Including your spouse?
Love is a funny thing. We’ve heard all our lives that it’s "patient and kind, not envious, boastful or proud. Love doesn’t dishonor. It isn’t self-seeking, easily angered or resentful. It always protects, trusts, hopes perseveres and never fails." Oh, and that love rejoices in truth. (Yes, this is a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13.)
And then there’s our marriage vows that say, "For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health."
Why does this matter? Because, when you don't know how to receive love, you end up settling. You settle for meh — for 'fine.' And you might even settle for poisonous, violent, and horrible.
You do so because you convince yourself that the problem is you — that somehow you don't act loving enough. So you try even harder and harder to love the other person, hoping that if you get good enough at it, that person will love you back.
But here’s a harsh but loving truth: Some people are just not good for you (and never will be) and you need to let them go.
How do you know if your spouse isn’t good for you? Outside of the obvious — abuse, untreated addictions, or setting an abysmal example for your children — here are some tell-tale signs that your marriage isn’t providing you with the love you deserve (and need):
1. You don’t share the same core values or want the same things anymore.
Yes, of course, we all change over time. And, ideally, a couple will grow together through those evolutions, but that doesn’t always happen. Living with the constant stress of conflicting values or goals isn’t good for either of you.
2. You don't really want to keep trying to make it work.
Marriage is about two people choosing togetherness each and every day. If you’re forcing yourself to make the relationship work, then you might want to think long and hard about what you’re really getting out of your relationship. Feeling like you 'should' be happy isn't the same thing as actual happiness.
3. Your spouse doesn’t get along with your family and friends.
It’s one thing if he or she has friction with one or two friends or family members, but if your spouse has a problem with all of them, that’s not OK.
4. You hide your thoughts and feelings from your partner.
Sure, sometimes touchy subjects come up that you broach with care. But if you’re consistently hiding your thoughts and feelings from your mate, then you're denying who you are. Choosing to hide the real you just to keep the peace is not a good plan for the long-term.
5. Your spouse continues to complain, but won’t do anything to make your relationship better.
Seriously?! Your husband or wife sounds like a spoiled child and not an adult capable of being a real partner in a marriage. A relationship will never work if you're carrying the entire load.
6. Your instincts are screaming at you to get out.
Why aren’t you listening to them? And no, you can’t use either the definition of love above or your marriage vows as the reason you’re ignoring the clear message your instincts scream at you each day.
7. Your partner clearly has no respect for you.
No spouse likes us every single minute, but treating each other with respect is a basic requirement for a healthy marriage (or any other relationship, for that matter).
8. You're starting to hate being around your partner.
If you’re manufacturing reasons to avoid spending time alone with your spouse, you need to ask why. And once you know that answer, you’ve can either work on things or know, once and for all, that you need to move on.
Feeling irritated with your spouse is normal in even the best marriages. But, if you consistently can't stand your husband or avoid your wife at all costs, it’s time to consider getting out.
9. You don’t like who you are when your spouse is around.
Do you hold your tongue, agree with things he or she says that you don't really believe, or otherwise go along with behaviors outside of your true self? Pretending that you’re different — especially someone you don’t like — just to appease your partner is no way to live.
10. You feel manipulated and controlled.
If your spouse consistently maneuvers you into doing what he or she wants, then your marriage lacks the give and take needed to make a marriage successful.
11. You don't trust the one you "love."
You can rebuild trust, but it takes commitment and effort by both parties to restore it. You can’t do it on your own. And if you don't trust him or her, there's probably a good reason.
12. Your relationship lacks any sense of real connection.
Healthy marriages ideally nurture and support both spouses over many, many years. But if you two can’t connect on a deep level — at least occasionally — then you have to question your marriage’s viability.
Just because you identify with one or two of the items on this list doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve misplaced your love. It could just mean there's some more work to do to see if, together, you can repair your marriage.
But if you’re saying "yes" to all 13 items on this list, it’s time to get out.
Marriage is a two-way relationship. Accept that your spouse isn’t the one for you, no matter how much you love him. This will likely feel painful and difficult, but ending a relationship with someone who isn’t good for you is the most loving thing you can do ... for him, for your kids, and for yourself.
If you don’t express, receive and model healthy love, you don’t have a solid relationship. (Yes, that’s another paraphrase of 1 Corinthians.) And nothing is what you have if you continue to live in a marriage where you aren’t loved.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and divorce survivor herself. She works with clients who have an unhappy marriage to help them decide if divorce is their best answer or not. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her at Karen@functionaldivorce.com for a free consultation.