I will give you this—your partner does a lot of things wrong. I am sure the grievances are legitimate and your best friend would agree. But very few people think that their spouse is perfect (except maybe newlyweds). You and me, though, we know are husbands (or wives) aren’t perfect. And sometimes we let them know that too.
I’m not proud of it, but there is something satisfying about being right. Unfortunately, it can also be destructive to relationships. So the real question is do you want to be married or do you want to be right? Personally, I choose married… I love my husband and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. And having a successful, healthy relationship with him means owning the things that I do wrong.
When you acknowledge that you played a part in any fight, disagreement, or resentment you have towards/with your partner, you will find space to grow and heal. So own those responses and the underlying emotions that lead you to have those reactions. There is something far bigger beneath every nag.
Perhaps your partner is always late and you are deeply resentful. Why? Is it that you feel unimportant? Does it feel like his/her time is more valuable than yours? What is it that makes you resentful and spurs your reactions (passive aggressiveness, nagging, snapping, etc)? When you figure out what drives your reactions, you can change how you respond and interact.
In therapy, I help couples access those underlying emotions and communicate those to their partner in a way in which they can be heard. Partners are much more receptive to “I feel hurt/disrespected/unvalued” than “You’re a selfish jerk!” Shocking, I know. But when people are able to shift their communication away from blame and take ownership of their emotional experiences, I see amazing things happen in marriages. Couples who were disconnected and discontent are able to rekindle close and satisfying relationships.
Feeling connected and happy in your relationship sounds pretty good, right? The reason many couples get stuck is that there’s a hard pill to swallow in order to get there. It starts with you. Not your partner. We cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves. I have to remind clients of this all the time. I often hear “life would be easier if so and so would just (fill in the blank).” And I have to agree. It would be easier. However, changing your reactions is way easier than changing someone else’s behavior. (Trust me, I have a stubborn beagle, I know. She thwarts my best attempts at behavior change).
So it’s up to you. Are you ready for a change? Are you ready to own your part in the arguments, disagreements, and resentments? Because if you are, that’s where the magic happens. Trust me, I’ve seen it and it’s pretty incredible. It starts with figuring out what is going on for you and communicating that in a way where you take ownership of your feelings (“I feel hurt when…”) and your needs (“and I need…”). If you feel particularly stuck (or just want to expedite the process), I highly suggest scheduling an appointment with a qualified couples therapist. Look for someone who is a marriage and family therapist (MFT) like myself or someone with significant post-graduate training in couples counseling. Feel free to reach out if you need more support and/or would like to schedule an appointment.