How To Finally Get What You Need (When You Feel Totally Unappreciated)

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how to ask for what you need

You deserve so much more.

According to research by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family & Culture, the second greatest reason that both men and women give for wanting a divorce is that their spouse is unresponsive to their needs. 

This reason was second only to infidelity.  

A full 32% of people in the study want a divorce because their spouses do not take care of them, do not care about their needs, and do not appreciate them.

Continually feeling unappreciated can impact your self-esteem, cause frustration, resentment, and depression and drive you apart as a couple. We could rightfully classify this as an epidemic in marriages

You do not have to choose between either living with it or getting a divorce. With the right approach, you and your spouse may be able to turn things around completely and begin taking care of each other in a manner that is caring, rewarding and much more fulfilling.

When the frustration caused by feeling unappreciated becomes overwhelming, here are some steps to take to correct the problem.

  • Take an honest look — are you missing your partner's efforts sometimes? 

    When living in a situation in which the majority of the time you sense no effort at expressing any sort of gratitude or appreciation for your efforts, you can become discouraged and depressed. 

    When the feeling has gone on for a long period of time, you may miss those times when efforts were made to say thanks and express approval for your work. Do the work necessary to calm down enough to pay attention and to make note of any legitimate efforts that are made to provide support and appreciation.
  • Decide to solve the problem without creating more damage.

    Even though your emotional reserves are depleted and you are at the end of your rope, don’t precipitate a crisis. 

    If there is a chance to turn a corner in your marriage, some of that outcome may rest in your hands. Make a decision to confront and address the issue — but in a way that does not create more damage to the relationship.  In the midst of your disappointment, hurt, and anger; your first step is to work at attacking the problem and not the person who has caused the pain. 

    Speaking only out of anger and frustration may only make it worse at this point.  Decide to approach the problem in a way that will allow an honest discussion.
  • Decide to forgive as things start to change. 

    You may currently have doubts about whether your spouse will really listen or that change can actually happen in your marriage. 

    You may have a good reason to think this way because of failures of past efforts at making change. Try talking yourself into thinking that change is possible, and that there is a real possibility they will listen.  Suppose for a minute that at some point in the talk you need to have, the light comes on for your spouse and suddenly he/she “gets it.” 

    As farfetched as that may sound, it is a possibility, and your job is to figure out how to address things from that frame of mind. 

    If your spouse acknowledges what you have to say and accepts responsibility, will you be able to forgive? Decide now that you will forgive and give your spouse another chance as long as you see change beginning to happen. 
  • Honestly evaluate whether your spouse may feel the same way.

    Is there a chance that your spouse may have some of the same feelings that you are experiencing? 

    Have your heard things from your spouse that would lead you to believe he/she is familiar with where you are coming from? Even if you think your spouse should not feel the same way, she might. 

    If you determine that this is the case, or if it is verified by your spouse; then you both have work to do. You may have withdrawn expressions of appreciation and approval over time because of your hurt and anger. It is a natural protective thing to do. 

    If you want things to be different, you will have to change too.
  • Talk to your spouse about it. 

     In order for your marriage to have a chance to recover from this issue, there must be an honest discussion between the two of you. 

    How and when you have this discussion needs to be given thought. At the end of a hard day of work may not be the best time.

    When the household is busy and noisy and full of distractions is not good either. If necessary, enlist the help of a family member or friend to take care of the kids and plan for an hour or two of time that the two of you can be alone and undisturbed. 

    Let your spouse know that something has been bothering you, and you need their help in finding a solution. Ask your spouse to listen to your thoughts and how you have been feeling lately. 
  • Avoid placing blame and focusing on how you felt.

    You ask if your spouse is experiencing similar feelings. 

    Let him know that you love him and you really are searching for a solution to this problem. Express that you need your spouse’s help. Don’t be surprised and don’t give up if it gets a little messy at first. There may be considerable emotional pressure built up for both of you, and it will have to be bled off. 

    Agree to some ground rules that prevent things from getting out of control, suck some air and “go for it.” As the pressure gets bled off and you both are aware that you are now really listening to each other, begin to ask for and work toward a solution. 

    If you can’t get the job done in one session, agree to take a break and tackle it again. Don’t be overly discouraged if it takes more than one attempt, and don’t give up.
  • Set a time to review and tweak things.

    Once you begin to outline feasible solutions, you are on your way to rebuilding your relationship. 

    Changing patterns of thinking and behavior are doable but not always easy. Discuss ways that will help each of you “stay on the wagon” once you initiate change.

    Determine if you can handle input from your spouse to stay on course with the changes. Predetermine a time to meet and discuss progress in a couple of weeks after the change.

    Honestly evaluate progress and make any necessary tweaks to your plan.
  • Go out of your way to praise positive change. 

    Both of you need to go out of your way to point out the change you see taking shape. 

    Praise your spouse and thank him for every positive change you experience. Reinforcing the newfound traction the two of you are experiencing will help motivate him to do the things you have wanted and needed in the relationship.

Change can be hard work!

It is easy to slip back into old patterns and not even recognize it. Simple and gentle reminders can help. 

Allow time for patterns to change and reward the changes you see. The two of you can do this and will need to remember AND remind each other that you are on the same team — TEAM "US".

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Drs. David and Debbie McFadden are a husband-and-wife team specializing in helping struggling and distressed couples throughout the US and Canada.  Contact them for a free 20 minute consult to learn about their couples’ intensive program.