How to Achieve Your Marriage Expectations vs Reality

Expectations vs Reality

Expectations vs Reality: Trying to work through marital problems can be a daunting process, and you might not even know where to start. Every marriage is unique, so figure out the specific issues at the heart of your conflict. In order to find solutions, you and your spouse will need to communicate openly and constructively. Try to stay positive, and avoid blaming, stonewalling, and launching personal attacks on each other. Rebuilding your bond will take time, so have patience. A marriage counselor can help mend the gap, so don’t feel embarrassed about reaching out to a professional.

Addressing Your Conflict

Make a list of your differences and disagreements. Marriage struggles aren’t always related to major events, like cheating or heated arguments. You can’t move forward if you don’t know what’s keeping you back, so take an honest look at your relationship issues. Try to be specific instead of listing things like “we don’t get along.” Ask yourself (and discuss with your spouse) focused questions, such as:

  • Have you and your spouse grown apart? Do you have incompatible goals, desires, or visions of the future?
  • Are your physical and emotional needs being met? What about your partner’s needs?
  • Do you notice a lack of communication? Do you and your spouse listen when the other says something? Is your communication limited to short conversations about necessities?
  • Are you dealing with a stressful life event, such as problems at work, financial problems, illness, or the death of a loved one?

    Expectations vs Reality

Identify the issues that underlie major marital problems. If your conflict is centered on a major violation, such as infidelity, you still need to look for underlying issues. Identify and address those issues, or you and your spouse might fall into the same negative patterns in the future.

  • Suppose you cheated on your spouse. In addition to rebuilding trust, you and your spouse must confront the factors that led to infidelity. Perhaps you’ve felt like your spouse wasn’t attending to your needs, or you became bored with your relationship.
  • Keep in mind placing blame isn’t productive. Instead of saying, “I cheated because you were emotionally and physically unavailable,” say, “What I did was wrong, and I regret it. I’d like to work on regaining your trust and finding solutions to our difficulties.”

Look for potential solutions to your difficulties. Figure out if what you and your spouse can do to address the problems you’ve identified. What are specific changes both of you can make to improve your situation? Keep in mind both partners need to put an effort into resolving a relationship’s difficulties.

  • Try drawing a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On one side, list things you could work on and, on the other, list things your spouse could do. You and your spouse could each make lists, then compare them with each other.
  • For instance, you might write that you need to focus less on work, stop ordering your partner around, and be more affectionate. Maybe you’d like your partner to contribute more to maintaining your home and raising your kids.

    Expectations vs Reality

Commit to working on your individual shortcomings. Keep your tone constructive when you discuss your lists of potential solutions. Focus on how you can contribute to a solution instead of emphasizing the changes your spouse should make. Likewise, your spouse should focus on what they can do.

  • Try saying, “These are some changes I think we could make. We’ll both need to put effort forth, and I don’t want you to feel like I’m just giving you a list of things you need to do. Let’s focus on our energy on what we can each do instead of demanding things from each other.”

Get help from a marriage counselor. A counselor can offer an objective perspective and help you develop the skills needed to mend the gap in your relationship. Try not to be nervous or self-conscious about seeing a counselor or therapist. There’s nothing wrong with getting help from a professional.

  • It’s particularly wise to seek counseling if you’re dealing with issues like infidelity, addiction, or contempt. Contempt is when partners express disgust, sneer, scoff, or attempt to demoralize each other with insults such as, “You’re a loser,” “There’s something wrong with you,” or “You’ll never be good enough.”

Improving Communication

Provide constructive feedback instead of launching personal attacks. All spouses get annoyed with each other and complain about pet peeves. However, if you and your spouse launch constant personal attacks, being in each other’s presence feels like walking on eggshells. Instead, express how you feel us ing “I” statements, and include what you’d like them to do instead.

  • Instead of saying, “You always ignore me. There’s something wrong with you,” say, “I feel belittled and insecure when I say something and you don’t respond. I’d appreciate it if we could work on treating each other with more respect.”
  • Or, instead of saying, “You never help me with dishes!” you might say, “I feel overwhelmed and like our household duties aren’t distributed evenly. Can you help me fix this?”
  • Constructive feedback addresses specific actions instead of targeting someone’s personality. If you want to save your marriage, you and your spouse need to learn how to discuss your problems respectfully and constructively.

    Expectations vs Reality

Stop, breathe, and relax instead of yelling. No matter how frustrated you are with your spouse, do your very best to control your temper. In order to save your marriage, you and your spouse both need to keep your emotions in check.  Inhale slowly, close your eyes, count, and remind yourself that you’ll only solve your problems with mutual respect.

  • Whenever you’re about to blow your top, count to 10 before you say anything. As tough as it is, resist the urge to fight, and think about your spouse’s message.
  • If your spouse is shouting, say, “I understand that you’re upset, and I feel like yelling, too. But screaming at each other isn’t going to get us anywhere. Let’s cool down and show each other respect.”

Set a “no stonewalling” rule. Stonewalling is when a partner shuts down or gives the silent treatment. You and your spouse need to communicate in order to resolve conflicts. If one or both of you shut down, you’ll never solve your problems.

