The Source of Misery In Your Marriage
By: Kathy
January 26, 2014

I’ve been counseling couples now for 8 ½ years.  I’ve seen them at every stage and, of course, I’ve experienced most of those stages myself.  With all of that to witness, one myth sticks out as a continual source of misery in so many marriages.  The myth?  That your partner is there to make you happy.

Think about it.  When we first got together, they did make us happy!  So happy, in fact, that we would lose sleep, skip work or classes, spend less time with our friends and family.  We would sacrifice ourselves in order to get more of the luscious joy they brought to us at the very sight of them.  So what did we do?  We married them.  We signed on for a lifetime supply of that happiness!  So where does the misery come in?

When we first meet, we are making sacrifices – a lot of them – in order to get that happiness.  It is because we are making those sacrifices that we are getting the good stuff.  It feels good to our partner to be romanced and pursued, to receive gifts, to be admired, to be praised, to be taken care of, to be wanted.  And we get the same in exchange for our sacrifices.  We put all of our focus on our lover because the return on investment is so good!

So here is where the winds shift.  You can’t do it anymore.  You can’t keep up that level of giving for very long.  Work calls, the Xbox beckons, the baby cries, an aging parent wants their grass mowed – and slowly you stop giving as much to your mate because you just can’t do it all.  Your loved one can’t keep it up either.  Now the relationship begins a downward spiral.  The less you give, the less they give, and the less they give, the less you want to give.  Neither realizes what is happening, both people just both feel increasingly more and more rejected and unloved.  They both respond by giving less. No longer is your lover doing the job that you effectively hired them to do – i.e., make you feel good like they did when you first were dating.  This is when bad stuff starts to happen – contempt enters the marriage, affairs (find someone else to do the job), divorce (“I picked the wrong one”) – you get the idea.

Picture this:  I go to the vending machine at work every day.  I put money in, it gives me a candy bar.  The candy bar tastes good and makes me happy.  So I keep going.  Every day.  One day, I don’t have enough money, so I try to get the vending machine to give me the candy bar for less.  It refuses.  I’m mad at the vending machine.  The next day, I don’t have any money.  The vending machine stares at me with all of its candy bars that it could give me, but it won’t.  I punch the vending machine (which surprisingly doesn’t motivate it to dispense it’s tasty goods to me!).

Get the idea?  We stop investing in our relationships, but we expect the same gushing, loving, admiring treatment that we got when we gave it our all!  And then we blame our mate for it.  Not a good recipe for a lifetime of love!

The source of misery in your marriage is a combination of our own decreasing effort combined with our expectation that it is our partner’s job to make us feel good.  The quick answer to stop the misery?  Stop expecting and start investing.  And if you need help cleaning up the damage you caused beating on the vending machine – well, you’re probably going to need a counselor for that!