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Why You Havent Seen Change in Your Marriage (and What You Can Do to Fix It)
by Michele Weiner-Davis

If you have reached an impasse in your marriage-saving efforts, you will want to read this because it will help you diagnose the reasons you might be stuck. Dont despair, just make sure you read this!

So, why havent you seen change in your marriage yet? Lets take a look at a few possible reasons.

You Havent Given a Method Sufficient Time to Work Before Trying Something Else

It is often the case that, if a technique doesnt yield immediate results, people jump ship too quickly. Although this is completely understandable, its unproductive. Its 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 dont 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 dont have much contact. In that case, even if the method youre 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 doesnt have enough opportunities to witness you changing. So, dont get discouraged and start trying a little of this and a little of that. If you do, you wont really get a true reading about the effectiveness of any technique.

The Strategy Chosen Isnt Different Enough From Your Usual Approach

When people are stuck, I ask them what theyve tried and they tell me, Ive tried everything. No one has ever tried everything. It only feels that way.

But what people have done, is that theyve tried many, many variations of the same technique. For example, a woman tried asking her husband nicely to change when that didnt 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 wits 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 youll 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 didnt 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 youve tried that hasnt 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 youve 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?

Dont hold back a moment longer. Go for it. Remember, when I say, Do something different, I mean different.

Youre 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 youre looking for those blatant telltale signs that your marriage is headed for higher ground. Youre hoping for obvious expressions of love and tenderness. But in your eagerness to feel that your marriage is healed, its 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 youve failed to notice these mini-steps, its like missing a street sign when youre going to a party. You wont realize that youve been going in the right direction and you will feel lost. Without recognizing and appreciating that youre moving in the right direction, you wont feel encouraged to keep going.

Or perhaps you have noticed a few small things have improved but youve told yourself, No big deal. In other words, since the changes werent monumental, they werent 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 youre guilty of downplaying the significance of small changes, heres your new mantra: Little steps are a big deals. Got that? Its 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 dont want to feel a false sense of hope. If I were in your shoes, Id probably feel exactly the same way, but its unproductive. Allow yourself to notice and feel encouraged by the small signs. You need to feel hope. While its true that there are no guarantees about the future, if things dont work out the way you hope, youll deal with it then. For now, think positively. Remember the self-fulfilling prophecy is a very powerful phenomenon.

Your attempts at change were halfhearted

Sometimes when there is a lack of improvement, it is because when youve experimented with a technique, you only did halfheartedly. If your heart isnt in it when you approach your spouse, your spouse will think you are acting and will immediately see through what youre trying to do. S/he might feel manipulated, and therefore, not respond in a positive manner.

If doing things halfheartedly fails to bring about good results, why do people do it? Sometimes its because the technique they choose doesnt feel right to them. Theyre just doing it because they think they should. That not a good reason to do anything. You need to feel comfortable with what youre doing. It must make sense to you. You have to get behind what youre doing. If a particular technique feels artificial, choose something else.

Another reason people do things halfheartedly is that, although they might not be admitting it to themselves, they are still playing the blame game. They dont really want to accept responsibility for tipping over the first domino. They still want their spouses to change first. So, they go through the motions of change but dont allow themselves to fully get into their new solution-oriented modes.

If you have been feeling lukewarm about the strategies youve been using, I want you to be totally honest and ask yourself, Am I still holding out hope that my spouse will see the light and change first? Dont fool yourself into thinking that you are really working on your marriage if that little inner voice is shouting, S/hes wrong, let him/her change first. You are only wasting time. You first need to rid yourself of that distraction before you can do anything constructive about your marriage. Unless you put your heart and soul into changing your marriage and stop keeping score, your marriage will be in exactly the same place five years from now that it is now, or you will have no marriage at all.

You reverted to your old ways

In this case, it is clear that the technique youre using has some merit, but you accidentally slid back into your old ways, thereby prompting your spouse to do the same. Then, when you observe both of you doing the same old thing, you incorrectly assume that what you are doing isnt working and you get discouraged. In reality, its not that the technique you are using isnt working, its just that it doesnt work when you dont use it! Heres an example.

Through using this program, Andrea and Wally figured out that they got along a lot better when they used a budget to guide their financial expenditures. For a long time they were doing just that. Their finances improved and they were getting along famously. As a result, with each passing week, they found themselves becoming more and more lax about doing sticking to their budget. After all, they told themselves, How will this one little extravagant purchase hurt? So they started splurging a little. One small purchase turned into another small purchase, and before they knew it, their spending was out of control again. Their fighting resumed with a vengeance.

Andrea and Wally felt discouraged and assumed that their budget wasnt working until they realized that the real problem wasnt that their budget hadnt worked, but that they had become lax in their efforts to stick to it. With a little reminder, they were up and running again, and they got back on track.

Back to you for a moment. If at any time during your participating in this program you noticed even slight improvements, it means you were doing something worthwhile. If the progress has slowed or even halted, it means youve probably stopped doing what works. Force yourself to resume doing what was working and see if that makes a difference. It probably will.

Your Spouse is Involved with Someone Else

I dont consider it a marital death sentence if one spouse is having either an emotional or physical affair with someone else. I have seen countless marriages survive infidelity and even become stronger after the healing begins. However, it is also true that positive change in marriage is harder to achieve when one spouse is emotionally or physically interested or attached to someone else. In my practice, when I see couples, who on the surface are saying, we want our marriage to work, but as time progresses and nothing changes, its often the case that one spouse has a special friend waiting in the wings. There are some key phrases Ive heard over the years in marriages where this is happening. See if any of this sounds familiar to you.


