3 Questions for an Ailing Marriage

I’ve discovered three questions you can use to diagnose an ailing marriage. I would like to tell you I discovered these questions while completing my graduate degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, but the truth is, I discovered these questions while lying in a hospital bed.

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Trick Questions and Expectations in Marriage

Trick questions can be…well…tricky. For instance, how would you answer this question:

“Have you stopped beating your spouse?”

Answering this question is tricky, because if you agree, it sounds like you use to beat your spouse. If you disagree, it sounds like your still beating your spouse.

Watch out for the trick questions. 

When I do premarital counseling, I often ask a couple to complete an inventory where they respond to a variety of statements on a continuum between “strongly agree” and strongly disagree. Some of my favorite statements to which they must respond are statements like:

  • I have never regretted my relationship with my partner.
  • My partner gives me all the love and affection I need.
  • We completely understand each other.
  • My partner has all the qualities I’ve ever wanted in a mate.
  • We are as happy as a couple can be.

A couple preparing to get married will usually agree with these statements, but a couple that’s been married for a while will usually laugh at these statements. The difference is the couple preparing for marriage is in LOVE, where as the couple that’s been married for a while are in LIFE.

It’s all about your expectations. 

There’s always a difference between our expectations and our experience. When we’re preparing for marriage, we have all kinds of optimistic expectations about how marriage should be. Remember those? Sleeping in. Leisurely sharing a cup of coffee together before starting your day. Always having your spouse’s attention and affection. Sharing the same interest in sex. Always having control of the remote. Having the same goals and plans. Spending your spare time together. The list goes on and on.

But after you’ve been married a while, those expectations aren’t always met, and you begin to struggle. So you attempt to get your expectations met. You start off by trying to talk to your spouse and explain why you need them to meet your expectations. If repeated attempts to communicate don’t get you anywhere, then you’re generally left with three options…

  • Manipulate or make demands to get your spouse to meet your expectations. This increases frustration, raises defensiveness, and tends to make marriage worse.
  • Leave your spouse for someone else whom you think will meet those expectation. This will bring an end to what could be a perfectly good marriage…not to mention the fact that no one will ever meet all your expectations.
  • Adjust your expectations to something more realistic. This will help you both relax and have a marriage that will go the distance.

Adjust your expectations.

Adjusting your expectations in marriage will actually teach you some valuable lessons…

  • You don’t have to like everything about your spouse, or your relationship with them, to have a good relationship.
  • You won’t always get the love and affection you think you need, but that doesn’t mean you’re not loved.
  • You don’t have to completely understand one another to completely love and support one another.
  • Your spouse doesn’t have to have all the qualities you want in a mate. (That person doesn’t exist.) But they have enough of those qualities to make it work.
  • The two of you could always be happier, but that doesn’t mean your not happy.

These are critical lessons for a long and loving marriage, but you can only learn these lessons by adjusting your expectations.

Don’t fall for the trick questions in marriage. Marriage is not about the two of you getting every expectation met. It’s about figuring out which of your expectations are realistic and which are not. It’s also about the two of you meeting as many of each other’s expectations as you can, while leaving room for you to be yourselves.

What is one expectation you have for your spouse and your marriage that…if you were honest…is probably not realistic? Which of the five lessons do you most need to learn? What’s one thing you can do to let go of an expectation and be happier?

Copyright © 2018 Bret Legg

Getting Over the Wall of Resentment

Resentment can be like a wall that separates spouses, and the longer the wall stays up, the harder it is to get over it. Walls of resentment can become so high and thick that spouses lose hope of ever getting over it.

But there are some things you can do if you have a wall of resentment in your marriage.

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Marital Drift and How to Stop It.

Have you ever had the experience of looking at your spouse in thinking, “We use to be so close. How did we drift apart? What happened?” If you have, you are not alone. I think that thought crosses the mind of nearly every spouse at one time or another.

Marriage can be like a boat without an anchor. It has a tendency to drift. In the beginning, when you’re close to shore, it doesn’t seem like a problem. But the further you get from shore the more prominent and problematic the drift can be. You start to experience things like:

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Do You Really Want a Better Marriage?

Do you really want a better marriage? Sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want a better marriage?

No one wants their marriage to be bad, yet so many marriages continue to languish in various states of dissatisfaction, irritability, and outright hostility. What is it that keeps so many spouses wishing they had a better marriage, but never getting one? Often, people blame it on their spouse or their circumstances, but that approach leaves them feeling stuck and powerless.

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What If We Built Our Marriage On Pooh?

Winnie the Pooh is a classic in children’s literature. As young children, we listened to adults read the great adventures of Pooh and his friends. As older children, we sat transfixed in front of a screen as Walt Disney made those adventures come to life. Then, as parents, we read those same adventures to our children.

But we rarely inject these stories into our marriage. What if the stories of Winnie the Pooh have something to say to our marriage? What if we built our marriage on Pooh?

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How to Waste Your Marriage…and Your Life

It’s so easy to waste your marriage on things that don’t benefit you or your spouse. The problem is, you often don’t realize it until it’s too late. So below are 5 contributors to a wasted marriage that you need to watch for. (To help you remember them, they’re form the acronym W.A.S.T.E.)

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Mishaps in Messaging

My wife is not much for talking on the phone. She prefers to text, so she often texts rather than calls. The problem is, if she’s texting someone when we’re together, I have no idea who she’s talking to, because I can’t hear her part of the conversation. This leads me to frequently ask her, “Who are you texting?” (I’m pretty sure she hates this question.)

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How to Embrace Change

People who know me know I am not a handyman. I’m someone who can turn a simple fifteen minute fix-it job into an all day nightmare. I am the guy from whom repair people make their money.

So with that in mind, here’s the story…

It was around eight in the evening and my wife was in the laundry room when I heard these words. “Oh no! That’s just great!” Though I didn’t want to, I asked, “What’s wrong?”

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Have You Lost the Magic?

Couples come into my counseling office for many reasons. Some are having on-going conflicts they can’t resolve. Others are having trouble with their parents or in-laws. Some are struggling in their sexual relationship. Others are at odds over finances. And some just seem to have different ideas about what makes for a good marriage.

But there was one couple who came into my office who summed up marital issues in one simple sentence. “We have lost the magic.“

Ever feel like your marriage has lost the magic? If so, maybe it’s because: 

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