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Why do I have to fix our marriage?

Jay Dee

Why do I have to fix our marriage?

Dec 14, 2014

I think a lot of spouses have this question.  Whether the relationship is lacking in quantity or quality of sex, communication skills, budgeting, or whatever.  Typically there is one spouse that is more “high drive” in that area.  They want to push this aspect of

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Why Do I Need To Fix Our MarriageI think a lot of spouses have this question.  Whether the relationship is lacking in quantity or quality of sex, communication skills, budgeting, or whatever.  Typically there is one spouse that is more “high drive” in that area.  They want to push this aspect of the marriage forward.  In marriage, both spouses need to work together to get the full benefit of any improvement, however, often the other spouse is either content to leave things where they are, or content to let their partner do all the hard work.

Many times the driving spouse is left to wonder “Why am I, alone, responsible for making our marriage better?”  usually the next thought it “It’s not fair!”

It’s not fair!

No, it’s not.  I agree.  But, we didn’t sign up for fair.  We signed up to give our all to our spouse and our marriage.  Many of us have heard, or said these vows:

I [insert name] take you [insert spouses’ name] to be my lawfully wedded [husband/wife], to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

This is a very common Roman Catholic wedding vow in North America, and has been adopted by a great many denominations, sometimes with some additions or modifications.  My point is…you’re in the “worse”, “poorer” and “sickness” category right now.  I don’t know of any vows that say “I vow to give my all….so long as you are doing the same…or else I give up.” (Though this is becoming the common attitude towards marriage I’m afraid.)

Both spouse have made a covenant, between each other, and God, to continue to move the marriage forward and to serve each other, regardless of circumstance.  Now, there are four scenarios I see:

  1. What you are trying to improve doesn’t need improving.   This is rare, but it does happen.  I’ve seen spouses accuse their partners of flirting with members of the opposite sex, even of having affairs, when none exists.  In these cases, they generally need to work on themselves, because this is an issue with their own insecurities. (Note for new readers: Text in purple are my wife’s contributions) Sounds like there is a lot of baggage here that needs to be dealt with in someone’s past. If the spouse that is being accused of flirting or cheating asks, “why don’t you trust me?” often, perhaps you need to ask yourself why don’t you trust them and see if maybe there is something to work on. I’ve also seen couples who have sex every day (or more), and one spouse complains it’s not enough.  Again, I think they need to work on themselves, particularly self-control.  I don’t see being able to make a case for sexual abandonment here. Why do they feel that once a day isn’t enough? What’s lacking that makes them feel this is where the improvement is needed? Somehow they got confused as to what needs improving.
  2. You are trying to improve something out of priority.  This tends to happen a lot when dealing with sex.  You see, sex is an interesting thing.  It often works as a barometer for the marriage.  It is a great indicator, most of the time, for how the rest of the relationship is going.  Unfortunately, people tend to mistake it for being the measure of how the relationship is going.  For example:  If you are trying to work on improving sex in the marriage, but you haven’t got the basic communication skills, trust, or intimacy in the marriage to discuss your sex life, then you are putting the cart before the horse.  Work on communication, trust, intimacy: then you will be able to talk about your marriage and sex life in order to resolve conflicts there.  That said…marriage is holistic.  For those low-drive spouses out there: try a week of daily sex.  You might be surprised at how much your relationship improves outside the bedroom as a result. I have to say a big turning point for Jay and I was when we decided to do the sex challenge from One Extraordinary Marriage a few years ago. There is something to be said about giving of yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone to just give yourself back to your spouse and recommit to your vows.
  3. Your spouses priorities are not yours.  You want to work on sex, they want to work on budgeting.  There is no reason you can’t work on both (not simultaneously).  What’s that joke?  Sex is like math: Add two people, subtract the clothes, divide the legs and multiply.  Oh goodness Jay, that’s bad!! I think a lot of our problems were here; I wanted to work on communication and just understanding each other better, he wanted a better sex life.  Turns out they went hand in hand.  When she understood me better, she understood why I wanted sex more often.  When I understood her better, I understood how to make it easier for her to want to engage in sex more often.
  4. Your spouse doesn’t want to change this aspect of the marriage, or doesn’t want to put in the effort.  This happens in all aspects of marriage, and it’s fairly frequent.  Perhaps your spouse doesn’t want to improve it.  Often this is because they have some personal issues they need to work through, and that can be painful or difficult.  Perhaps they are just lazy and don’t want put in the work.  And it’s quite possible that they are acting lazy, but it’s masking some internal struggle or pain that they aren’t ready to deal with yet. Pretty sure I looked like the lazy one. I was suffering from depression that I had no idea existed. I was more angry then depressed. Angry about what, I don’t know but it was masking the real struggle I wasn’t dealing with. 

