therapist once suggested, stop “shoulding” on yourself.
Instead, use “could”. It is one tiny sound of a difference, but in your perspective, it is a huge one!
Consider this conversation:
“Why are you coming in here with your shoes on? You really should have noticed that I cleaned up the whole house. I can’t believe you never notice anything I do around here. I should just sit all day and it would be just as well. I shouldn’t expect even this much from you.”
“Please don’t come in here with your shoes on. You really could have noticed that I cleaned up the whole house. It hurts my feelings to be underappreciated. I could sit all day long, but I want to have a clean home for our family. If you could just let me know that you care, it would make me feel so much better.”
Notice, that you don’t have to be shy and cover up your feelings. But you also don’t have to be a bulldozer to get your point across. (I think when my husband reads this he is gonna be like, uhm why do you should on me all the time then?- Confession: just cause I know how to do it doesn’t mean I always do it right!)
2. Find True Girlfriends
Earlier I mentioned that I hoped and wished my husband would fill this role. I moved to a new country when marrying him and with my own family not around, every single relationship I built required a ton of effort. But I still needed girlfriends and you do too. No matter how sweet your guy is, he is not a woman. No matter how much he cares about you, he won’t understand when you’re hormonal and need to cry over
You may have a ton of family and girlfriends around you. Good for you! Count your blessings and enjoy them. Take advantage of their wisdom, honesty and empathy. Turn to them when you want to vent, when you need a sounding board or when you feel like your husband just doesn’t get it. I promise it’s ok. He cannot be everything to you. Love him for what he does and for the rest, there are your friends.
If you don’t have true friends or your family lives far away, don’t give up. I have been there, and often, I still feel like half of my heart is with my sisters on the other side of the world. With them, talking is easy, supporting each other is natural, but for my relationships here I have to work for. And you know what? It’s ok. I have grown tremendously as a person, committed myself to stop waiting for other people to initiate and to allow myself to be vulnerable.
I usually just want to plug my ears, cover my head with a pillow and hide under the ground when I think of forgiving my husband for something super hurtful. Why does it have to be so difficult? Especially when your significant other asked for forgiveness and you just feel hardened, like you don’t care. Or when they have not a clue in the world how much you are hurting and wouldn’t even think of saying sorry.
It’s tough. It seems impossible. Yet, if and when you do it, healing can finally start. Not before.
Depending on the severity of the offense, forgiveness may take years, and you have to do it over and over again, moment by moment. That doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven. That just means you are still healing. You don’t have to forget and move on as nothing happened, but unforgiveness is really like drinking poison and expecting somebody else to die. You can choose to actively work on forgiving, healing and seeking solutions for your marriage problems.
4. Let It Go
When you wake up one day and realize your spouse’s shortcomings and feel disappointed that your expectation didn’t meet reality, consider letting the least important things go. The best way to address the deeper, truly important issues is by separating them from the non-essential problems. You will need to practice acceptance and over time it won’t seem like such a big problem. This will make both of you happier.
For example, I used to be super annoyed with my husband when he would leave his dirty laundry lying around the bedroom and bathroom floors. Then I have read a story that helped me realize I am so thankful to have a husband I can pick up after because my life wouldn’t be the same without him. I decided to accept his tendency to not always pick up clothes right away. Sometimes I pick it up, sometimes I leave it, but it doesn’t bother me like it used to. This issue used to cause resentment and disappointment, but ultimately, I decided it wasn’t worth fighting over.
Maybe you can pinpoint some of these hot buttons that when pushed, send you into a mad frenzy. Evaluate if they’re worth the fight or could you work on accepting them and letting go?
5. Find What’s Good
If you want to change the way you look at your spouse, focus on all the positives about him. Remember I mentioned solid, rational, courteous and tough? I’m choosing to look at the qualities when they are displayed and positively affect my life. I understand now that I can’t have it both ways: if I want a guy who is stable and not overly emotional, I can’t be surprised that he won’t drool over cute puppy pictures with me.
Yes, he can also work on being more compassionate and learn better ways to communicate, but that is his job, not mine. I don’t need him to change in order to find what’s good in our marriage and change my whole outlook on it. This frees us up from trying to change and fix our spouse.
6. Try Counseling
I know this is not technically a “tip”, and some may roll their eyes but I do truly believe marriage counseling is an effective way to work on marriage problems and get a fresh perspective. My husband and I attended many sessions over the years, with different counselors, and at each place, we learned something new. We definitely were able to open up more when we knew we had a “mediator” who would interpret what we said. It was helpful to hear my husband express what he felt even when I did not like it. Truth and honesty are always the beginning steps to healing because everything needs to be out in the open. Counselors will help with that. They also help to make sense of misunderstandings and give tools to couples to communicate better.
It may take a few tries to figure out what therapist works best for the two of you, but it will be well worth your time. Plus, therapy is a whole lot cheaper than a divorce.
For us, divorce isn’t an option we consider so whenever we went through rough patches, we knew we had to work hard and being willing to listen and change. I’m sure we will go through this again during our life together, but with the tips above and the help of a good counselor, I know we can make steps in the right direction. So why couldn’t you?
If this post resonated with you, please share it with your friends!