To be married is to know dissatisfaction. That statement will probably get me in trouble, but it’s true. You can’t live with someone who is different than you and not experience some dissatisfaction. Your spouse won’t make the same decisions you would make. They will correct you at times. Their priorities will be different than yours. You won’t like all their habits and quirks. No matter how great your spouse might be, being married to them will bring a certain amount of dissatisfaction.
Dissatisfaction will force you to do one of three things: avoid the dissatisfaction, ignore the dissatisfaction, or address the dissatisfaction. Let’s take a look at each of these.
- Avoid the dissatisfaction. You may try to avoid dissatisfaction in marriage, but you can’t. It’s part of being married to someone who’s different than you. If you’re already married, it’s too late to avoid it.
- Ignore the dissatisfaction. If you choose to ignore the dissatisfaction, the dissatisfaction will grow into frustration, which will eventually grow into anger, which will finally grow into indifference. And indifference is the death knell of a marriage.
So avoiding and ignoring are not the choices you should make when facing dissatisfaction in marriage. That brings us to the third option…
- Address the dissatisfaction. This option has the most potential for change, but it’s the option we tend to avoid the most. Why? Because we don’t want to start a fight, get a lecture, or even worse…be ignored.
But you can handle dissatisfaction in a productive way. First…
Start by focusing on you. Our knee-jerk response is to focus on whoever or whatever is “causing” the dissatisfaction, but usually you have no direct control over those things. You only have control over you, so take a look at…
Your attitude. Often it’s not the person or the situation causing your dissatisfaction as much as it is your attitude towards the person or the situation. Dissatisfaction in marriage can be fueled by thoughts like…
- “Marriage is suppose to be easy. Why are they making it so difficult?”
- “They know what I really want. They’re doing this on purpose.”
- “I should be able to do what I want. After all, I work hard.”
- “They know that bugs me and they’re still doing it. They must not care.”
- “If my marriage is taking a lot of work, there must be something wrong with it.”
These thoughts, and other like them, will fuel dissatisfaction and make things seem bigger than they really are.
Next, you need to take a look at…
Your actions. You can spend so much time time complaining about your spouse’s behavior that you don’t realize how much your behavior is driving theirs. It works like this…
- You’re critical of what they say, then you’re dissatisfied that they won’t tell you what they’re thinking or feeling.
- You stop doing little things they enjoy, then you’re dissatisfied that they don’t do things for you like they use to.
- You over-spend, then you’re dissatisfied that they’re so tight with money.
- You complain about how they do things, then you’re dissatisfied that they won’t do anything.
- You let ourselves go, then you’re dissatisfied that they never compliment you on how you look.
Never underestimate the impact you can have on your marriage when you change your attitude and behavior. Many times, after you’ve adjusted your attitude and actions, you’ll discover that things have changed…or they don’t seem as big as they were.
If changing your own attitude and actions doesn’t change things, then you can take the next step toward addressing your dissatisfaction…
Speak to your spouse about your dissatisfaction. Only after you have made the needed changes to your own attitudes and actions are you ready to speak to your spouse about your dissatisfaction. How should you do this? Take a tip from Ephesians 4:15:
- Speak the truth. Speak simply and plainly about the current situation or behavior that brings you dissatisfaction. Don’t bring up past issues, but rather speak about the current issue. Don’t target their personality or character, rather speak about the situation or their behavior. For example: “When you didn’t (fill in the blank) I felt like I didn’t matter to you.”
- In love. Don’t just speak the truth. Speak it in love. Don’t be sarcastic. Don’t disregard their feelings. Don’t disregard things they are doing well. Speak the truth in a way that will make them feel respected and cared for. For example: “Honey, I appreciate all you do for us and I know you’ve got a lot going on, but I wanted you to know that when you didn’t (fill in the blank) I felt like I didn’t matter to you. Is there anyway you can work that in this week?”
As I said before…dissatisfaction is a part of marriage. (Just ask my wife.) But that doesn’t mean your marriage has to be dissatisfying. Working with dissatisfactions is a part of marriage that, if done well, can make your marriage even stronger.
Leave a comment and tell us what you’ve learned about dissatisfaction in marriage. We’re all in this together.
Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg