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Should You Stay Married If You're Not Happy? My Advice Based on Experience

unhappy with marriage
Most times, the people who write to me asking for advice on how to save their marriage are on the receiving end of an unhappy spouse's request for a divorce. Or, their spouse has told them they don't love them anymore or aren't happy and both parties are at a loss as to how to reconcile this.
Occasionally, though, I do get emails from the folks who want out. I believe that they are looking for someone to validate this decision for them. Very often, I hear phrases like "I'm unhappy and I just don't think it makes sense to stay in a marriage that no longer works for me," or "Should I stay married for the sake of the kids even if I'm really not happy and can't imagine myself ever not feeling that way?" I'll tell you how I typically address these concerns in the following article.
Are You Sure It's Only The Marriage That Is Making You Unhappy?: I can't tell you how many couples that I have followed over the years who initially absolutely believed that ending their marriage was the sure path to contentment only to find that they were just as miserable divorced. Often, we convince ourselves that if we can just change one thing, one remaining thorn in our sides, that our life will miraculously fall into place.
But, general unhappiness rarely has just one isolated cause. People often make drastic changes in their lives expecting to find the magical answer that is going to fix every single thing in their lives. It often just doesn't work this way. Instead, we often need to change our perceptions, or expectations, our appreciation for the things around us, our level of commitment, and our attitudes to really change our level of happiness and contentment. So, if you're just going to end your marriage without making any other changes in your life, the possibility exists that you may still be unsatisfied even after you've taken this step.
What Does It Take To Be Happy In A Marriage?: I have a lot of conversations and debates with folks who visit my blog about this topic. Many people will initially respond to this question with phrases like "great sex," " a stunning wife," "a successful husband," or list a lot of external things that, although nice, are vulnerable to change.
I have spend a lot of time researching this topic and I firmly believe that although most people don't know it, what really makes them happy in a relationship is feeling uniquely loved, feeling appreciated, feeling heard and respected, and feeling understood. If you have these things in your marriage, then the other things are going to follow without much effort. In other words, if you're in a healthy relationship where you know that your well being is one of your spouse's highest priorities and you know that your spouse knows you and understands you like no one else, still loves you anyway, and goes out of their way to show you this, well then I'd bet that the sex is going to be pretty good and you're going to find this person to be attractive and successful because you're attitude toward them is colored by the way that they treat you and by the way that you feel around them.
What I mean by all of this is that if you can change your marriage back to a place where you are excited, fulfilled, and actively participating in the give and take of a healthy relationship, the happiness that you used to feel is likely going to return. I believe that it's less likely that it's the marriage itself that is making you unhappy. Instead, it's the fact that things have changed and you don't know how to (or don't believe) that they can be changed back.
Changing Your Behaviors, Perceptions, And Patterns In Order To Be Excited About Your Marriage Again: By now, you probably are starting to realize that I firmly believe that changing your level of contentment requires that both parties change what they are doing. Yes, you absolutely deserve to be happy in your marriage. I would never advocate walking through your life or your marriage being discontent and wondering "is this all their is?"
But rather than throwing away your marriage (especially if you have children), doesn't it make more sense to see if you can change things up so that you WILL be happy? So many times, we focus on what we perceive is wrong with our lives and can only see eliminating what displeases as a way to deal with it. But, just cutting it out often isn't the key. We often walk away and are then surprised that we still don't feel any peace.
I often tell people to first try to see if they can attempt to focus on what is right rather than what is wrong. If you're feeling unappreciated by your spouse, ask yourself how much appreciation you've been showing them or consider just being honest with them and asking for what you need. Often, if you model or define the behavior that you want your spouse to start exhibiting, you will begin to get more of what you want in return.
Think back to when you were first dating. How happy were you then and why? My point is that you know that you can be quite fulfilled in this relationship because this was already your reality. But life changed somewhere. More responsibilities and obligations likely clouded what is really important. This happens to everyone. We begin to assume that because we are married and because our spouse knows how busy we are, we can also assume that they know that we would spend more time and put in more effort if we could. The problem is that, though your intentions are good, the time and effort has to be put in for both people to continue to feel appreciated, loved, and understood. Often changing this will lead to a greater level of contentment and connectedness. It's often just a matter of defining where the marriage is unsatisfying and addressing those things one by one until both people are quite happy once again.
There was a time that I thought my marriage was truly at it's end. My husband was extremely unhappy and definitely wanted out. Thankfully, even though I had doubts, I decided to try one last thing and approach it from another angle and this eventually worked. You can read my very personal story on my blog at

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