Do you struggle with discontentment? Does your spouse?
Do either of you find yourselves thinking ‘I wish’ about your marriage?
Ever have any of these or similar thoughts knock on your brain?
‘I wish he looked at me that way. I wish she respected me like his wife does. I wish he would keep himself in better shape. If she would just do the laundry regularly. Why doesn’t he take me out like he used to? How can I show love when she doesn’t even acknowledge my attempts? I wish I had a woman/man like that.’
I could make a really long list of these and still miss the thought you struggle with. So, please include those that tend to creep into your mind. Entertaining thoughts like these can kill your marriage if you don’t kill them.
BTW: I write about this because I’m experienced. I struggled daily with these kind of thoughts in my first marriage. It’s one of the main reasons my wife never thought she was good enough. It breaks my heart every time I think of it. I was discontent. I wielded the weapon that helped kill my marriage.
That was then. Now, I’m hoping to help anyone I can, avoid the pit I fell into. I learned (and am still learning) my lesson, so I want to share some things with you. Maybe you can succeed where I failed.
Contentment is essential to a great marriage.[clickToTweet tweet=”Contentment is essential to a great marriage.” quote=”Contentment is essential to a great marriage.”]
Before we go on to contentment, let’s finish that part about discontentment. The source of our discontent is often envy. When we compare our relationship to another, we invite envy. When we compare our spouse with another, we invite envy. When we compare our anything, with anything else, we invite envy. And don’t think the object of your discontent has to be real. You and I can easily start to envy the imaginary perfect couple that lives in our minds.
What am I talking about? The 1975 American Heritage Dictionary, New College Edition defines envy as, ‘A feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by contemplation of another’s desirable possessions or qualities, with a strong desire to have them for oneself.’ OUCH!
I think we just defined American pop culture. Or at least the motivation behind the vast majority of marketing campaigns. Throw in a little social media resentment and we have a perfect formula for discontent. But envy and discontent does not have to define your marriage. There are effective weapons to use against the enemy of envy.
Let’s do something dangerous. Will you take a minute to list your discontent? Use simple sentences like I did above. Maybe start them with ‘I wish’. Go ahead – big cleansing breath – sharp pencil (you’ll want to erase) – write.
Got your list? Ok, let’s look at it closely. You didn’t do it, did you? This only works if you make an honest list. Otherwise you’ll just read through the rest of the post and that list will keep popping up in your mind without any resolution.
Got it this time? Good. Read the first one out loud. Stop. Are you really discontent about that? Do you really think other couples have that one nailed down? Ok, read the next one out loud. Yep, that’s a big one. Probably one of the top three for couples to struggle with. Next…Until you finish reading them all out loud. I know it’s a little weird for me to be commenting on your list when I have no idea what it is and probably don’t even know who you are. But if I were there, I’d probably say the same things. I’m weird like that.
How many items of discontent are on your list? Time to revisit them one by one. This time while asking and answering the following questions about them. Read the first one then ask the questions. Don’t read the second until you’ve asked and answered all the questions about the first.
Is his/her behavior evil? (Be careful…don’t allow exaggeration to temp you)
Is his/her behavior an intentional attempt to hurt you?
Is he/she aware that the issue causes you to be discontent?
Has he/she attempted to improve in this area?
Does he/she love you in spite of his/her failures?
Is the issue a common one for men/women to struggle with?
Have you hurt him/her with your comments/actions about the issue?
Have you pitched in to help resolve the issue? (Assuming that’s possible)
What do you do to make his/her behavior worse?
Do you encourage him/her in all the other areas of his/her life?
Are you perfect?
Are you better than him/her?
Are you failing in any area that causes someone else to be discontent?
Do you make him/her happy all the time?
Do you make anyone happy all the time?
What is your biggest relationship failure?
What if that failure caused as much discontent in your spouse as this one does for you?
What are you doing to improve yourself?
What are you doing to improve your relationship?
What are you doing to stop looking at him/her and start looking at yourself?
That’s a lot of questions. Why so many? Because if you truly hold your discontent up to the light of these questions, you will start learning the truth about your perception. I’m going to bet that whatever the source of your discontent, it will not endure the test of truthfully answering these questions.
You will have to lie about many of those questions in order to hold onto your discontent. I’m not saying you’re not capable of lying. You’ve probably been telling yourself a lot of lies about your spouse’s issues. They keep you believing you’re the victim and he/she is making your life miserable in these areas. And there’s the key. As long as we keep believing the lies, we will remain discontent. Envy will grow and our marriage will die.
These questions and others that naturally flow from them can kill your discontent, if you let them. Take them one step farther. Note: This is a tongue-in-cheek, absurdly over the top suggestion that, if you did it, would probably end up revealing a lot more than you bargained for. Be that as it may, take your list of issues and these questions to his/her parents and ask them to review them with you. That’s insane on a nuclear level, isn’t it!! HaHa – just imagine what that meeting might look like! That’s white jacket, padded room crazy. No one would ever do that!
But what if you did? What kinds of things would her parents say about you and your issues? What would his mom say about you and your shortcomings – assuming everyone would be honest in the exchange?
I’ve never claimed that my methods were rational or sane. Rational, logical, and sane don’t always work. Sometimes we have to be ruthless with our perceptions. We have to self-brutalize. We have to refuse to coddle our prior conclusions. We have to confront crazy thoughts with unorthodox approaches.[clickToTweet tweet=”Envy is no one’s friend. Keep it out of your marriage!” quote=”Envy is no one’s friend. Keep it out of your marriage!”]
It’s crazy to think that our spouses are out to hurt us and that we have our stuff together. It’s insane to think we can live with someone for years without something happening to tempt us to be discontent. But it’s crazier to keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing without any improvement. Why not try something drastic? It may not be my method, but try something!
Don’t pussy-foot around with it though. I just told you those thoughts of discontent and envy you’ve been caressing can cost you your marriage. Lame attempts like trying not to say what you are thinking don’t work. You have to stop thinking it. Your spouse knows it even when you don’t say it. Unless of course you are a practiced sociopath and can appear to be the exact opposite of who you are. But I’m guessing you’re not.
If any of this hits home, it’s best to assume the worst and consider that your marriage is on the rocks. Let that thought create a little panic. Then be quick and precise about the truth. Stop thinking about your spouse in any other fashion than to be his/her servant.
Drill down into your stuff and feel how heavy it is, how much it weighs you down, and how much better off you’d be if you could shed it. Keep your focus there while serving everyone around you. This is what I mean by being content without regard to response. If you will serve with no expectation of a return of any kind, you can kill all those discontented, envious thoughts and start to create the great marriage you’ve always wanted.