Stop making these two mistakes and you'll have a happier marriage.
It’s absolutely exhausting trying to make your marriage work while keeping up with all of your other responsibilities.
You may feel like you’re in it all alone, with no hope of things ever getting better.
When you took those vows of for better or worse, you really didn’t think that it would be for worse — or you’d probably never have gotten married in the first place.
The good news is not all unhappy marriages need to stay that way. It doesn’t always require your spouse to join in with you from the beginning of your plan to make the marriage better. Sometimes you hold the key to turning everything around — if you just stop making two basic mistakes.
Before we get into details, it’s important to know what a good marriage is.
A good marriage consists of two whole, happy people who choose marriage.
You can think of these two happy people as each existing in a separate circle. These separate circles are inside of another circle which represents their marriage. Together these individuals focus on building their marriage.
Certainly not all, but most married couples have children. By becoming parents, a couple chooses to work together (ideally) to provide and care for their children.
Going back to the circles, each child exists in a circle outside of the marriage circle. They’re outside because both parents and children need a solid base to build the family on — and that’s those two whole, happy adults and their vibrant marriage.
That’s the ideal situation. But obviously that’s not your situation. You’ve got anything but an ideal marriage, or you wouldn't feel so unhappy in it.
There are two common mistakes people make that result in an unhappy marriage.
1. Abdicating responsibility for yourself existing as a whole, happy person.
Instead of each spouse being in their own circle as in the ideal marriage situation, in this case, at least one spouse lacks their own circle. They constantly look outside of themselves for something or someone that will make them feel whole and happy.
Looking outside of themselves doesn’t necessarily mean having an affair. It could also mean that they’re seeking experiences that at least used to bring them joy (or maybe just a sense of peace): drinking, gambling, shopping, eating excessively, pornography, drugs, even only living life through or for their spouse or children.
2. Mixing up the order of the circles and putting the children before the marriage.
This can also happen when couples eliminate the marriage circle and put their focus on raising their children.
Your children are precious and deserve your best efforts to allow them to grow into happy, healthy adults, but not at the expense of your marriage (or your individual sense of being a whole, happy person).
Living as an example of what of a healthy, happy marriage looks like is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give your children.
So it’s important that the order of the circles remain yourself first, marriage second, and children third. This doesn’t mean that you ignore your children’s needs. It means that you each spend the time taking care of yourself and taking care of your marriage so you both have the energy required to care for your children.
Recognizing that you are making one or both of these common mistakes, and therefore contributing to the unhappiness of your marriage, is a bitter pill to swallow.
It’s so much easier to simply point your finger at your spouse and say it’s their fault.
The truth is, there’s always culpability on both sides of an unhappy marriage. Carefully examining your own contribution and discovering ways to correct it may not ultimately make your marriage happy, but it will allow you to know that you’ve done everything in your power to make a miserable marriage better.
Knowing that may not make getting through the day any easier, but it will remove the endless exhaustion of struggling with an unhappy marriage — one way or the other.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach. She works with clients who are struggling with their marriages and not sure what to do. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or schedule a FREE 30-minute conversation with Karen directly in her Time Trade calendar.
This article was originally published at Dr. Karen Finn's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.