Updated: Apr 14, 2022
Don't Remain Unhappily Married: Turn Your Unhappy Marriage Around
“And they lived happily ever after.” Growing up we gain our understanding of love and happiness from tender movies and dream filled animations. These stories, while satisfying and compelling, do not represent what it takes to build a fulfilling partnership in a real world environment. There are many couples who find themselves feeling as though they are “living unhappily ever after.” So how do you cause “happily ever after” in a real relationship, in the real world?
Take a look at the sixteen marital tips below:
1. Consider Who You Are: Many people do not fully understand who they are and why they feel and act the way they do in different contexts in their lives. This is such critical information. If you are confused about who you are and why you are, take steps to learn about yourself. One great way to do this is by looking into the Primary Colors Personality Insight and Personal Development Tools.
2. Consider What You Need: This tip applies equally to unhappily married men and unhappily married women: what you need may not necessarily equate to what you feel you want. Is there a great difference between needs and wants? I think yes. I may want a 5,000 square foot home but do I need it? I may want a new BMW, but do I need it? Often we make ourselves unhappy because we feel we are not getting what we want. This feeling of entitlement causes us to feel miserable about what we have, and to look over completely what we might need most in our lives.
3. Determine if You are Acclimated: By this I mean have you grown so accustomed to your partner’s smile that you no longer delight in it? As human beings, one of our most fantastic abilities is the ability to acclimate, but it is also one of the abilities that can, if not bounded, steal our joy and pure pleasure for the blessings that surround us. I have named this syndrome: The Maui Syndrome. Without understanding the power of this syndrome, people can become bored and not even know why.
4. Take Time for a Values Inventory: Consider how your actions and expressions have affected the relationship as well as how your spouse’s actions have affected you. Have your actions been in line with your values? Some marriages can get lopsided: one partner turns to bullying, while the other partner dashes about in damage control mode. Or one partner lives in full service mode, while the other partner lives in ‘what’s in it for me?” mode. All relationships can be gradually taken apart by both or either member of a couple. That is why it is so important to create a values list as a couple. Make sure you both agree with this list and the values on the list are important to both of you. Then sign the list and refer to it when you hit a rough patch of conflict. The list can easily help you see where your conflict is, or is NOT, in alignment with your relationship values.
5. A Couple's Retreat Can Save a Marriage: A luxury couple’s retreat can be a great way to tackle marital problems in a safe space, while getting some vacation down time you also might be needing. A couple’s retreat can help you gain new insights into yourself and your partner and give you a new way to better communicate with one another. Many dysfunctional behaviors are the result of previous events in our lives. Take the time to find a couple’s retreat that will be fun and relaxing, but also, can save your marriage.
6. Renew by Getting to Re-Know Your Partner: We all get to that place where we think we KNOW our partners and there is nothing else to learn, but you may not know your spouse as well as you think. People are incredibly complex beings who grow over time. Examine who you each are in different contexts in your life. A great way to do that is by taking the Primary Colors Personality Insight Tool.
7. NO Bare-Knuckle Fighting: Bare-knuckle fighting—even in an emotional sense—causes significant damage. It is NEVER okay to hit your partner below the belt no matter how angry you might feel in the moment. Some things, once broken cannot be easily mended and bare-knuckle fighting needs to be taken off the table in your relationship.
8. NO Nitpicking, Nagging or Nasty Habits Allowed: In stagnant relationships, the tendency to nag, nitpick or be nasty can become a habit and certainly an unhealthy part of your relationship dynamic. Ask yourself, does my nagging, nitpicking or being nasty to my partner get me more of what I want, or less? If you are honest, your answer will be that these negative habits get you much less of what you want in your relationship.
9. Renew Your Bonds: It takes many more positive interactions to counter the impact of negative interactions. Therefore it is important to make time to renew your relational bonds. Renewed bonds are often stronger than those we might lose in “battle”—especially if we are very deliberate and cognizant in our attempts to rebuild and renew them. Great relational bonds are always built with genuine love, integrity, forgiveness and respect.
10. Expect Thorns in Your Rose Garden: Alas—it’s true: marriage is always a beautiful rose garden; thorns and all. Don’t get tricked into expecting only the sweet smell of beautiful roses. Any garden must be cared for, fertilized, watered and appropriately attended. But no matter how well you attend a rose garden, the most hardy, beautiful and lasting roses will all have prickly thorns. Expect thorns in your rose garden. Discuss the reality that there will be bumps in your marital bliss. There will be good times and bad times, and since you are aware that roses have thorns it is a great idea to prepare yourself with a plan to deal with the inevitable pricks.
11. Remember Your Life-Jackets: We do not need life jackets when the water is beautiful and the breezes are sweet. We only need life-jackets when the water is terribly rough and boat looks as though it might sink. In every relationship there will be rough waters. What are your life-jackets? What is the safety procedure you created in advance to help you weather the storms. It is very helpful to plan in advance for relationship emergencies and know exactly where your life-jackets are and how and when to use them.
12. Celebrate the Best Parts of Your Partner: Positive remembering or reminding is a powerful tool and can help even the most unhappily married couple. Create a private space where you allow yourself to remember the parts of your partner you fell madly in love with. Recognize and remember your partner’s strengths both to yourself and to your partner. This remembering exercise will cultivate happiness and mutual appreciation. Many marriages flourish in the light of simply allowing themselves to remember why they first feel in love.
13. Choose Who You ARE as a Partner: As an adult, you are in charge of your own behavior and under your own supervision. Do not allow your feelings to determine your behavior. Feelings are fickle. Choose to be the kind of partner you want to be, and then, in all circumstances, even at your most angry, force yourself to behave according to the kind of partner you have made a conscious choice to be. When you allow feelings to determine your behavior, you will betray yourself and your partner. It is only when you decide that feelings will not determine you, but your very conscious choice of the kind of person you will be in a relationship determines you. Only you have the power to foster real love, to nurture friendship, and create trust, and you accomplish that by never allowing just your feelings to determine your choices and actions.
14. Choose 'Heart' Meaning vs. 'Hurt' Meaning: In difficult situations, a deeper level of insight into your partner is essential. The is an enormous difference between “heart meaning” and “hurt meaning”. Difficult circumstances tend to create bias, which can taint your perspective and what you once believed in your heart, turns to a painful doubt of hurt. Challenge yourself to stay aware of this. Seek advice from trusted friends or family members you trust to help you maintain a clear, fair, much more loving point of view. When in doubt, always gain your meaning from your heart, not your hurt.
15. Not All Advice is Good: In the days of marital yore, be careful from where you receive your marital advice. Like any successfully developed skill, look to only those who are succeeding at marriage and stay away from advice from those you are failing in their relationship. If you seek guidance from happily married friends and family members, you can cultivate your own circle of trusted, proven wisdom that will help to strengthen and support your marriage, not encourage its demise.
16. Live Love as a Verb: Perhaps the most vital piece of advice for unhappily married people is this: successful love is a VERB—an “action” word, not a feeling. Not only learn your spouse’s love language, but learn the dialect they speak of that love language. See Te Q.U.I.E.R.O. love's dialects to help you better understand and share the kind of love that your partner desires most.
Parenting, entitlement and personality expert Dawn Billings is the author and architect of the Primary Colors Personality Tests and Insight Tools.
Dawn is the executive director of the luxury Relationship Help Resort in Arizona, and author of the Relationship Help at Home online program. Dawn is creator of OverJOYed Life, a powerful, positive work culture initiative.
Dawn was selected as one of the nation's emerging women leaders by Oprah Magazine and The White House Project in 2008, and one of "15 Women of Achievement" by the Georgia YWCA.
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