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May 31, 2018

Marriage in Trouble? Don't Work Too Hard at It

When the resentment level was rising quickly in my first marriage, I heard lots of advice about working harder at being married. So I did. And when it didn't work, the resentment rose twice as fast, until I knew I could stand no more.

No one said to me what I will say to you today. Unless you've been staying away, sleeping with someone else and leaving your spouse with all the chores and all the bills, do not work any harder at your marriage.

What you do for your spouse when you work hard at marriage doesn't help. It's actually manipulative, which is why you feel so much worse when it doesn't have the effect you hoped for.

You know how to love well. You know how to make your spouse, this particular man or woman you married, feel loved. You know how to shower him or her with affection. I know this because you two are married. Unless you married to escape your parents' home or an eviction notice, you've done a great job of loving your spouse.

And you would do it again in a flash if you felt loved. And respected. And cherished. No one would even need to suggest it. You'd do it because it's what follows from feeling that way.

You'd do it brilliantly and with joy, not resentment.

So instead of working on your marriage, work instead on feeling loved.

Be present. Take your time. Notice more. Focus only on the positives. Erase "yes, but" from your mind. Remember your spouse's strengths. Lock eyes and see if you still see your soul reflected back at you even a little bit. Smile or say thank you for anything that deserves it. Don't wait for the resentment to drain away first.

Watch for signs you are trusted, respected, admired, cherished, wanted. Many of them are so ordinary after a few years together that they are easy to overlook. Pay attention.

Don't try to love harder. Just try to feel the love you're offered.

It's like a seedling. At first, you'll notice just a tiny bit of green poking out of the dirt. But then there will be two little leaves. And a stem will branch into two and sprout two more. And all four will grow larger, even as another stem branches off and starts anew. Flowers will bloom. Just keep adding the sunshine and water of your attention to the love you're offered.

These have been missing as you focused your attention instead on what you thought your husband or wife ought to do to bring back your sense of being loved.

No one will need to tell you what to do next. When you feel loved, respected, and cherished, you are a great lover, an irresistible one for the man or woman who married you.

And two people in love are a powerful force. You won't need manipulation to get what you need in a disagreement or a clash of interests when you've got a powerful ally again.

The Author

Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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