What To Do If Your Spouse Says, “I’m Not Happy.”

by Dr. Jay Lindsay

Your spouse tells you, “I’m not happy with our marriage. Some days I just don’t care.”

What do you do?

You ask your spouse what you’ve been doing or not doing that has contributed to the unhappiness and you listen carefully.

Fortunately, there is a research study that can guide you in what to listen for.* According to this study, there are three reasons that spouses typically give for being disaffected with their marriages.

Once you’ve found out your spouse’s reasons, you can decide what behaviors of your own you want to change.

1. Insight: The first most common reason given for marital disaffection is a perceived lack of mutuality.

The spouse who gives this reason tends to feel like an unequal partner. He or she may feel dominated and controlled or may feel that important needs are being ignored.

Tip: If your spouse complains about a lack of mutuality, try harder to make decisions together.

Ask for your spouse’s input, opinions, and feelings and give them equal weight to your own.

2. Insight: The second most common reason given for marital disaffection is a lack of emotional intimacy.

The spouse who gives this reason usually feels disconnected from his or her partner. He or she may feel neglected and alone.

Tip: If your spouse complains about a lack of emotional intimacy, spend more time interacting with your partner.

Draw out your spouse’s hopes, dreams, and fears. Touch your partner more. Join together in more shared activities.

3. Insight: The third most common reason given for marital disaffection is difficulty in resolving conflicts.

The spouse who gives this reason typically feels unable to get anywhere with his or her partner when they disagree. He or she may view the partner as avoiding discussion of conflict issues and/or as being unwilling to compromise.

Tip: If your spouse complains about difficulty in resolving conflicts with you, make a greater effort to hear your partner out and to meet him or her half way.

You and your spouse may want to consider taking a couple communication course that includes training on conflict resolution. Then you’ll be equipped with the skills you need to succeed at settling disputes.

I offer such a course in my practice. I teach it in a private format, tailoring it to a couple’s needs. Usually, a couple completes the course in three one-hour sessions.

Finally, I am aware that the insights and tips I have given above will help many but not all couples. A whole lot of couples are stuck in negative interaction patterns that lie at the roots of their marital disaffection.

For these couples, the tips above are unlikely to be effective until these underlying patterns are changed. That’s where good marital therapy can be of tremendous benefit.

In my practice, I use an approach that helps 90% of couples to get better and 75% of couples to recover completely. This state-of-the-art approach aims at helping couples identify their negative interaction patterns and transition out of them into positive ones.

Once my couples have accomplished this, they do much better at mutuality, emotional intimacy, and conflict resolution. Typically, disaffection is replaced by a deep sense of fulfillment.

If your spouse has become disaffected with your marriage, call me at 303-545-9828. I’ll listen to you and then I’ll tell you how I can help.

*When Love Dies: The Process of Marital Disaffection, chapter 5, by Karen Kayser. New York, Guilford Press, 1993.


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Copyright © bouldermarriagecounseling.com | 2012

Master couples therapist and psychologist Dr. Jay Lindsay utilizes Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT), one of the most researched and effective approaches to marital therapy. Based in Louisville, Colorado, Dr. Lindsay is a marriage counselor who is sought after by couples from all across the country. He can be reached at 303-545-9828.