Every married couple has problems, so why is it that when we’re struggling in our marriages we can feel so alone? I recently sat down with the ladies of “Good Things Utah” to answer some marriage questions that viewers had written in. Perhaps some of them will mirror your own experiences.
Q: My spouse keeps bringing up issues from the past (things that happened years ago!) and plays the blame game. It reignites all the emotions. How can I move on if he keeps bringing it up in arguments?
It might help to focus on emotion (how he’s feeling) instead of the content (what he is saying). Is there an emotional theme in the issues that keeps being brought up (such as not feeling valued, feeling unheard, or feeling scared of losing you)? Often, if you focus on the emotion underneath the content, you can then address and heal the pain that underlies the issues from the present and past.
Q: What do you recommend when it’s definitely not a 50/50 relationship? When one partner is giving and not receiving in return.
I wish I had more details about areas that one partner not giving. What specifically do you need from your partner that you’re not getting? It’s important to be very clear in your request. Perhaps it’s, “I feel alone. I need you to take on more of the home responsibilities than you are currently doing. We are both working full-time, and we are not equally sharing the household duties.” Or maybe, “I feel sad when you brush off my concerns because I listen whenever you need to talk.” If most areas of the relationship feel out of balance, you may want to talk to a marriage counselor to help you through it.
Q: I’ve been married for 20 years. How do you stay romantically interested? (Don’t tell me to do date night!)
One way is to stay in touch with your own sexuality. Women often don’t develop or lose their sense of sexual identity. Do things that get you in touch with the sensual part of yourself – relaxing bubble bath with candles, get a massage — and invite your partner to join you. Another suggestion is to re-incorporate the romantic things you used to do when you were first together. Maybe it’s write love notes, have a candle light dinner, role play an early sexual encounter, etc.
Q: How do I have a better relationship with my in-laws?
A good general rule to always assume that your in-laws have a positive intent. Even if they do things that seem to create distance in the relationship or feel critical, assume it is from a loving place in them. Another tip is to talk with your partner and set clear boundaries. For example, if they are giving unsolicited parenting advice, you and your partner can tell them that you would like them to give parenting advice only when you ask for it.
Q: I’m a clean freak, but my husband is pretty messy! He doesn’t care if the house is a mess, if dirty dishes pile up, etc. I’ve loosened up, but it still bothers me. I don’t want to be a nag. What can I do?
I’m glad you’ve loosened up a bit about cleanliness, but he needs to step up, too. Together, make a list of things that have to be done to maintain the household and then divide it up. Let him know that it’s important to you to work together to have a clean house. Many men haven’t been socialized to see what needs to be done in the home or to feel that it is their responsibility. Your husband may need help seeing what needs to be done. If he doesn’t do what he’s agreed to do, then the issue may be difficulty following through with commitments, not an unwillingness to do household chores.