In all of these scenarios, you have the opportunity to say “It’s not fair!”  And sometimes you might be right, sometimes you might not be.  Double check what you are trying to improve.  Make sure you aren’t trying to improve things out of priority.  Make sure you don’t need to improve yourself first.  Have a good conversation with your spouse to figure out what you are both looking for in your marriage, or what you think needs improving. Maybe you can work on a couple of things together. But remember not to fall into the ineffective communication behaviors. Or, it might be that you need to take the lead in one aspect of the marriage until your spouse comes on board. By showing that you are working on yourself and improving your relationship with God you are being a Christ-like model, and that can go a LONG ways in helping your marriage.

What if they never want to improve it?

For, wife, how can you be sure of converting and saving your husband? Husband, how can you be sure of converting and saving your wife? Only, let each one [seek to conduct himself and regulate his affairs so as to] lead the life which the Lord has allotted and imparted to him and to which God has invited and summoned him. This is my order in all the churches.

– 1 Corinthians 7:16-17 [AMP]

This passage is talking about non-believing spouses and how to deal with them, but I think we can extrapolate a principle here:  If your spouse is not behaving properly, that does not permit you to do the same.  We must all hold true to our beliefs. We must seek to conduct ourselves and regulate our affairs. You are responsible for your own behavior, you can’t just think, “well my spouse is behaving badly, so it’s okay, I can too”. This way our spouse can see, by our actions, how good marriage can be.  Even if only one spouse is working on the marriage, the other will get some benefit, and with that small benefit, the hope is that they will come to their senses and work with you, so that you may both enjoy even more benefits.  It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a hope. And it could take quite a bit of time. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t expect it to be a quick thing for the other to realize you have changed. They have to see that this is the new you, and trust that your new behavior is not just temporary. It will take a lot of prayer and dedication on your part. I don’t know how long Jay kept saying to me, “I feel like I got my fiancee back.”(our engagement was very happy time) after realizing my own sin of sexual refusal. I think it was years before he thought this was me know, I wasn’t going back to the old ways. Actually, I wrote a post about how badly I handled this sexual “awakening”.

The caveat

There are cases when you cannot just “live your life” by following this kind of plan and hope they come around.  If your marriage is suffering from abuse: verbal, emotional, or physical.  Seek qualified help.  Please.

Your Turn

Have you experienced this in your marriage?  How did it turn out?  Are you still working on it? Which of the 4 scenarios can you relate to the most?

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17 thoughts on “Why do I have to fix our marriage?”

