When Your Marriage is Limping, Fix Your Life


Do you have one of those marriages that just doesn’t feel so great? Nothing’s awful. You’re not in any danger. You don’t really want a new spouse; you just want to feel terrific about the one you married again.
When this happens, before you fix the marriage, fix your life.
Is there something you love to do that you no longer do? Do 5 minutes of it a day or do it for an hour once a week, whether it’s writing or painting or tying flies. Do not walk away from your job or stop coaching your kid’s team to make room for doing as much of this thing you love as you imagine others get to do. Just make room for it in the life you already lead. It will change you and your marriage.
If you divorced, would you lose weight, get in shape, learn to dance, get new clothes, have a drink with friends after work? Do it! Marriage does not stop you from doing any of these. Not doing them stops you from enjoying your marriage.
Do you feel you are carrying too much of the load? That you are working a crappy job so your spouse can stay home with the kids or pursue a dream or avoid asking for a raise? That you are doing more than your fair share of chores to keep up your home or give your kids the life they should have? Absolve your spouse of his or her half of the overwhelming load. Decide how much of the load you would continue to bear if your spouse dropped dead tomorrow. Stop doing the rest. If your spouse values what it provides, he or she will pick up that part of the load. Otherwise, it’s your load and you are free to drop it.
Are you depressed, finding no joy or hope in anything? Go see a psychologist, talk to your doctor, or start eating better and exercising more. Your spouse has even less control over your mood than you do.
Do you appear to like the idea of getting out on your bicycle, on the dance floor, or to a restaurant more than your spouse does? Just go. You will find out if the effort of getting out there and doing it is worth the rewards to you. And your spouse will be free to join you with a lot fewer impediments, because getting out the door is usually the toughest part of doing any of these. There is nothing more deadly than discussing doing something in the abstract as a “should.”
Is your commute so long that it keeps you from enjoying your mate and your family? Change jobs. I always thought my commute was a given and got angry over what my husband would not or could not do to make up for it. When he died, I changed my commute right away, because I needed to be closer to our son’s school. But what surprised me was that the new office turned out to be very close to where he had worked. We could have lunched together while our son was at school, had some much needed us time, in addition to solving all the problems my commute created.
Is your business draining you? Focus the business or hire help instead of asking your spouse to take on every other chore in your life and still be thrilled to see you when you finally get home.
When your spouse feels helpless to fix what’s making you unhappy, it’s a huge drag on your relationship. When you resent the fact that your spouse also will not take care of the things you won’t do to improve your life, it’s an even bigger drag. Before you fix the relationship, fix your life.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • Hey Patty,
    Hopefully you have a good enough relationship that you can communicate how you feel to your partner and work it out together. But in the event that they are unwilling to do their part, I really support this advice. Set your limits and boundaries and do your fair share and leave the rest there.
    If this upsets them then hopefully it will spur them to finally communicate or even seek counseling with you. If not, then it is their responsibility to deal with the results.

  • Pat, I always support communicating to come up with a Third Alternative. Just don’t squander your communications on telling your spouse what you think his or her fair share should be. This just spreads the resentment.
    I believe your real fair share is what it would take to live life as you like it if your spouse dropped dead tomorrow. (Been there, done that. Big eye-opener.) Anything less is a blessing to be appreciated.
    And if you choose not to do that much right now, I believe it is OK to do less, but it’s crazy to expect your spouse will want to do those things you don’t want to do, especially if they are seen as a fair share instead of a a generous gesture toward a beloved spouse.
    When you see it that way, it turns out to be really easy to communicate your feelings. It also turns out to be much more fun for your spouse to do more for you.

  • Patty,
    In a healthy relationship I think you could communicate about what each person’s fair share is in a way that wouldn’t spread resentment. But of course in a relationship full of tension this might not be the case.
    I don’t think within a healthy marriage, you would live the same as you would if you had no spouse. Obviously there would be some compromise. But again this is different in a non-healthy situation. I think the two need to be distinguished.
    Yes it’s always best if you want to do your fair share out of love for the other person. But even if you don’t feel that, a responsible partner will carry their part of the weight without resentment.

  • Patty, Thank you so much for the time and loving energy u have put into this blog. It is an amazing positive way for me to think about my own marriage as I am struggling so much right now. Though we r in a deep dark place right now, on that same rollercoaster ride we’ve ridden so many times before, I am doing my best to assume live from our decision to struggle and not walk away. I am expecting love and easy.conversation will return at every corner. I am excited to share with him the notion of 3rd alternatives to help us level our rollercoaster ride out instead of always plunging into the abyss.
    My heart is desperately sad right now. I am grateful for my 2 daughters who eat up every bit of love and attention I give them. We always plan and have such great fun together. He is always welcome to join in, but rarely does. (Though he is a very involved daddy otherwise, PTA VP, makes their breakfast/ lunches every day, never misses a chance to ride bikes or wrestle.)
    I have made the choice to meet my own needs and accept every loving thing he does instead of hoping for more. It is the particularly unloving avoidance and distance he creates, despite my living attempts to engage, that really bring me down. At this particular moment, with about a half a day of being away from him, and the light hearted funny pictures he showed me on the computer earlier, I am accepting that as my ray tonight.
    I am looking forward to my ladies night out this next Friday with my bestows. I have gotten my watercolor supplies out and I’m looking for inspiration to create my first piece in 10 years(I have a 10th year old daughter). I have cleaned my house because it’s what I want. These things make me happy. I was profoundly affected by your story. And I am very aware that all I need from my husband is his love. It is my hope that he can give it openly again, without reservations of his own.
    I really cannot thank you enough. You are making a real difference in my struggle.

  • Thank you, Heather. May you soon find yourself coming out of that deep dark place and back into the light of love. I love watercolors! I hope creating one lifts your spirits.

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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