midlife yearsWhat Makes Marriage So Complicated?

By Sheila Kreifels, LMFT

Every day in our marriages, we have the opportunity to get de-railed.  It can be as simple as having an expectation that your spouse cuddles with you on the couch rather than flips to the sports channel and focuses all of his attention on the “boob tube”.

Often, expectations are not verbalized, so when a spouse gets put in the “dog house” for turning on his favorite sports program, he does not have a clue as to why you left the room with a big eye roll and a sigh.  However, he does know that it’s not a good sign, but to avoid conflict, he stays in front of the TV, nervously strategizing how to avoid further conflict. Can you blame him?  It is tough to walk into the “land mine field” of unmet expectations. We just never know what is seething below the surface and ready to explode and send debris and scrap metal flying in our direction!

Marriage   is that mine field.  It is filled with opportunities for appreciation and resentments to grow each and every day.  All too often, those appreciations and those resentments are the very sentiments, both positive and negative, that go unspoken. 

Imagine the above scenario going, “Hey honey, I so appreciate that you have had a long day at work and want to relax, however, I am needing some me and you time.  How can we both get our needs met?  Marriage is not just about good communication, it is also about understanding our own needs, and problem solving together to meet those needs.  It is about being a grownup rather than a “tantruming 2 year old” if our expectations are not met.  It is about not projecting our needs, desires, faults and fears onto our spouse, but taking charge of them by owning them and sharing them in loving ways that offer our spouse an opportunity to be supportive.

To practice this, I invite you to think about what you appreciate about your spouse and what you resent or are struggling with in the relationship.  Next share your appreciation and your struggle with your spouse.  Do not attempt to solve the struggles for one another, just listen.  Afterwards ask your spouse how you can be supportive of their struggle.  Make sure that you do not own your spouse’s struggle.  Just be willing to hear it and to show empathy.  This is one way that we can take responsibility for and begin to clear out the resentments that can build up daily in our relationships and prevent us from getting the love we want.

Try this exercise and tell us how it works in your relationship.

Comments are closed.