Through our marriage enrichment and marital counselling programmes over the years, many perplexed people have asked in various ways what can be done if a spouse has become too difficult to love. Barring abuse, abandonment and adultery – issues too huge for a married couple to handle independently, majority of these couples face challenges related to communication and conflict management.
If it is a real challenge to love your spouse too, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Here are some guiding questions that have helped others look inwardly and at their marriages through fresh lenses; they help us understand how the marital bond needs to be strengthened for a lifetime of love, joy and affection. Have a go at them to see if they can help you find ways to love your spouse if you’ve been finding it a challenge to do so.
What is my general attitude towards my spouse these days?
Are you gentle, encouraging and generally supportive, or is what you say usually the first thing that comes to mind, even if it’s negative and harsh? Have you been criticizing your spouse publicly to friends and family? Does your spouse get the same amount respect from you, if not more, than you give to colleagues and even strangers?
We can make it truly difficult for our spouses to be loving and lovable, if our negativity is unchecked and we respond in resentment and anger each time. Granted, our spouses might have truly provoked us on occasion, but have we made the effort to react differently? Are we willing to take the first step in making changes to the way we communicate and will we choose to be loving first?
“We can make it truly difficult for our spouses to be loving and lovable, if our negativity is unchecked and we respond in resentment and anger each time.”
Are my expectations too high? Am I being too hard on my spouse?
Do you find yourself comparing your spouse to others? Do you constantly wish that your spouse was better looking, more successful, more romantic, more interesting and feel resentful when they don’t seem to measure up in your eyes? Our expectations are tied to what we value in people, so ask yourself if what you value hurts your relationship more than do it good. Is what you value so important to uphold no matter the cost? Even if it lets resentment creep in and mar the good that you two have?
If your spouse irritates you in the slightest things, perhaps there are issues inherent to your marriage that you two need to address. If you feel ill-equipped and unsure how to confront these matters, consider enlisting the help of a professional marital counsellor to find out how you both can overcome the difficulties.
“Our expectations are tied to what we value in people, so ask yourself if what you value hurts your relationship more than do it good.”
Has my spouse done something so difficult to forgive, and making it hard for me to love him/her?
Does any single incident or series of incidents come to mind when you ask yourself the above question? If you are able to articulate such a situation then perhaps you will need to either choose to forgive and move on for the sake of your marriage or if it is something you can’t get out of your mind then perhaps you might want to consider having a heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse about your inability to be at peace about a certain matter.
Am I able to see any good in my spouse? Can that weakness I see in my spouse actually be viewed and valued as a strength?
In your attempts to love your seemingly unlovable spouse, can you identify strengths and even weaknesses which you value in them? Perhaps, his perfectionist streak means having a super neat home that you love returning to after a hard day at the office – everything you need is right where it’s supposed to be! Her task-oriented nature means that things are done for the family, efficiently and swiftly, and you don’t have to worry about these issues.
Harness the ability to look at your spouse through more positive and compassionate eyes.
Am I accused of starting every argument? Does my spouse refuse to bear any responsibility for his/her role in all conflict?
While taking ownership for our emotions and behaviour first helps introduce positive change to our marriage, there have been instances where individuals tried all of the above over a period of time yet continue to find themselves still emotionally drained, depressed and hopeless in their relationships. If such a situation rings true for you, consider seeking professional help from a marriage counsellor.
It is a lot easier to love one who behaves in ways we expect them to. When life’s challenges affect the way our spouses behave, take a step back to view the marriage through fresh eyes, and resolve to do all that is necessary to strengthen your marriage. It might help make your spouse lovable again.
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If you are struggling to keep your marriage together, don’t give up – find out more about our counselling services and let our professional counsellors come alongside you and your spouse.