Most of us can list (at least) ten traits we dislike — or even hate — about our spouses. Whether they are always late for appointments or they spend too much time working, the traits we hate the most usually become the focus of our worst fights, mainly because resolution feels impossible.
It's a vicious cycle. Couples fight, both partners swear they will change the behavior, and then there is a honeymoon period where things are better. But then the behavior starts back up, and the fights begin again. As couples go through this cycle, the fights become worse, anger deepens and damaging things get said or done, leaving one or both spouses throwing their hands up in the air and saying "this is hopeless," feeling like the marriage is ending. And the phrase I usually hear as a couples counselor is: "I didn't sign up for this."
When questioned, couples often admit that they saw these same traits before their engagement, but believed that their partner would outgrow these "childish" behaviors. They are then shocked, disappointed and angry when things don't change, and all that anger gets directed at the spouse.
Early in a relationship, partners may politely ask the other to stop the behavior, but after a few months or years of not seeing any change, this polite asking transforms into nagging, yelling and even shaming. Sometimes we look externally for solutions by asking friends or researching online to gather information in order to devise a plan of action that will finally change this other person. If we don't see results, frustration increases because there are few things more aggravating than feeling unheard and powerless about something that impacts your life. We end up yelling and raging at the other in an attempt to get something to change, but asking, planning, yelling and raging are not effective means of change. So, what do you do?
As a couples counselor and a wife of ten years, I have an answer: You must fall in love with the behavior you hate. Keep reading ...
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