My husband teases me that I have a marriage breakdown once or twice a year. It’s one of those things we can laugh about, but it really is true and I totally own it. “My name is Morgan, and I have an annual marriage breakdown.”
These breakdowns have become somewhat predictable and almost always begin with quiet stirrings of irritation that remain beneath the surface… but eventually erupt like an emotional volcano. But long before the fire there is smoke. And the telltale sign is that I view my husband more and more through the lens of frustration. This, my friends, is not a good place to be. But I think you know what I’m talking about.
In the beginning of our marriage, these times would end with me crying (out of frustration and anger) and trying to explain, not so well, what I would like from my husband. I’ve learned that if I let it go on too long, that I start to overgeneralize a small issue and make it huge! And when I’m blubbering away, he just looks at me cross-eyed. So yeah, that accomplishes nothing.
If you’ve reached this point before, you definitely know what it feels like and it starts to feel hopeless. At that moment of peak frustration, all you can see are the BIG problems with your spouse and you may feel like what’s the point, it’s been this way FOREVER so it will NEVER change and I’m stuck living with my partner with these BIG problems feeling the way I do now.
I have come to realize that I do not like confrontation, so I keep things in too long and basically, am just too nice. Maybe this pattern isn’t exactly what you see in your own marriage, but I bet many of you can relate to me from time to time. We are like a liquidation sale that occurs every 6-12 months, storing up our inventory and then EVERYTHING MUST GO! Or maybe you don’t bury all your frustrations but instead they eek out as little snarky comments or digs causing a different type of tension in your marriage.
Whatever your marital M-O, I want to offer two categories of suggestions to help you avoid marital breakdowns.
First, change how you think about it! And second, change how you live with it!
How you think about it
- Get over yourself. Yikes, that was harsh. I know but it’s so important to remember that you are not perfect. You make mistakes in your marriage, and approaching issues with a sense of humility will soften the blow when you take them to your spouse and help you maintain a level of respect for your partner.
- Shift your perspective. If you’re headed for a marital breakdown, it’s likely that you are focusing most of your inner thoughts on your partner’s shortcomings. You make a choice every day to think about your partner in terms of the good, the bad or the ugly. What happens in your head is under your control! So choose to shift your focus onto some of your partner’s best qualities.
- Appreciate what you have. There is no doubt in my mind that your spouse has strengths that actually help you in very real ways. Take a vacation from obsessing on the negatives and dwell for a moment on the things your spouse does to help you, to make your life easier or to take care of you. Then focus on some things your partner does well. Breathe that in…ahh feels good right?!
How you live with it—this is what I have learned
- It is not nice to be too nice. Part of how marriage breakdowns occur is that small issues can begin to add up to become big issues, ultimately shifting your perspective of your partner. You remember those pictures that change from one image to another depending on where you focus? Your perspective of your partner is no different. Hyper-focus on some negatives and the entire image of your partner will mutate into a monster. So, practice regular check-ins with your partner to avoid small issues growing into bigger ones.
- It is cool to keep your cool. Just to be clear, these check-ins aren’t to give you or your partner an opportunity to verbally beat each other up, but instead, they present a chance for each of you to ask one another how you’re doing… to ask if there’s anything that you or your partner need from each other and to give credit to one another for things that you’re both doing well. So, if there are things that need to be addressed, do so respectfully and then a plan together as to how you can implement these changes.
- Keep a balance between spontaneity and structure. Certainly, the majority of your conversations are in the flow of life. But if you make a scheduled time monthly to talk about your relationship then you have a platform for regularly expressing your appreciation and diffusing your frustrations. The more you make this a regular practice then the less intimidating these talks will become, and the less likely small issues will build into big ones.