  • Try saying, “I know it can be tough to work through problems, and it’s easier just to ignore each other. If we’re going to make it, we have to set a rule that we talk things through instead of putting up walls.”
  • Keep in mind it’s okay to take time to cool down instead of discussing things in the heat of an argument. However, don’t just ignore each other. Instead, say, “I think we should cool down for a bit, then talk this through when we’re both calm.”

    Expectations vs Reality

Avoid making assumptions about your spouse’s intentions. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt instead of always assuming their words and actions are malicious. If they’re short with you or ignore you, try to understand that they might not be trying to attack you. Do your best to show them empathy instead of responding with anger.

  • For instance, if your partner is short with you, maybe they had a hard day at work. If they aren’t talking to you, maybe they’re sad, not angry.
  • Try saying, “I don’t want us to shut each other out, and we’re not going to get anywhere unless we open up to each other. We need to let each other in, and stop assuming that we know what the other is thinking.”

Strive to have substantial conversations regularly. Set aside a time of the day for you and your spouse to have a good talk. Try to keep distractions, such as TV, phones, kids, or work, to a minimum. Rather than discussing chores and necessities, talk about your opinions, feelings, curiosities, fears, and goals.

  • It might take some time for deeper conversations to come naturally, so have patience. As you go about your day, note news stories, funny things you see, and other potential conversation starters.
  • Additionally, let your spouse vent about their day to you. You don’t necessarily need to give them advice or analysis. Providing each other a shoulder to lean on can help you rebuild your bond.

    Expectations vs Reality

Focus on the present instead of digging up the past. It can be tempting to bring up something that happened 10 years ago to back your argument. However, resolving conflicts with your spouse isn’t about winning a fight. Instead, aim to make your point calmly and rationally, and work with your spouse to find a compromise.

  • If you constantly dredge up old dirt on your spouse, they’ll feel attacked instead of involved in a discussion.
  • As difficult as it is, try to forgive them for hurting you in the past. Focus on your marriage’s present and future.

Rebuilding Intimacy

Remember your relationship’s positive aspects. Think about first meeting your spouse, your first date, when you got engaged, your wedding, and when your children were born, if you have any. Try to remember how you felt during these pivotal moments. Remind yourself that you and your partner have shared many wonderful moments, and there’s a reason you’ve invested so much in each other.

  • It’s tough to rebuild a connection after years of monotony, stress, arguments, and everything else that comes with a marriage. Reminding yourself of your relationship’s high points can help you focus on what you love about your spouse.

    Expectations vs Reality

Perform small acts of kindness every day. The little things in life make a bigger impact than grand gestures, so show each other kindness every day. Pay each other compliments, write each other notes or emails, and do other small, random acts that show you care.

  • For example, you could slip a note into their bag before they leave for work that says, “Have a fantastic day! I love you.” You could let them know how nice they look, or do a chore they haven’t gotten a chance to do.

Go on fun, exciting dates together. Try to schedule a date night every week, or as often as you can. To alleviate boredom, do something new and exciting each time. You could try out a new restaurant or cuisine, go to a concert, go hiking, or explore a new part of your city.

  • You could also go on day trips or weekend getaways. If you have kids, ask your parents, in-laws, or a babysitter to watch them so you can spend quality time with your spouse.

    Expectations vs Reality

Open up about your physical and emotional needs. Tell your spouse you want to be open and honest with each other about your needs, wants, and desires. Let them know that they can trust you, and that they can share anything without fear of judgment.

  • Say, “I’d like us to be honest about what we need from each other. I want to fulfill your emotional and physical needs, and we both need to let each other know how to be the best partner.”
  • It’s scary to make yourself vulnerable and say, “I need you to tell me that you love me and find me attractive,” or “I want to try something new in the bedroom.” Having the courage to make yourselves vulnerable might be exactly what you both need to deepen your bond.

Try to become physically intimate little by little. It can be tough to rebuild a physical bond, so take it slow. Begin holding hands, hugging, and cuddling more often. As you grow more comfortable being physically intimate, work on touching each other, kissing and, eventually, having sex more often.

  • Check in with your spouse to make sure they’re comfortable. You might say, “Do you mind if I hold your hand?” while watching a movie, or ask if they want a back rub after a long day.

How do I fix poor communication in my marriage?

Learn about “The Four Horsemen” of communication and apply them to your relationship. The Four Horsemen are criticism, stonewalling, defensiveness, and contempt, with contempt being the number 1 indicator of divorce. We all use horsemen, but we tend to use 1 or 2 more than others. So, take some time to figure out which horsemen apply to both you and your partner. Then, try to figure out you and your partner’s conflict style. From there, focus on expressing your thoughts and feelings with “I” statements.

Expectations vs Reality

More tips

  • You and your spouse both need to follow through whenever you say you’ll do something. If you say you’ll pick up the kids, do a chore, or go to the grocery store, be sure to do it. Following through is essential to rebuilding trust.

  • Do your best to be cheerleaders for each other. Celebrate each other’s successes and support each other when things go wrong.
  • If you are the only one making an effort to save your marriage, consider what that might mean. Talk to your partner about whether or not they want to stay in the relationship.

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