  1. J.E. says:

    Good article. So how would you advise handling financial issues with a spouse who doesn’t seem to “get it”? My wife has been out of the workforce for 16 years when we decided to have her stay home with the kids. Had I known then that this would’ve been a 16+ year hiatus, I never would’ve agreed to it! Needless to say, living on one income for that long has put us very far behind where we need to be in just about every area financially (debt amount, emergency fund, college savings, and retirement savings). I work in financial services so I see daily the wealth people have accumulated through 2 incomes/1 high income and good saving habits. College is 2.5 years away for us, and we have 2 to put through at once with another one coming 5 years behind them! I have talked with her NUMEROUS times about the need for her to return to work fulltime (she had been a teacher). However, she’s yet to even take steps to get recertified, and teaching jobs in our area are difficult to come by. I’ve suggested maybe she needs to broaden her job field and consider perhaps an administrative assistant position at a college or stable company. I’ve even offered her several options and nothing gets done with them. I think she’s actually afraid to go back to work fulltime, but it’s time to be an adult! I’ve been as clear as I can be that we can’t afford for her not to work fulltime, yet I get the standard response of “Everything’s going to be OK”. So frustrating. While there certainly are ways to fix what’s wrong, she’s so far been unwilling to do anything and the entire load remains on me to shoulder our family’s finances and future plans. Frankly, the load is very heavy and I don’t know how much longer my shoulders are going to bear it…

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Good question. Finances is another area of marriage that has a lot of struggles. Did you know the Bible talks about finances directly more than any other topic? I believe there are something on the order of 2500 verses on finances, material wealth, money, etc.. I think God knew we were going to screw it up.

      You work in the financial sector, but I don’t, so don’t accept anything I say as qualified financial advice. Just my opinions.

      I too am the sole earner in the family, we made that decision together, but I understand the struggles you face and the burden you feel. I think if I was in the same position, I’d gather data. If you aren’t budgeting (and I’m afraid I find those in the financial sector are the worst at this), I would start. I never understand my friends who can prepare a budget for a company worth millions of dollars…but don’t for their own household. Is it fair to assume you can create a cashflow statement for the family? Take your income, subtract expenses, and see what’s left. Don’t guess, use your bank statements. Then, when you discuss finances, you have data…not feelings. It’s hard to defend feelings…it’s also hard to argue against them (like your wife’s).

      If she still refuses (explicitly by stating it, or implicitly by not pursuing work), then you will probably need to make some significant changes in your expenses. This is simple logic: if your expenses are higher than your income, then you have two choices:
      1) Increase your income
      2) Decrease your expenses

      If increasing income is not an option (even if it’s because your wife won’t work, or you can’t get a raise/change jobs/whatever), then the only other option is to decrease expenses. Do you have two vehicles? Do you need two if she’s not working? Do you both have cell phones? Do you need them? Here’s a drastic one: Do you really need to pay for your children’s college? I’m not saying do any of these, just trying to ask some questions to make you think about the possibilities.

      If you make a decent wage (as you must be to be surviving to this point), then it is possible to run a household on a single income in these times. But, it requires sacrifice.

      Also, keep in mind that the bulk of your clients are probably not tithing, offering or otherwise supporting a church. Our financial situation would be a lot more comfortable if I stopped all of these activities…but my relationship with God would suffer. As I said, sacrifices.

      Of course, I also need to mention that you should probably talk to your wife more about this. Not in an accusing or persuading way, but I think it would valuable for you just to understand what her reservations are, and it would be good for her to understand how stressed you feel.

      Any followup questions, feel free to ask.

    2. happywife says:

      J.E,
      One of the most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn is that there are some things out of my control and my choices in those instances are to expend energy trying to control them in vain, or accept the circumstance and move on.
      I realize that as the provider in your family, you feel a huge burden. I get that, but I want to offer a different perspective. First of all, your children have most likely benefited from having a stay at home mom. You can’t put a dollar value on that.
      Secondly, as your kids head to college, they will most likely receive more aid based on your single income than if your wife were adding to your families income. Your kids can receive grants, scholarships and loans based on your income. It’s not a bad thing for your kids to have to take responsibility for the cost of their education. And if they do have large amounts in loans, if your wife goes back to work after the kids are out of the house, you could use her income to help your kids pay their loans if you choose.
      You may not be in the financial place that you would like, but your financial situation is your reality, so look at what you can do within the parameters of that reality. Cuz you can’t exactly drag your wife to job interviews.

