The One Thing You MUST Have to Save Your Marriage

During the last couple of months, I’ve noticed so many people pissed off at their spouses. Those who weren’t pissed were getting divorced. Really. Apparently, the divorce rate skyrockets around the holidays.

Now, if you haven’t already thrown your spouse overboard (and I hope you haven’t), here’s a sure-fire technique for getting your marriage back on track. (And it doesn’t even involve any of those stupid-ass New Year’s resolutions.) Ready?

Photo courtesy kazuend at Unsplash.

Photo courtesy kazuend at Unsplash.

Find something in your life that you’re crazy-excited about.

Really. This is SO friggin important I can’t even tell you. Know why?

Because when we don’t have excitement in our lives, we self-sabotage in order to create that excitement.

Meaning we start fights with our spouse, create drama at work or chow down on crappy food that only makes us feel worse.

And where do you think this dynamic often plays itself out? That’s right. In ourselves, as well as in our closest relationships. So when we find ourselves struggling in our marriages, it’s worthwhile to look at this handy-dandy little equation and ask if there’s any chance we’ve got some self-sabotaging going on. Any chance you’re blaming your spouse for your own unhappiness?

Here’s an example:

After 3 kids and 8 years of marriage, Janice feels like her life is ridiculously predictable and boring. Plenty of days, it’s an outright grind. She blames her hubby for this. Instead of romancing her or telling her how awesome she is, Janice’s hubby gets on her nerves like you wouldn’t believe. Sheesh, she thinks, why can’t he be like ______ (fill in the name of cute, single friend/bartender/celebrity). Man, is her husband boring. Man, is her marriage boring.

Sound familiar?

Now here’s the real problem: Janice is expecting her husband to make her happy when she’s the one who needs to do that. She’s the one who needs to create something cool in her life. Something fun, something exciting.

But that’s kinda scary. Cause it’s been so long and all. And who the hell knows where to start? Her job sucks, her friends are busy and the kids take up all her extra free time. She wouldn’t even know where to start.

So she waits for someone else to do it, someone else to show her the way. In the meantime, she daydreams and fantasizes. Things’d be way better if her hubby only got off his ass more, she thinks. Things’d be way better if he bought her flowers, she thinks. Things’d be way better if he was younger, thinner, cuter, better.

Here’s another scenario:

Samantha thinks life would be better if her husband wasn’t so shut down emotionally. If he had a job he gave a shit about. If he didn’t complain all day, and couch surf all night.

All right, Samantha, I hear you. It would be better. In an ideal world, your man would be hot, hilarious, rich and awesome in bed. He’d bring home the bacon, fry it up, clean the hell out of your home, single-handedly wrangle the kids while doing it AND take you out to a fabulous dinner.


But until that happens, I’m gonna ask you to take a hard look at your own life. What kind of cool stuff do you see? Give me one super-awesome thing you’re excited about this week. How ‘bout one thing you’re excited about this month? This year?

Yeah, I thought so. Not such an easy question to answer, is it? Especially not for us moms. We’ve been at the bottom of the barrel for years, coming after everything else—work, the kids, meals, laundry, whatever. No wonder we’re pissed off and grumpy! No wonder we want to escape!

So we go partying with friends, pretend we’re young and single again. (Heck, didn’t I just see you on the dance floor last week?!)

Because here’s the thing: there was so much possibility back when we were young. We could have any job we wanted, do any thing we wanted, marry anyone we wanted, become anyone we wanted.

Now we’re just stuck in the grind. And there’s not a lot of possibility in your life when you’re trying to finish that last-minute work project, figure out what the hell you’re going to feed your kids, etc. etc. etc. The logistics that come with raising children these days are just exhausting. Day in, and day out. It never ends.

And yes, we love our kids. Don’t get me wrong. But if you’re not super-excited about something in your life, no one else is going to be. No one. Not your spouse, not your best friend, not your mother. Truth is, they got their own problems.

So it’s up to you to get this show on the road.

And in case you hubbies think I’m trying to blame this all on the wives, well, not so fast, buddy. I hear lots of complaints from you men folk, too.

But your complaints are a little different. They seem to carry a kind of quiet desperation. I hear how trapped you guys feel by working the same old crappy job, day in and day out, to provide for your family. Nothing fun except watching that football game or grabbing that twice-yearly beer with your buddies.

But here’s the thing, fellas: you can only shut down your life for so long before something gives. And here’s what I’m seeing a lot of lately: men who keep themselves bottled up for years, until they eventually explode.

Know what that looks like? It looks like Bruce leaving his family to have an affair with some young hottie who’s going to throw him overboard once the dust settles. But Bruce isn’t thinking clearly, remember: he’s just trying to pull some excitement back into his life. To have something to look forward to. Something that makes him feel alive.

Remember, when we don’t have excitement in our lives, we self-sabotage in order to create that excitement. We do stupid shit like have affairs or daydream about that swim instructor or cute bartender down the street or hell, People’s Sexiest Man of the Year.

Cause—damn!—who doesn’t feel their heart beat a little faster when they’re fantasizing about some hottie who’s not a day over 25? We feel alive again. We feel that possibility.

We also get the same hit of excitement (a.k.a. adrenaline) by starting fights and creating drama with our spouse, our friends or our family. Or we go out partying with friends. Complain how our spouse is making us crazy.

I get it, friend. Who do you think that was beside you on the dance floor last month, shaking her booty?

Um, yeah. That was me shaking her ass next to you. I was going a little cray-cray there for a while, trying to get my mojo back.

Until I realized I was putting my energy in the wrong place. That I was finally ready to finish the book I’d been chipping away at for the past couple of years. And not just ready, but excited, dammit! (Which is saying a lot, cause I’ve been working on a grief memoir. Yeah, grief. It’s a wonder I didn’t jump in the car some days and keep going.)

