I often hear from wives who really want to make their marriage work no matter what. But they often aren’t sure if it is going to be possible, especially since they often don’t have the cooperation or the interest of their husband. As a wife who has been there, I know how this feels. You feel as if you’re trying to row upstream all by yourself with no help from your husband.
I heard from a wife who said: “my husband and I have been struggling for several months. He’s started hinting about a divorce, but this is the last thing that I want. I truly want to make my marriage work, but he has shown very little interest in cooperating with or helping me. I’ve suggested counseling or taking a trip together. I’ve offered to make concessions or hear him out. But nothing that I’ve put on the table has been accepted. He just doesn’t seem interested in making any changes or improvements. And I suppose this would be OK except for he makes it very clear that he is not happy with the way that things are. So clearly, things need to change. But I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to change things myself without his cooperation. Is there any hope at all that I can make my marriage work without his cooperation?”
Actually, I think there’s a good deal of hope. I was in this situation also. My husband wasn’t interested in helping me to make our marriage work in any way, shape, or form. And, for a while, I considered my situation hopeless and even thought about giving up. But I decided that I didn’t have anything to lose by trying to make some changes on my own.
And you know what? Over a gradual period of time, improvements began to happen. And once my husband began to see that things were changing for the better without any substantial difficulties on his part, then I saw his resistance begin to lessen. And I believe that this process is possible for many couples. The key is that you have to make the process seem pleasurable and not too terribly hard on a resistant husband.
Here are a few things that you might want to consider. Often, the issues in the marriage have been present for some time. This can contribute to your husband thinking that things are never truly going to change. So when you come along and propose counseling, talking, or many other things that don’t seem all that fun, he has his doubts that your new proposal is actually going to work anyway. So often the husband will think things like: “so she’s asking me to sit in a stuffy counselor’s office and pay hundreds of dollars when nothing is going to work anyway?”
This is often the level of doubt that you are dealing with. And this is one reason that he will often be reluctant to cooperate. He can see it as a waste of time. And he can also see it something that is going to be awkward or painful. So understand that you have a couple of things to overcome. First, you need to show him that things actually can change. And second, you need to show him that these changes don’t need to be too difficult for him to accomplish. Once he begins to see these things, you will often see him being much more receptive.
So, How Do You Work Things Out On Your Own?: So now that I’ve covered some of the things that you have to overcome, let’s talk about how this might work in a real situation. In this wife’s scenario, one of their main issues was the fact that their marriage had become stale and the intimacy was gone. Because of this, every time they tried to address their problems, there was a lack of interest and animosity. So nothing was ever resolved. I suggested that the wife first try to recreate some intimacy and empathy without worrying about the end result as it related to the marriage. In other words, I suggested that she just worry about reconnecting and having some fun together before she started dwelling on their problems.
This would allow the process to feel somewhat effortless. And here’s something that many people don’t consider. Once some of the intimacy and empathy returns, the problems just don’t seem as large anymore. Because both people care about the experiences of the other, each person is willing to cooperate and compromise so much more and suddenly the problems that you were struggling so hard against seem smaller and more manageable.
That’s why it can be very important to try to tackle only one thing at a time. It can be counter productive to try to work out your problems before you are clicking and getting along again. I know that it’s tempting to want to feel as if you are quickly addressing your issues. But understand that if you try to do too much too soon, you run the risk of your husband watching as you fail once again. Commit to tackling the easiest things first so that you are creating more cooperation as you go along. The more you can have fun with your husband, the more he is going to cooperate with you, even if he doesn’t realize that he’s doing it and even if he has no idea that his receptiveness is helping to work things out.
Typically what happens is that one day you realize that your marriage is in fact working out even if that’s not what you are calling it and even if your husband has no idea that he’s acting contributing to, rather than resisting, the process.