    3. Lindsay Harold says:

      Just a note, but there is no requirement that parents put their children through college. They’re adults by the time they get to college and they can earn scholarships or work to put themselves through college if they want to go. Of course, if you can help out financially, that can be a wonderful gift to your adult children. But it isn’t your duty as a parent to do so.

  2. happywife says:

    I agree with this 100%. Life is not always fair, and we took a vow for better or worse. When our spouse isn’t in a place to address an issue, it is not our place to nag them into submission. There is one person I have control over, and that is myself. I can’t force my husband to choose to reform his approach to finances, sex, his health, his parenting, or anything else. I can certainly bring up issues, but if it is apparent that he’s not willing to jump on board with my “marriage improvement plan of the week” then to continue to bring it up is nagging. It’s not my job to play “Holy Spirit” and when I leave the convicting to the Holy Spirit, there tend to be much better results. It does take patience and surrendering our will to God, but isn’t that what being a follower of Christ is about? Surrender of will and dying to self?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Bingo. Dying to self daily. Christianity is simple…just not easy.

  3. J.E. says:

    Thanks for the good replies. Much appreciated. While I certainly understand we’re not REQUIRED to put the kids through school, and they should have some “skin in the game”, we’re woefully underprepared and as a father/provider, I carry a lot of burden related to that. I also don’t want my kids to come out of college with $50,000 in student loan debt and be lucky to get a $25,000/year job as so many college grads are finding today (if they find anything at all).

    And, I obviously know I signed on “for better or worse, richer or poorer”, and I can only change ME, but when it’s an issue as critical as our family’s survival financially (and I’m really not overplaying this — it’s serious), when she lacks the understanding of the seriousness of it and what we/she can do to remedy it, how do I proceed without feeling like I’m banging my head against a wall? We’ve talked that we only have 2 options – increase income or cut expenses. I’ve shown her the actual numbers. They aren’t pretty. She had no reaction.
    I cannot accept this approach and move on with life as if all is rainbows and puppies…

    1. happywife says:

      I’d like to share an example from my marriage. My husband is a recovering alcoholic. Before he got sober, I was terrified for our families future. Terrified. I didn’t proceed on like our lives were puppies and rainbows, but I accepted the situation in as much as I knew I had no control and chose to love him and make the best of our marriage. I won’t lie. It.was.hard. But I did my best to nurture our marriage and surrender the rest to God. And God worked. My husband is now sober and our marriage, though not perfect, is fulfilling and happy. I share that to say, you can find contentment, and even happiness in less than ideal circumstances.
      As far as college. We have 3 in college and 1 a senior in high school. One choose to work and begin at a community college. He has no debt yet, and while it’s taking him longer, he’s happy with his chosen path. Our other 2 choose to go straight to a 4 year. They are doing it on loans and part time jobs. That is their choice. Yes, they will graduate with more debt than I would like, but it was their choice. They could have stayed home and saved money. Of course we would have loved to pay our kids way through school, or at least half, but our resources aren’t allowing that, so we have to let them make their choices as to how to proceed with their education, and I believe they will learn many life lessons and hopefully grow in maturity, Independence, and financial responsibility.
      As they say in AA… “It is what it is” and “Let go and let God”
      Bless you. I know it’s not easy to have a vision that’s not shared by your spouse.

      1. J.E. says:

        Happywife, thank you so much. Your personal examples are a beautiful picture of true unconditional, God-honoring love. The Lord has certainly worked in yours and your husband’s lives — likely due to your obedience. I definitely need to recommit my situation to the Lord and fight the temptation to take it back from him!

        1. happywife says:

          You’re welcome. Truly surrendering something to God and then seeing Him work in the situation is a life-changing experience. The outcome may not even be what we would have chosen, but we are able to witness God’s sovereignty and that is truly faith-building. Blessings to you and your family!

