My heart goes out to the many men and women who in unhappy, unsatisfying, unfulfilling, and/or unsafe marriages. When both of you say, “I do,” no one is hoping for pain, strife, and discord. And while there may have been some overt or covert signs before the big day, many people end up in a marriage they would never have signed up for in the first place. And while many marriages end in divorce… there are more marriages that are in active turmoil. Some people are suffering through for the kids… some don’t believe in pursuing divorce… some are divorce bound… some will continue suffering in silence. ALL of these cases pull on my heartstrings because the pain that comes from the person you are most intimate with, hurts the most.
**PLEASE NOTE… if you are being abused, PLEASE get to safety. You do NOT need to stay in a situation where you are in danger.** This post is meant to address those going through emotional distress, not physical or sexual abuse. If you are experiencing these things, click here –>PLEASE get help and get to safety.**
When you are being hurt by your spouse, there is a strong sense of powerlessness. When it comes to relationships, it surely “takes two to tango” and there is equal responsibility for a relationship to thrive… but some people have a lot more difficult, long-term, sacrificial role to fill. And that is flat out HARD. Hard to choose to do over and over. Hard to make the right choices yourself to make sure that you are fulfilling your roles and providing your spouse with the best possible set up to change his/her ways.
No one deserves to be mistreated. No one deserves to be hurt. No one deserves to be betrayed. Which also means, you do not have the right to dish out payback to someone mistreating, hurting, or betraying you. Payback may seem deserved, but if you are willing to dish it out, then you have to be willing to receive it in return. Beyond this, choosing to resort to maltreatment, regardless of how hurt you are, will not provide the necessary environment for your spouse to change they way he/she is treating you. If you desire change, the only change agent is LOVE.
And while you may not have those butterflies-in-your-stomach feelings anymore for your spouse, that is not at all what love is. Love is a choice, it is active, it is placing someone above yourself… which is what you promised to do back on your wedding day. Marriage pledges love, whether things are good or bad… perhaps the bad is your spouse mistreating you and not holding up to the vows he/she made… YOU can still live up to yours. I don’t know about you, but I like to know that I have done EVERYTHING in my power when it comes to difficult situations. Your marriage should not be an exception to this! Should you persevere and find victory in your marriage, the payoff is beyond worth it.
So what are some practical things you can do if your spouse is mistreating you?
Here are TEN!
- Make sure you are not talking negatively about your spouse to other people.
Our culture LOVES gossip. And we have a bad habit of complaining… but calling it “venting.” I am not saying you cannot seek someone out to help you through this difficult time, but there is a big difference between spouse bashing and trying to receive encouragement and advice on how to best handle what you are experiencing.
- Genuinely compliment your spouse at least 3 times a day.
If you are feeling down trodden, you likely are not overflowing with compliments and probably not viewing your spouse in a positive light. Start looking for things that you can compliment your spouse on throughout the day so that you encourage your spouse and start to experience some of his/her positive qualities as well.
- Stop comparing your spouse to others’.
If you are comparing your spouse to other people’s spouses, you are going to set yourself up for disappointment. You didn’t want to marry someone else… and you certainly are not exposed to the low-lights of others relationships.
- Stop watching chick flicks or reading romance novels.
These are what I like to call “women’s porn.” Pornography provides an unrealistic fantasy for people to get aroused… when it comes to women, our hearts are not so much aroused by visuals, but by romance. Romance movies and books are SO unrealistic and not at all what we should expect to be experiencing in our everyday life. Flooding our minds and hearts with these unrealistic examples only causes more pain.
- Filter the feedback.
Your spouse is surely giving you some feedback in the midst of their mistreatment. And while the mistreatment is surely undeserved, surely hurtful, and not the most helpful or conducive… but it is feedback. I encourage you to carefully parse through the feedback you are getting, mercifully pick out and throw away the hurtful comments, and carefully rescue the bits of useful information that could help give you insight into what is upsetting your spouse. You may not be actively harming or neglecting your spouse, but NO ONE is a perfect spouse… there just may be a few things that you could improve. Find out what you can do better and implement it!
- Let go of the fact that they should change first.
Of course you want them to change! Of course they seem to have more things to work on than you do! But what if they are thinking the same thing about you!? Stop worrying about their need to change and focus on what you can change to make a positive impact on your spouse’s life… regardless if you think they deserve it.
- Have regular sex.
This is complicated. I understand. Sex may be the last thing on your mind when you are generally feeling rejected or unloved. But purposefully withholding sex (whether your spouse realizes it or not) is dangerous. Assuming there is fidelity in your relationship, sex is one aspect of your marriage that you share only with your spouse. It is something that you experience with no other person. It is a higher level of intimacy and biologically brings about a closeness (cuddle hormone is a real thing!). If you are not engaging in sex, trouble is bound to come your way. Everyone has different frequencies in sexual encounters, but if there has been a distinct change, this is a red flag.
- Reduce negative comments and criticism.
This does not mean that you completely hold your tongue. This does not mean being dishonest. Giving constructive feedback is certainly okay, but this looks VERY different than nagging and pointing out flaws. My guess is that your spouse is very aware of his/her shortcomings and the reason they are treating you poorly is probably not something they are proud of. There is likely something underlying your spouses’ attitude and behavior. You adding to the negativity only adds you to his/her woes. Instead of criticizing, start asking how you can help or how you can support him/her in this time. Your spouse likely does not want to treat you like garbage… let him/her know that you see a change in him/her and you want to help.
And if you are doing everything above and there is still no progress… keep doing those things… and PRAY. Go to God and trust Him to intervene in ways you never could. Ultimately, your spouse is responsible for his/her change. Pray for your spouse. It will change your heart toward them, provide you with hope, and enrich your spirit. God will guide you and soften your heart toward your spouse. It will remind you of the forgiveness you receive, despite your rebellion in your relationship with God… something you can then pass onto your spouse.
- Discuss and/or seek counseling.
Perhaps your spouse is not aware of how severe your situation is? If you let him/her know that you think you need to pursue counseling to improve your relationship. This alone may be a wake up call to let him/her know that you are very serious and seriously hurting. This may cause some negativity, but you cannot control your spouse’s reaction, nor are you responsible for it (though you do need to be mindful of your delivery… coming at them in an accusatory or condemning way will not likely yield good results). All you can do is what you are able. If your spouse is not open to couples counseling, then seek counseling for yourself. That way you have an outlet and someone to help you to get through this difficult time. Getting professional, unbiased insight will do wonders for you and for your marriage.
Are you in a tumultuous marriage? Have you overcome one in the past? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories. Please feel free to comment below or fill out the contact form to send me a private message.