If you have reached an impasse in your marriage-saving efforts, you will want to read this three-part series because it will help you diagnose the reasons you might be stuck. Don’t despair, just make sure you read this and the next two parts!
So, why haven’t you seen change in your marriage yet? Let’s take a look at a few possible reasons.
You Haven’t Given a Method Sufficient Time to Work Before Trying Something Else
It is often the case that, if a technique doesn’t yield immediate results, people jump ship too quickly. Although this is completely understandable, it’s unproductive. It’s my experience that you should probably stick with something for at least a couple of weeks unless it is clear that you are getting negative results. Then, of course, you should quit immediately. But don’t let your impatient get in the way of your being systematic about improving your marriage. You need to give things a chance to work.
This is especially true if you and your spouse are separated and you don’t have much contact. In that case, even if the method you’re using is going to be effective, it will definitely take longer to show positive results than it would if the two of you were together. Your spouse simply doesn’t have enough opportunities to witness you changing. So, don’t get discouraged and start trying a little of this and a little of that. If you do, you won’t really get a true reading about the effectiveness of any technique.
The Strategy Chosen Isn’t Different Enough From Your Usual Approach
When people are stuck, I ask them what they’ve tried and they tell me, “I’ve tried everything.” No one has ever tried everything. It only feels that way.
But what people have done, is that they’ve tried many, many variations of the same technique. For example, a woman tried asking her husband nicely to change when that didn’t work, she pleaded, begged, threatened, and cried. Nothing she said ever made a difference. So she decided to take a communication class where she learned how to express herself more effectively. She did well in class and mastered the skills. But when she went home and tried them out on her husband, he still responded the same old way. She felt frustrated and at her wit’s end.
If you asked her, this woman would tell you that she tried everything. But if you look at what she did very carefully, what you’ll notice is that all of her efforts fall under the same general category. Despite the subtle difference in her approach, her husband knew one thing and one thing only. “My wife is constantly harping on me when she talks.” It didn’t matter how she said what she said, or the level of emotion that she said it with- to her husband, words were words.
Although your pet strategy may not be words, I want you to mull over this example and see if you are making the same kind of mistake. When you try something new is it really new or is it merely a variation of thing you’ve tried that hasn’t worked? I have equipped you with a series of helpful techniques for bringing about change with your spouse: Do Something Different, Act As If, Easier Done Than Said, The Medium is In The Message, and Do a 180. Find one that is radically different from what you’ve been doing. Even if it seems a little odd for you to try it out, do it anyway. Give yourself permission to be creative. Ask yourself, “Have I had any zany ideas about what might work but have held myself back from trying them?” What are they?
Don’t hold back a moment longer. Go for it. Remember, when I say, “Do something different,” I mean different.
You’re overlooking the small signs of change
One of the reasons you may not be noting any improvement in your marriage is that you are overlooking the small signs of change. I know how easy this is to do. You want to feel so much closer to your spouse and you’re looking for those blatant telltale signs that your marriage is headed for higher ground. You’re hoping for obvious expressions of love and tenderness. But in your eagerness to feel that your marriage is healed, it’s entirely possible that you have been oblivious to the small positive things that have happened that are really harbingers of things to come. You fail to notice the less obvious, small acts of kindness, which are really the building blocks for what comes next.
If you’ve failed to notice these mini-steps, it’s like missing a street sign when you’re going to a party. You won’t realize that you’ve been going in the right direction and you will feel lost. Without recognizing and appreciating that you’re moving in the right direction, you wont feel encouraged to keep going.
Or perhaps you have noticed a few small things have improved but you’ve told yourself, “No big deal.” In other words, since the changes weren’t monumental, they weren’t worth getting excited about. That kind of attitude will prevent you from moving farther. Every little step is a big deal and you should think about it that way. It will help you keep your stamina up. If you’re guilty of downplaying the significance of small changes, here’s your new mantra: “Little steps are a big deals.” Got that? It’s really important that you slow down and be patient.
Finally, you may have been telling yourself not to get too excited about small steps forward because you don’t want to feel a false sense of hope. If I were in your shoes, I’d probably feel exactly the same way, but it’s unproductive. Allow yourself to notice and feel encouraged by the small signs. You need to feel hope. While it’s true that there are no guarantees about the future, if things don’t work out the way you hope, you’ll deal with it then. For now, think positively. Remember the self-fulfilling prophecy is a very powerful phenomenon.