By: Cristina Trette
If you are facing challenges in your relationship, it would be logical that you would want to work on your relationship. But what do you do if your spouse is not interested in working through the problems you are having in your marriage?
Maybe you have suggested couples counseling, but he does not want to go. Or perhaps you have tried talking about your concerns, but you end up in a fight, or he refuses to have the conversation.
Does it take both individuals working on the relationship to turn things around?
The ideal scenario is that both individuals will take the time to address the difficulties in the marriage and work together, and on their own, to make improvements.
However, if your spouse is not willing to do this at the moment, there are many things you can do to start creating a more positive relationship. Keep reading to learn more.
1. Stop blaming and step into empathy
When couples are unhappy in their marriage, it is very common to blame the other partner for all the relationship troubles. This is normal. Your partner is probably saying or doing things that are not working for you. Yet, blaming, without exploring your own contribution to the challenges is going to prevent forward movement.
Start by extending empathy to your spouse. Put yourself in his shoes. What do you think is happening for him? Is he struggling too? Spend some time exploring what he may be thinking and be feeling, get curious, and ask questions.
2. Revitalize your sense of passion and purpose
"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" - John Anster
What brings you joy? What makes you feel alive?
Relationships will struggle if we are not living a purposeful and passion filled life. Sometimes, instead of focusing on improving just the relationship itself, a better approach is to tend to our self, while simultaneously addressing the relationship.
Many women report that they start taking care of themselves again after going through a separation or divorce. They improve diet, go the gym, take classes, etc. My suggestion is that the time to start tending to yourself is now! You don't need wait for a crisis to be the force that wakes you up and spurs you into action towards self-actualization.
3. Bring your best version of your self to the relationship
When relationships struggle, negativity can take on a life of its own and can spiral into more and more negativity such as coldness, withdrawal, shut down, criticism, or contempt.
Some couples become so used to bickering, snapping or avoiding each other that this becomes the new normal.
It only takes one person to stop the cycle from spinning out of control even more.
You can be the one to bring more joy, fun, vulnerability, connection, warmth, and intimacy into the relationship. Whatever you think is missing, see if you can evoke it and bring it. Even if you have to "fake it till you make it", be committed to showing up as your best self as much as you can.
4. Take action
We know how hard it can be to address relationship problems. When things are going wrong with the one we love, it is painful to look at and can be overwhelming to address.
It is typical to want to sit and stew or complain to friends. But this is not the type of action that will be helpful. Instead, schedule a session with a therapist, plan a special date night, make time for a weekend away, and get going on reconnecting with your passion and purpose (see number 2 above).
I have had couples show up to my couples workshop where one person took the initiative, bought tickets, invited grandparents to watch the kids, and dragged the other to attend the workshop. The result of this move was that they both learned a very powerful process to create intimacy and connection.
I cannot urge you enough to avoid complacency. Studies show that most couples wait seven years before addressing marital problems. Unfortunately, for most of these couples, by the time they finally seek support, one or both has already made a final decision to end the relationship. Don't let this happen to you!
Lastly, take heart in knowing that all couples struggle sometimes. If you are able to slow down, cultivate patience, and do the work to move things in a positive direction, it is quite possible that you may inspire your spouse to do the work too.
You can turn things around. Lead the way.
Hello! I am Cristina Trette. I am a Couples Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified in Perinatal Mental Health. I write on all things related to relationships, parenthood, and connection.