Shall I Stay Unhappy?
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
I never thought this would happen to me, but I find myself very unhappy in my marriage. My wife and I just don’t communicate well; and when we do, we yell at each other and there is a lot of tension between us. We don’t seem to be compatible and have very few interests in common. How can such a dysfunctional relationship survive? This cannot possibly be healthy for our children. I don’t believe God expects me to stay in such an unhappy relationship. What do you think?
We are sorry to hear about your frustration and pain, but we are pleased to tell you that your condition does not have to be permanent nor terminal. In fact, not many—if any—married couples, alive or dead, have not experienced or are experiencing what you have described.
The reality about relationships is that “opposites attract” during the dating period, but this is not especially true about marriage. When it comes to marriage, we want to be married to ourselves. In other words, we want our spouse to like the same foods we like, and want to eat them on the same days we feel like eating them. We also want our spouse to like to do the activities we like; to like the same TV programs, including watching the sports we like and cheering for the same teams.
The one thing we want our spouse to be different about is to not buy expensive shoes on the same month we have bought expensive shoes. Because we only buy shoes when we really need them and always use good judgment, but when our spouse buys shoes, they do so emotionally and could have waited a few months, or didn’t have to buy such an expensive pair. Actually, we would rather that they never buy expensive shoes even if they were less costly than the shoes we bought, because we might be saving for a down payment on our first home.
Unfortunately, most married people will experience the tension that comes from living with a spouse who has different expectations about almost everything. And because we live such fast-paced lives, we often make no time to sit together to coordinate what we would like to happen so that our lives are lived based on the same values and goals. Of course, our lack of planning leaves us to make assumptions about many things, and when our assumptions are incorrect, we get angry with the person who sabotaged our well-laid plans. And when this happens day after difficult day, we become frustrated, good feelings take flight and we experience the feelings you expressed in your statement.
We believe you can change what’s going on in your marriage by making the following alterations:
1. Change your attitude and expectations about your marriage.
2. Admit that there is no perfect relationship because there are no perfect people.
3. Be intentional about doing something nice for your spouse every day that communicates she is precious to you.
4. Ask yourself everyday what you can do differently to bring happiness into your home, and do it.
5. Make some time every week just to have fun with your spouse.
6. Make time every week to talk about your schedules, and be sure to share with your spouse anything that differs from your regular schedule.
7. Be quick to apologize for causing pain to your spouse, whether what you did was on purpose or by mistake.
We pray you will commit yourself to having a positive attitude about your marriage, and do all you can to implement that change. If there is no change after following what we have suggested, please make sure you and your spouse get help from a Christian counselor or pastor. We are praying for you.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Address your questions to them at family.adventist.org.