I realize I married my wife of ten years for immature reasons, and that we really aren’t the right match. All these years I’ve tried to project this fantasy of a loving marriage, and even tried to convince myself we are a good fit, but I just can’t buy it anymore. I feel as though I’ve been living a lie and missing out on what a truly great marriage is meant to be. I feel trapped. What should I do?
Many people wonder, at some point in their marriage, if they made a mistake or could have chosen a better partner. But this is hindsight tainted by painful experience. We all make choices for a multitude of reasons, and if we are people of faith, we trust God was part of that decision process. Even though I sympathize with the emotional pain you’ve experienced, I suggest you’re looking at this situation from a distorted frame of reference.
Saying you’ve been living a lie and missing out on a truly great marriage suggests you have a “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” attitude. The truth is, you, your mate, and God can work together to make yours a great marriage. This requires you to face the truth. God’s Word says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). What truths might set you free and offer you the marriage for which you dream?
First, be honest about what’s missing in your marriage. Yes, you may have been living a lie, or more precisely, failing to be honest about the many aspects of your marriage that need to be changed. Facing these truths, as painful as they may be, will be the first step toward change.
Second, prepare for that difficult conversation with your mate. Sit down with your wife at an agreed-upon time and discuss your feelings with her. Choose a time when you can be calm, clear, and compassionate. Be prepared to listen to how your mate experiences the marriage.
Third, make positive requests of your mate. Don’t blame, accuse, criticize, or shame your wife for her actions, but rather specifically request what you need. For example, if you feel lonely, share that you want to spend more quality time with her. If you want more affection, share that. Have specific goals in mind.
Fourth, explore what your mate wants from you. It’s likely she’s been unhappy in the marriage as well. Be prepared to ask what she’s feeling and what you can do to respond to her needs. Show an active interest in them and reflect that you care about them.
Finally, aim for small, manageable goals and reinforce any efforts toward that end. No one can flip a switch and completely change, but most are willing to work together toward a common goal when there are benefits in it for them. Express excitement over collaborating in a common concern. Show your mate what’s in it for her to work on the marriage. Demonstrate your appreciation for any efforts she makes toward your requested goals.
Our frame of mind shapes how we experience a situation. An obstacle shared can become an exciting challenge, and discouragement can transform into feelings of hope. Can you take this situation and change it into a challenge? You may even enjoy the experience and find your mountain shrinking before your eyes.