Being Taken for Granted
What is Your Spouse Worth?
Being taken for granted in your marriage can lead to anger and resentment. In everyday married life, you may lose sight of your priorities. You can easily forget just how much your spouse means to you. Then, relatively minor issues provide an opportunity for an angry trashing of your “misbehaving” spouse.
Priorities in Marriage
Which of these is more important?
- Your spouse or the milk that was left at the store?
- Your spouse or the dust left on the end table?
- Your spouse or forgetting to cap the toothpaste?
- Your spouse or the tool that wasn’t returned to your toolbox?
- Your spouse or the socks that were left on the floor?
You probably know plenty of other comparisons from your own life.
You Started Off With the Most Valuable Person in the World
You most probably began your marriage with the idea and feelings that your spouse is the most valuable person in your world.
What happened to get you to the point where dirty clothes on the floor became more important than your spouse?
Transformation Didn’t Happen Overnight
I know the transformation didn’t happen overnight. It is almost always impossible to determine when and who actually began the process.
This awful state of affairs often begins when one person feels taken for granted, undervalued, or insulted by the other.
Typically, if I ask the spouses why they are doing this obviously destructive behavior, each will point to the other’s involvement and say, “Get him (or her) to stop ____ (fill in the blank with any problem behavior), and I will stop what I am doing.” After having heard numerous versions of this statement, I can tell you this approach does not work.
Hopeless Feelings Ensue from Nagging Reminders and Criticism
When your recurrent battles over annoying behaviors are met with nagging reminders and criticisms, you are likely to feel hopeless.
It doesn’t matter which side you are on. It will seem to you that you have tried “everything” and yet you are still not making a productive difference in your relationship. I know that’s how you feel, and I know you haven’t tried everything. The approach that almost everyone ignores is the most obvious and logical – but you have to get over some of your vengeful feelings first.
What is my secret?
Be a Friend, Not an Enemy.
Are you scratching your head right now trying to figure out what this means in practice? I’ll explain.
I’m sure you know the adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Well, there is truth in that saying.
What has happened in your marriage is that you have gotten yourself into a pit of despair, where you think your spouse doesn’t deserve to be treated well.
You’re probably thinking something like:
- He’s going to disrespect me and leave his dirty clothes on the floor anyway, so why should I be respectful to him?
- She’s been putting me down by ignoring my request to vacuum the dust so why do I have to treat her with respect?
Bad Thinking Only Escalates the Bad Feelings
This kind of thinking is vicious and can only escalate whatever bad feelings are already there.
The best way to turn this around is to set aside your vengeful feelings and begin acting like your spouse’s best friend, even when you think you are not being treated as a friend. Here is a great story about starting to act like your spouse’s best friend.
Don’t Put Up With Abuse, and Don’t Do Everything
I don’t mean you would put up with abuse, and I don’t mean that you would do everything, or concede to all your partner’s wants.
You still have to stand up for what you think is right, but you also listen attentively to the reasonable parts of your spouse’s objections. You should ask for something from your spouse the same way and in the same friendly voice and with the same reasonableness you would ask a best friend.
Some of you will be able to put this into practice now that it has been brought to your attention, others of you will need direction or assistance.
Start Nurturing Your Spouse And Being a Best Friend
One of you has to start this process independently if you are going to turn your marriage back into something wonderful. You cannot count on your spouse doing this too – not at first, anyway.
If you are really wonderful and treat your spouse in the same thoughtful, caring way you did when you first got together, you can single-handedly make a difference in your relationship.
As always I wish you all the best on your road to a wonderful marriage.
Getting Marriage Help
Some of you will be able to put this idea into practice, while others may need help or specific techniques to help you manage being your spouse’s best friend when so many bad feelings have accumulated between you.
If you need additional help, I offer marriage counseling and marriage retreats, as well as self-help programs such as Saving Your Marriage.