    2. Anonymous says:

      Is she not willing to work? In my experience most women in the church who do not work also homeschool their children and this is commonly out of fear of the world corrupting them. As I am an adult now some of these kids are extremely socially alward, can’t find spouses due to “courting” and the parents wonder why…

      1. Jay Dee says:

        I homeschool my 4 (soon to be 5) kids, so I can say, with first hand experience, that there is no reason a homeschooled child should be more socially awkward that a system schooled child. I know a lot of social awkward kids who went to traditional school, myself included. But homeschoolers have so much opportunity to socialize these days that that old stereotype needs to die. In fact, I’d argue homeschoolers tend to me more socially adept due to more rigid teaching about respect and clean language.

  4. FarAboveRubies says:

    J. E., I just want to mention that I cringe when I hear parents say they’re going to take care of the bill for college for their kids. What kind of prep work are they showing their children about real life?

    My oldest child graduated out of college with a small loan. He has a full-time job in his field. He had his college debt (I actually called it bondage) paid off within 6 months of working. He received grants and scholarships all along. I helped pay for fuel to and from school and prepared lunch box type meals for him. He did not have any extra money for anything. That’s okay. That’s real life. He had bottom feeder jobs through college. That showed him how important it was to acquire an education. It humbled him. With him working in his field full-time, he saved enough money to buy a collector car (camaro). He’s now saving to buy a house. It was okay that he worked hard during college. It’s life’s necessary lessons.

    My second child is now attending college. He has no debt and probably will not have a college loan. He’s my “go get ’em tiger!” kind of guy. He’s been employed since the age of 14. He saved enough money so far to not only buy a everyday driver but also buy a collector car (another Camaro). He works full-time at a dairy and attend college full-time. He comes home only to eat and sleep. He buys his own gas for to and from school. He’s very independant. It’s good that he works his way through college. It’s character-building stuff that can be had only by living through it.

    About your wife not working. She works, it’s just that you don’t value what she does. Yes, she could get a full-time job. Say goodbye to all that home cookin’ she does without rewards. How ’bout those dirty dishes? And the baking? Out of the question. She’ll have no time. How ’bout all the grocery shopping? Are you prepared to do it as efficiently as she does? Would you be able to load up on the sale items like she does, to take advantage of the good deals? The house will never be as tidy as it was when she was at home during the day. Forget the laundry. It will be the one who runs out of underwear first, that ends up doing it. She will probably just buy more underwear when she runs out. After all, she now works and now earns money just like you do. Who’s going to bring that sick child to the doctors? Not your wife anymore…not automatically. Can we talk about sexual intimacy? Your wife will come home from work completely exhausted emotionally and physically. I assure you that your struggles will change. You will always have struggles. It may no longer be financial, but you are trading it off to introduce other struggles in your life.

    Here’s one thing to think about. Nobody lies on their deathbed wishing they spent more time making money. What do you value?

    1. Dan says:

      I too have never understood why parents think they should shoulder all of the college education costs especially at he expense of their retirement. Neither of those Camaros would happen to be a ’68 SS with a bumble bee stripe around the hood, concealed head lights and a vinyl roof would it? Never mind. I don’t really want to be tortured knowing.

      1. FarAboveRubies says:

        I went to an auction two years ago with that exact Camaro up for bid (called the Super Bee, I recall), along with about 30 other cars.

    2. Anonymous says:

      FarAboveRubies–I’m not implying that we’d pay ALL a their college — by no means, but we don’t have funds in our budget to even pay a small amount of “parental contribution”. And, I’d be willing to risk those other areas suffering for 3 reasons: 1) I currently help with groceries, laundry, sick kids, housekeeping because she does work very part time and that’s just how I am, and 2) the intimacy is hit or miss now anyway, and 3) I’m sick and tired of being broke and stressed!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I just find it incredibly frustrating that my wife wants to hold out on certain things but wants them received. And this is m

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