Rescue Your Marriage From the “If Only’s”

Rescue Your Marriage From the “If Only’s”

Have you ever regretted something, and the more you thought about it the more you found yourself saying, “If only”? Maybe it was something you said, or something you did, or a decision you made, but whatever it was left you with regret and the reverberation of “if only.”

We all have those “if only” regrets. They sound something like this:

  • If only I had paid more attention in school.
  • If only I had kept all my old vinyl albums.
  • If only I had listened to my parents.
  • If only I had gone to the doctor sooner.
  • If only I had not said those words.
  • If only I had started saving for retirement earlier.
  • If only I had kept my old leisure suits. (Ok…no one says that.)

If we’re not careful, we could spend our twilight years sitting in a rocker, watching Jeopardy, and rehearsing the “if only’s” of our life. (No offense to you Jeopardy fans.)

Marriage can also be plagued with “if only” regrets. Too many spouses find themselves sitting in their respective chairs, watching Jeopardy (honestly I have nothing against Jeopardy), and thinking…

  • If only we were closer.
  • If only we had more fun.
  • If only we had more money.
  • If only the sex was better.
  • If only we had kids.
  • If only we didn’t have kids.
  • If only I had married someone different.

“If only’s” can suck the joy out of marriage and keep us looking back rather than looking forward. They can keep us at the mercy of old decisions and experiences, rather than building new ones. “If only’s” can keep our marriage stuck.

But here’s some good news! You don’t have to be stuck rehearsing the “if only’s.” There are two simple strategies you can use to rescue your marriage from the “if only’s.”

First, add the word “I” to “if only.”

In marriage, we tend to focus on “if only they.” It sounds something like this:

  • If only they weren’t so negative.
  • If only they would show more appreciation.
  • If only they wanted sex more.
  • If only they wanted sex less.
  • If only they would help around the house more.
  • If only they wanted to get out more.
  • If only they wanted to stay in more.
  • If only they were a different spouse.

“If only they” makes you a helpless victim, because someone else has to change for you to be happy. Since you can’t change them, you wind up stuck! But if you change “if only they” to “if only I,” things change. Listen to the difference it makes:

  • If only I weren’t so negative.
  • If only I would show more appreciation.
  • If only I wanted sex more.
  • If only I wanted sex less.
  • If only I would help more around the house.
  • If only I wanted to get out more.
  • If only I wanted to stay in more.
  • If only I were a different spouse.

This simple change puts the responsibility on you and gives you the control to make changes that will lead to a better marriage. This means you’ll wind up with less “if only’s” when you’re hanging out with Alex Trebek.

Second, add the words “but I can start” to “if only.”

Where adding the word “I” gives you responsibility, adding the words “but I can start” calls you to action to make things better. Take any of the above “if only” statements and add “but I can” to the end of it, and you will see the difference it makes.

  • If only we were closer…but I can start opening up more.
  • If only we had more fun…but I can start planning more fun things.
  • If only we had more money…but I can start working on a budget and spending less.
  • If only we didn’t have kids…but I can start giving them away. (Just kidding!)
  • If only they would show more appreciation…but I can start showing them more appreciation.
  • If only they were a different spouse…but I can start becoming a different spouse for them.

If it’s true that we tend to have more regrets about the things we didn’t do than the things we did do, then adding the words “but I can start” may lead you to actively doing something about your “if only” regrets.

So don’t let your “if only’s” suck the joy out of marriage. Rescue your marriage from the “if only’s” with these two simple strategies. I guarantee it will change your marriage…and your life. Here’s hoping your “if only’s” die a slow and glorious death before Alex Trebek retires.

Think about your “if only’s.” Try listing your “if only’s” on the left-hand side of a sheet of paper. Next, try modifying those “if only’s” using one or both of the above strategies. Write that change on the right-hand side of the paper. Finally, pick one or two of those “if only’s” and start working on them.

Copyright © 2016 Bret Legg

 

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