Defensive husbands. Emotional wives. Marriages full of heated arguments, cold shoulders, adult temper tantrums, childish meltdowns, constant criticism and stupid misunderstandings that lead to even more problems. Threats of divorce. Bedrooms full of resentment and devoid of intimacy.
What’s behind it all?
As a couples mediator and marriage conflict specialist, I could give you all kinds of reasons—you lack communication and conflict resolution skills, you don’t understand each other, men and women communicate differently, and so on—but here, I’m going to give you the number one reason why I believe communication problems arise in marriage.
The Reason Behind It All….
A lack of motivation.
We lose (or never had) the motivation to listen without interrupting, correcting, or opposing the other person. We lose the motivation to keep our own tempers or emotions or opinions in check. We lose the motivation to break out of a bad habit, to be on our best behavior, or to improve our unpleasant personality traits. We lose the motivation to defend our marriage instead of our own interests.
Why Has Your Spouse Lost Their Motivation?
Why do we lose this motivation? This completely depends on the couple. Spouses may become too familiar or bored with their marriage or their partner. They may become egocentric or self-focused.
In more troubling but extremely common cases, they may be interested in someone outside the marriage, and the worse their marriage is, the more justified they feel in connecting with this other, newer person.
They may have lost sexual desire for their partner…and sexual desire is a huge motivator.
In short, they have stopped seeing or noticing their spouse in a way that motivates them to stay connected or prioritize the marriage.
Of course, things like communication skills, gender, and so on factor into things. But it all starts with motivation. A spouse who is motivated to change, to improve their marriage, will do it. They’ll figure it out. A spouse who isn’t motivated—well, you could mainline the world’s greatest communication skills directly into their arm and they still wouldn’t change.
How to Start Fixing a Broken Marriage…
So if you’re in a marriage rife with arguments or apathy, if you feel your marriage is broken, what can you do to fix it?
My answer: Learn how to present yourself to your spouse in a new way, in a way that prompts them to see you and to notice you. I don’t mean notice you in the sense that you’re ragging on them in the kitchen. They’ve already noticed that, I guarantee it.
What I mean, is that you must motivate them to see you, to notice you, in a new way. Because it’s a principle of human nature that we’re drawn to new things.
Your Spouse Must See You in a “New” Way
Why do you think people cheat? It’s new. It’s exciting. I’ve worked with many unfaithful spouses, and I can tell you this—they are always on their best behavior with their affair partner! That’s because they’re motivated to do so. Their affair partner is new.
So surprise your spouse by changing the way you behave, react, and interact with them. You can rekindle their motivation to improve their own behavior and treat you better. You can rekindle the affection and desire they have for you—because apathy is the exact opposite of motivation, and you absolutely must dial up the desire and dial down the apathy in your marriage if you want it to last.