This article was first published on KSL.COM
My marriage is falling apart and it is so painful. There are years of resentment between us and we are basically just living together without intimacy or connection. I can’t seem to forgive my husband for his past wrongs and even feel attracted to him. Are we a lost cause? We have some good moments but both of us think about leaving regularly. If it weren’t for the kids we wouldn’t still be here. We’ve tried counseling but honestly, it just made things worse. Is there any hope to fix this? Where can we start when it’s gotten this bad?
You can fix this but it is going to take both of you committing to do these five things:
1. Decide what you want and how bad you want it. Do you want a rich, close, loving, safe relationship with this person? Do you want to keep your family together? Do you want it bad enough to do anything you have to do to create it? Are you willing to change yourself? Are you willing to get outside help?
You have to want this marriage to work more than you want to hold onto your current story that casts your spouse as the bad person. You have to want it more than your pride. You have to want it bad enough to work on yourself. If you don’t want it bad enough to change yourself, and give your spouse your love, affection and loyalty then you don’t really want it and you will never have the amazing, rich, loving, safe relationship you could have.
Keep in mind life is a classroom and the No. 1 lesson you are here to learn is love. This means you are here to learn to forgive and love yourself and other people. Your marriage is providing you with an amazing opportunity to learn these lessons. If you decide to bail on this class without learning the lesson, I promise the universe will just make you retake the class in your next relationship.
I recommend learning it now. Choose to commit to making this marriage work and be ready to change yourself to make it happen – it is the only way.
2. Fix your own your faults and fears. If you want this marriage to work you must stop focusing on your spouse’s faults. There are no bad guys and no good guys here. No matter what your spouse has done in the past you still have the same value. You are both struggling, scared, ill-educated, amazing and divine souls who are doing the best you can with what you know. The problem is neither of you knows how to fix your inaccurate fear-based thinking, stop being selfish and be more loving, but you would both like to be that way. You both want to be good people.
The only person you have any power to change is you so you must focus on fixing you. I don’t even allow couples to meet with me together for coaching. They must come by themselves and focus on their own fear and faults. I have a free fear assessment on my website that will show you where your fears are affecting the relationship. You should also fill out the Understanding Your Marriage Worksheet and download the e-book on repairing your marriage. These will help you to understand how you can change the resentment, disappointment, fear and selfishness you are creating.
You must also work on your self-esteem. Your spouse is not responsible for making you feel valued and good about yourself. That is your job. You must start seeing yourself accurately and stop letting body image or insecurities prevent you from being loving. If this is a big problem you may need some professional help. You can’t have a healthy relationship if you are constantly afraid you aren’t good enough.
3. Forgive your spouse completely. Forgiving your spouse is your No. 1 job as a married person. Forgiving means seeing them accurately as a struggling student in the classroom of life, a work in progress, just like you, and letting go of their entire past every day because you want your entire past to be wiped clean too.
Start every day with a clean slate for both of you. Give your spouse a million chances to do better, grow and learn. You must hold to the idea that we are all good enough all the time. If you do this you will feel wonderful about yourself too. If you choose to crucify your spouse for every mistake, you will give power to the idea that we can be failures and your self-esteem will suffer. You cannot escape this universal principle. Good self-esteem requires a forgiveness mindset toward yourself and others.
Also remember it is not your job to police your spouse’s ability to forgive or love you and complain when he or she doesn’t do it right. If you are policing their love, you are in the wrong because in that moment you are not being loving either.
4. Make sure your spouse feels admired, appreciated and wanted daily. Admiring your spouse means you think he or she is a wonderful, amazing person and in spite of his or her faults you feel lucky to be married to him or her. Your spouse need to see or hear proof of this every day.
For most women to enjoy intimacy, they must feel completely safe, accepted, loved and seen as nearly perfect and totally wonderful. If a woman feels like her husband is disappointed in her, at any level, it creates fear energy around intimacy making it something to avoid. Make sure your spouse feels safe with you outside the bedroom, all the time.
Everyone has fear around not being good enough. Everyone desperately needs to feel that at least one person — the one who matters most — thinks they are enough. You must do your best to show your partner you think he or she is perfect as he or she is right now, even with his or her imperfections. You cannot repair your partner's self-esteem for him or her, but it is your job to build him or her up every chance you get.
You must make sure your spouse feels appreciated for all he or she does for the family and you must demonstrate with physical affection that he or she is wanted daily. I know that it can be difficult at times to put aside your fatigue, resentment, needs and wants to spend intimate time with your spouse, but you cannot have a good marriage without it. So again, decide what you want.
The more intimate time you spend with your spouse, the more you will feel a deep love for him or her. If you refuse to show love to your spouse in this way you will kill the relationship and its death will be on your shoulders.
Husbands must also make sure the desire for intimacy is based in their admiration, appreciation and love for their amazing wife. It can’t be about getting his own needs met. It must be about giving affection to your spouse because you are crazy about her. Intimacy must be about giving to each other so it is about love, not about fear, scarcity and lack.
5. You must choose love over fear in each moment. You are responsible for choosing how you are going to show up in your marriage, every moment of every day, and this is a simple choice because you only have two options fear of being insulted or taken from or love.
When you get offended, resentful or bothered by your spouse, you must choose forgiveness, peace, compassion and generosity over defensiveness, conflict, disdain and selfishness. You must stop being afraid of being insulted or taken from and just be loving. The To Be or Not To Be Offended worksheet on my website could also help with this. You might also go back and read my past articles on KSL.com because I explain how to make this choice in every one.
Also, remember a good marriage requires choosing to love each other even in those moments when you don’t like each other. That is why forgiveness is the key to getting what you want. The first step is really working on these five things. You can do it.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular coach and speaker.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.