Editor's note: This is the third in a five-part series on improving your marriage. In this article, Coach Kim explains how seeing yourself accurately, forgiving and giving are the key to creating a strong relationship.
My marriage is not turning out anything like what I wanted. I am doing everything I can to support and love her, but I never get back what I need. I am at the end of her list of priorities and she doesn’t change this, no matter how often I point this out. Then, she points out every mistake I make but won’t see her own. How can I change this?
I cannot possibly address all marriage issues or situations. This article is only addressing selfishness issues and does not address situations of mental or physical abuse.
If you are both pointing out each other’s failures and primarily focused on getting the love you need — you are being getters, not givers. The key to getting the love you want (in the way you want) is to stop trying to get it and just focus on giving.
Understand that if you have any fear around not getting what you need, your partner can feel this and subconsciously knows you are worried about yourself. This will make them subconsciously see you as a threat and pull back from you, which will make you feel more unsafe and pull back. This will create a vicious cycle.
Remember, you are only capable of giving real love to your spouse (that they will feel and reciprocate) if you don’t need anything. When you give without strings attached, your spouse will feel that as real love and they will usually respond with real love and appreciation back. (I know some of you have tried this and it still didn’t work — but keep reading and see if you can tell what was missing.)
In each moment of your day, you must make one simple choice — Am I going to be a giver or a getter in this moment?
You must ask yourself this question all day every day, because in any moment that you don’t consciously choose to be a giver, your subconscious mind will choose for you, and it will usually choose getting and selfishness.
Selfishness may even be your autopilot setting. This means your subconscious mind may be focused on you, defensive, and on guard against being taken from or insulted all the time. If you continue to function from this place, you will never have a healthy relationship.
If you want a healthy relationship you must work on these three things every day:
1. Trust that you are OK, no matter what you get from your spouse.
2. Forgive your spouse for disappointing you.
3. Choose to be a giver and give 100 percent all the time.
Trust that you are OK, no matter what you get from your spouse.
The idea that you cannot be happy or OK unless your spouse starts loving you better is a myth. It is just a thought you made up, it is not necessarily true.
In reality you are the same you no matter how anyone around you behaves. You are bulletproof, and your value is infinite and absolute, and the degree to which you are loved cannot change that. You are the same whole, amazing you whether your spouse loves you or not. You must see yourself this way and stop being needy if you want to repair your marriage.
You must let go of your victim story and stop using it to excuse your bad behavior back. You are not a victim here. It is only a story you created. Acting wounded because your spouse doesn’t love you enough will actually make them lose respect for you and love you less. (I said "acting wounded" because you really can’t be diminished, so all self-pity is acting.)
If you want your marriage to thrive, you must show up confident in the knowledge of who you are and not let anything take that from you. You must stop needing anything from your spouse to make you happy. Your spouse will find this confidence very attractive.
Forgive your spouse for disappointing you.
- Trust that you are OK, no matter what you get from your spouse.
- Forgive your spouse for disappointing you.
- Choose to be a giver and give 100 percent all the time.
There is no question that your marriage has not turned out the way you expected and is a painful disappointment. But you must remember life is a classroom to teach you to love, it is not a vacation. Your life will always provide the perfect situations you need to facilitate your learning to love at a deeper level. Learning to love at a deeper level usually means learning to forgive, which often requires a disappointment experience to let go of.
Your marriage is the perfect classroom journey for you.
Forgiveness means letting go of the expectations you had about how your marriage or your spouse should be, and instead, embracing who they are and what they are teaching you. Forgiveness is about seeing them accurately as a struggling student in the classroom of life, with the same value as you.
This is the cold hard truth: There is no such thing as a perfect marriage that fulfills all your needs and makes life blissfully happy all the time. No matter who you marry there will be challenges and disappointments because everyone is hard to live with on some level. There is always a downside to being married to us.
There is obviously a downside to living with your spouse (in that she is not physically loving enough and is overly focused on herself) but I guarantee there is also a downside to being married to you. It may even be the same one. You may be a little overly focused on your needs (I can safely say this because we generally all are.)
Take some time and make a list of the ways you might be difficult to live with. What are your faults and flaws? You could also fill out the “you spot it you got it worksheet” on my website. This will help you to see this situation accurately.
Then, you must forgive your partner for disappointing you. You must make forgiving your partner your full-time job. You must stop criticizing them, pointing out every mistake, keeping score and looking for offenses to prove that you are right about how unloving they are.
If you will practice forgiving their faults and show them they are worthy of love even though they aren't perfect, this will mean the world to them and it will actually cause them to love you more.
The more your spouse forgives your faults the more attracted to them you become. The more they point out your faults the less attractive you become.
You can decide that whatever your partner does, you are going to see their behavior for what it usually is (unconscious, fear-based selfishness that is more about their fears than it is about you) and you are going to forgive them. You can become a master forgiver — that is the path to happiness.
Choose to be a giver — and give 100 percent all the time.
Instead of being bothered and disappointed about not getting what you want, give your spouse fully what they want from a place of love and trust that loving them this way will make them appreciate you and love you back.
(Don't be a doormat, but choose "loving" energy over "defensive" energy even when you speak up for yourself.)
Ask your partner what makes them feel loved, accepted and cherished. How can you do better to make them feel adored and appreciated? Make giving love to your spouse this way your No. 1 priority every day.
I know this will be difficult for some of you because you are holding on to years of pent-up resentment, but you can forgive. There are some forgiveness formula worksheets on my website that may help you work your way from fear to love. You may also want to work with a coach or counselor.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is a life coach and speaker who specializes in eliminating drama in the workplace. She offers free coaching calls every Tuesday night.