I admit that my spouse is changing, but it doesnt change how I feel about him/her.

its not about my spouse, its about me. Theres nothing s/he can do to make things better. Its all inside my head.

Yes, my spouse is changing, but I think its too little, too late.

I feel like were brother and sister. (referring to the fact that there are no longer feelings of attraction.)

And last, but not least, the all-time favorite:

I love you, but Im not in love with you.

You are not to blame for the lack of progress in your marriage. Its likely that you are doing everything right but you are hitting up against a brick wall. If your partners extramarital interests are secretive, its especially difficult because it prevents you from confronting the real issues in your marriage. And it prevents your spouse from seeing things clearly and from putting his/her soul into making your marriage work.

Your spouse has decided your marriage is over

One of the reasons nothing you do seems to be working is because it isnt. As cold and cruel as it seems, when some people announce the death of their marriages, they really mean it. For them, over means over. Once this happens there is absolutely nothing anyone can say or do to change that persons mind. The only thing you can do is make matters worse.

But heres the problem for someone like you who desperately wants to make things better and keep your marriage thriving. There is no clear way to tell when over means over and when it means over, maybe.

Sometimes people say, its over, in the heat of passion and it means nothing. Sometimes people say, its over after thinking things out, but the next day they wake up and they arent quite as sure about ending their marriages as they were the day before. Even though they might give an unbending appearance, the divorce is far from etched in stone. And then there are the diehards, the immovable ones who rarely retract a decision once its made. When these folks say its over, only a miracle could change things.

Since its hard to know whether your spouse is truly done with your marriage or just needs some more time to come to his/her sense, if I were you, I would err on the side of caution. Why not assume that this is going to take much longer than you anticipated, but that, in the end, things will work out. Act as if you believe that your marriage sill has possibilities. Do the things you would do if you envisioned a positive outcome to all of your efforts. Dont allow friends, relatives, lawyers, or therapist to tell you that you should move forward in your life if thats not your hearts desire. If you are still hopeful that your spouse will eventually reconsider, keep practicing the techniques Ive taught you. Dont stop until you are absolutely convinced that its over. Surround yourself with people who will support you in this endeavor.

Sometimes people ask me how they will know when to stop trying to save their marriage. I dont have a clue. The only person who knows when you should stop working on your marriage is you. You are the expert here, not your mother, father, spouse, rabbi, pastor just you. Only you, in the privacy of your own thoughts at night, can tell whether youve left no stone unturned, whether you still have energy to give. If you do, then continue. If after lots of soul-searching, you decide that you can no longer continue feeling the intense hurt and pain that stem from the rejection you are experiencing, then, and only then, should you consider other options.

Start by focusing on your own life. When you let go, you will go through a mourning period that is natural. Even if you are at peace with your decision to refocus, you will probably feel intense pain. In some ways, its very much like a death. Its the death of a dream that you had for yourself and your family. Its the death of a relationship. Allow yourself to feel the pain. And at the same time, begin to think about what you can do to fill the void. Spend time with loved ones. Do nice things for yourself. Keep yourself busy. Although its hard to believe when youre going through it, know that your life will go on. You will find happiness again. Many of the people with whom I work who go through a divorce, go on to find new partners and blend families and have new children. Their lives dont end just because their marriages do. They join support groups in their churches or through their mental health centers. They double their efforts to spend time with their children. They learn everything they can about co-parenting after a divorce. They find new interests. But all of this happens slowly. Healing takes a lot of time. You need to reach out to others. There is life after divorce.

I know that many of my divorce-busting fans might be surprised by my words here. Ive never before talked about life after divorce. I feared that by discussing the D word, I might actually be encouraging people to throw in the towel prematurely. This is the very last thing I would ever want to do. I hate divorce. I believe you must know that by now. I write about the possibility of letting go for only one reason. I dont want people who have been in excruciating pain because of unrequited love to feel judged when they eventually decide to move on with their lives. In truth, we only have one go-around. We are all entitled to happiness. If, after you have tried everything humanly possible to win back your spouses love to no avail, you cant torture yourself forever. Just make darn sure before you move forward with your life that you can honestly say, Ive given it my all. Then make peace with your decision.

It is my hope the above advice will be the catalyst to help dig your marriage out of its current rut. If you do need additional help, I encourage you to consult with a Divorce Busting Coach to give you the tools and support to reignite the loving flame in your marriage once again.


Virginia Peeples
Assistant to Michele Weiner-Davis
The Divorce Busting Center

Transform your marriage with a private session with Michele Weiner-Davis.
Email virginia@divorcebusting.com or 303-444-7004.
Joined: Aug 1999
Posts: 855
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Virginia Peeples
Assistant to Michele Weiner-Davis
The Divorce Busting Center

Transform your marriage with a private session with Michele Weiner-Davis.
Email virginia@divorcebusting.com or 303-444-7004.
Joined: Aug 1999
Posts: 855
Member
OP Offline
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Joined: Aug 1999
Posts: 855
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Virginia Peeples
Assistant to Michele Weiner-Davis
The Divorce Busting Center

Transform your marriage with a private session with Michele Weiner-Davis.
Email virginia@divorcebusting.com or 303-444-7004.
Joined: Mar 2011
Posts: 4,866
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Joined: Mar 2011
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This is really great info, Virginia.

I know there's a lot of stickies already in the newcomers forum, but wondering if this info could be added there, as well.


Moderated by  Virginia 

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