No one intends to be a lousy spouse. But far too many of you are. And I want you to know it’s not all your fault. You really are doing the best you can. But you also know in your heart of hearts, it’s not enough. You may deny it, minimize it, or defend your behavior to the death, but you know you could do better.
So why don’t you?
The honest answer is that you can’t get out of your own head. It’s impossible to be objective about your own thoughts, feelings, and actions. All of your experience has led you to behave the way you’re behaving. Simply put, you can’t do what you don’t know.
But you can do something about that. Maybe you’ve even tried. But there are some common things that get in the way.
1. You have no job description. How effective would you be at your job if you didn’t know what was required of you? You acquired knowledge and experience in formal and informal ways to be successful at your job. But I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never taken a relationship class. Everything you know is based on experience and all of your previous relationships have failed.
So, you’re trying to convert failure into success with no clear structure or roadmap of how to move forward. You don’t know the parameters of your job as a spouse so it’s hard to know where to place your energy.
2. You don’t know what success is. You’re rated on things you don’t know about, fully understand, or have even agreed to. Some of these things are even contradictory. It’s as if you’re trying to win a game where you don’t know the rules and your partner is the referee. Just when you think you’ve got it down the criteria change and your back to square one.
Your partner sets the standard and judges your performance. What you see is a constantly moving target that you hit at random leaving you confused, frustrated and exhausted. Circumstances not designed to present you at your best.
3. You’re focused on the wrong things. And, speaking of your partner, you are putting all of your energy into focusing on them. This could be because you have bought into the myth that your job is to make them happy. Or it could be because focusing on what they are doing wrong in the marriage takes the pressure off you to step up and honor the commitments you made.
Marriage gives you a built-in scapegoat. But nothing you say or do is going to directly make your partner happy, stop doing things that annoy you, or miraculously see things your way. At best, you can influence them, but I’d wager you don’t have the skill set to pull that off.
But, the truth is that when you consistently do things differently and in a more productive way, your spouse won’t be able to do the same old thing and your marriage will change. It’s called systems theory and it works. But only if you follow it.
The key to getting better at anything is learning what works and embracing it. Put it into practice and do it over and over again until it becomes habit.
Right now, you and your wife are doing stuff that doesn’t work. Your habits are hurting your marriage. You won’t get a different result unless one or both of you start doing something different. Or you can choose to stay a lousy spouse.
If you want to do something different, be a better spouse, let me know. You’re not to blame for being where you are. But you do have responsibility if you stay there.
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