Ok, confession time. When I was a teenager, I got stuck parking. I’m not talking about parking your car in a parking spot at Walmart. I’m talking about getting stuck on some deserted back road because I wanted to “spend some time” with a girl.
I will avoid the details to spare myself the painful self-disclosure, but I remember that feeling of being stuck. My first thought was, “This is no big deal. I’ll just get out and rock the car a little.” When that didn’t work, I thought, “Ok. I just need a little traction.” So I put rocks, limbs, and anything I could find under the rear wheels to give me some traction. Then I got behind the car to push, telling my girlfriend to give it some gas. Those of you who are smarter than me can guess what happened next. I was bathed in a hail of mud, rocks, and sticks…but the car remained stuck.
I began to panic, thinking, “We’re never going to get this car unstuck.” I began to have visions of angry parents and laughing tow truck drivers. I could see the whole ordeal being published in the local news paper, along side a list of DUI’s and divorce filings.
We eventually got the care unstuck, but to this day I don’t remember how. (I think I blocked most of the ordeal from my memory.) Still I’ve never forgotten that feeling of being stuck.
Perhaps you’re one of many who feels their marriage is stuck. Maybe you parked your marriage for a little while to take care of some things like kids or career, and when you came back to get things moving again you found you were stuck. Maybe something big jumped out in front of your marriage, like a job loss, an addiction or a major health setback, and you wound up off the road and stuck in a ditch. Whatever it was, big or small, you feel like your marriage is stuck.
Know that every marriage gets stuck once in a while. Even if nothing big happens, we still get stuck in mediocrity, stuck in frustration, stuck in doubt, stuck in mounting demands, stuck in financial pressures, stuck in parenting, stuck in all kinds of things.
So here are a few road-side tips on how you can move from a marriage that’s stuck to a marriage that sticks. To help you remember these tips, I’ll use the acrostic “S-T-I-C-K.”
S – Speak encouragingly. When your marriage is stuck, one of the first things to leave is encouraging words. Your words become matter-of-fact. You talk more about chores, schedules, and mindless things than you do about life and relationship together. The longer your marriage is stuck, the more your words become sarcastic and snarky. If your marriage stays stuck too long, you just quit talking all together.
To get your marriage unstuck and make it stick, you need to speak more encouragingly to your spouse. Thank them more often. Tell them what you appreciate about them. Tell them you believe in them. Tell them you love them. Talk about found memories you’ve shared. Flirt with them more. Encourage them to talk about their dreams and interests. If you have trouble getting started, think about the way you used to talk when you were dating.
T – Turn towards them. When your marriage is stuck, you tend to turn away from your spouse rather then towards them. You look at the TV or your phone when they are talking. You spend more time doing your own thing rather than doing things together. You spend more time in different rooms rather than in the same room.
To get your marriage unstuck and make it stick, start turning toward your spouse. Look at your spouse when they’re talking. Try to find things you can do together, even if it’s just going to get gas or groceries. Don’t go your separate ways in the store. Stay together, and maybe even hold hands. If you’re doing something different from your spouse, try to do it in the same room if possible. Find ways to move toward one another, rather than away from one another.
I – Invest in them. When your marriage is stuck, you tend to invest less in your spouse and more in yourself. You become more interested in pursuing your desires and interests than pursuing theirs. You find more and more reasons not to help your spouse with chores, projects and other things.
To get your marriage unstuck and make it stick, you need to invest time, effort and energy into your spouse. Think about when you were dating. You dressed up for them. You ate food they liked. You went to movies they liked. You helped them with things that were important to them. You invested in them. And although it may seem like a bait-and-switch now, if it worked then it will probably help now.
C – Confess when you’re wrong. When your marriage is stuck, you tend to point out your spouse’s mistakes more than your own. This leads you to tallying up score cards and using those score cards as clubs against your spouse. When you fail to admit you’re wrong, you become less credible and trustworthy in the eyes of your spouse.
I know this is hard, but to get your marriage unstuck and make it stick be quick to admit when you’re wrong and ask your spouse to forgive you. The sooner you admit it, the better. You may be afraid your spouse will be upset, (and they may) but it will increase your integrity in their eyes and make you more trustworthy. (Just a note: confessing you’re wrong will only help if you then do something to correct it!)
K – Keep doing these things. When your marriage is stuck, you become guarded and slef-protective. You may try some of the things listed above, but if you don’t see a quick return for our efforts, you say “Well, that didn’t work” and quickly abandon your efforts.
If you’re marriage has been stuck for a while, changing the way you act toward your spouse will not produce quick changes. Your spouse may even pull away from you more, because they believe you’re being manipulative. Your spouse wants to know that the changes you’re making are real and not just a flash in the pan. For a marriage to get unstuck, the changes have to be life-style changes, which means you have to keep doing them.
There are other ways to move your marriage from one that’s stuck to one that sticks, but these will get you moving in the right direction.
If your marriage is stuck, keep working at it. At times, you may not feel like you’re making any progress. You may even feel like all you’re getting for your effort is a hail of rocks, sticks and mud, but keep trying. It’s better than winding up in the paper…or having to tell your parents!
If you feel your marriage is stuck, think of one thing you could do to get things moving again? Start small, but be consistent.
Copyright © 2016 Bret Legg