Anyway, just for the record, there’s nothing wrong with shaking your booty. In fact, when faced with any kind of life crisis, I almost always recommend dancing your way through it. Singing also helps.

Why? Because it helps you feel alive. Ever notice that you’re back in your body when you’re singing, dancing or doing anything that really and truly floats your boat? Meaning you’re not worrying about all the zillion things you need to take care of before tomorrow. Instead, you’re present. You’re living in the moment. You’re probably even laughing, and, gasp, having fun.

That’s what it feels like to be excited about something in your life. Deeply and truly excited. Remember that feeling when you used to wake up with something to look forward to in your day?

That’s what we’re gunning for, friends.

So let’s do it! Let’s get this started already.

But how, you wail?

Simple. Figure out what sparks you, my dear, what excites you. What brings you joy.

Maybe it’s a deep conversation with a friend. Maybe it’s going skateboarding, cooking a kick-ass meal, learning how to code, painting, creating music, exploring architecture, learning that language you always wanted to learn, you name it.

The only thing that matters is that it’s for you. It’s something you can look forward to, something that carries some kind of possibility.

As for your hubby, hell, don’t worry about him. Chances are, once he sees how happy you are, he’ll start getting a little inspired himself. Because, really, isn’t that how it works?

Ever notice how inspired you feel after seeing someone who’s tapped into her truth, her power, her lifeblood?

You want that same magic. That same kind of excitement and joy. I mean, hell, just look at that woman.

That’s what’ll happen once you start getting your mojo back. Your hubby is going to feel that magic, too. And chances are, it’ll inspire him to get his own ass back on track.

And if he doesn’t?

Well, you can cross that road when you come to it. Either way, my dear, your life is going to be a helluva lot better.

Your life is gonna rock.

Ready? Leave a comment below and tell me one thing you’re going to do this week to bring a little excitement back into your life.


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12 Responses to The One Thing You MUST Have to Save Your Marriage

  1. Rise January 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    Great advice. Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert has some good posts on FB about this, too. I am getting better and better at realizing that when I do this nitpicky cranky thing to my family, the person I am really frustrated with is me, for not making what I want to be making. I know it’s true because when I am making/writing/creating what I love, I could care less about all that nitpicky stuff. Thanks for the excellent reminder!

    • Tanja January 20, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

      Ahh, I’ve done this exact same thing so many times! Especially when I wanted to be writing, but wasn’t (and instead was coming up with giant lists of the all the things I absolutely had to finish first.) But as you say, we’re getting better at it. And that’s a huge gift!

      Thanks for writing, Rise.

  2. Cameron Gearen January 20, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

    This is a really good point. The only thing is, if you really become fulfilled with your own life, there’s a chance you’ll leave your spouse behind (if spouse is not fulfilled by his or her life). I guess that’s a reckoning and maybe needs to happen. But this advice is spot on.

    • Tanja January 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

      You’re so right, Cameron. But I have to wonder if–in the long run (and of course, this is easier for me to say, since I’m talking theoretically) losing your spouse in the process isn’t the better of two evils in such a situation. Yes, it would suck to high heaven to lose your spouse, but is it worth staying in a marriage if you have to stay small (or shut down) to do it?

      That’s an interesting predicament, and I’ll bet everyone would answer this one differently. For me, having experienced so much death lately, I feel compelled to live my life as fully as I’m able while I’m here. But I also get that that’s not the case for everyone, and I respect that, too.

  3. Anne January 21, 2016 at 7:43 am #

    I think you are so right about this, and it’s a truth that doesn’t get talked about a lot.

    Last November I did a lot more “bad first draft” writing than I ever did before, as an experiment, and since then I’ve been fired up with all the new fiction I have underway. The “bad first draft” exercise totally jumpstarted my imagination and ambition.

    What will I do this week? well, I’m going on a business trip later in March, and I decided yesterday I can the extend the trip to visit my brother’s family for a day before coming home. I am going to do that because it will be fun and emotionally nourishing for me, even though it keeps me away from my main role at home for another day. My task for the week is to hammer out the practical details so I can make that trip. That means a lot to me.

    • Tanja January 21, 2016 at 9:50 am #

      I love that, Anne! I think there’s something important about permission around all of this — which really popped up for me when you mentioned your trip keeping you away from your main role at home. Boy, that’s one I often struggle with as well. But as you point out, it’s so important to be emotionally nourished, and I’m guessing your taking the extra time to do that for yourself means it’ll be a win-win for everyone else as well.

      On another note, kuddos for the “bad first draft” writing and everything that’s helped inspire! Anne Lamott’s “shitty first drafts” always save me by taking off all that initial pressure to do it “right” or create any kind of (ha) masterpiece. So glad to hear from you, and congrats on all the neat things you’re creating!

  4. Dana January 28, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

    Hey T, love this post and the energy behind it.
    For the past few years I’ve been asking myself these questions: what else is possible? And what makes me come alive?

    It’s totally pulled me out of the darkness of the kid grind. I’m not saying there aren’t still days where I want to bang my head against the wall, but these days bring more joy than kevetching.

    I concur with start doing it for yourself and husband will come around eventually. Then you are both having fun!

    The sense of possibility is so key!

    • Tanja January 29, 2016 at 9:58 am #

      Isn’t that sense of possibility so key? I totally agree.

      And I love your question: What else is possible? I think it would have been a lot easier for me if I’d been able to ask myself that earlier instead of all the time I’ve spent stuck in the darkness/muck. Seems like that’s actually a great question to ask any time we bump up against some new challenge, including temper tantrums (mine or someone else’s :), trashed house, limited thinking, anything.

      And I love that it’s also worked out with having your husband coming around, too.

      Thanks, Dana!

  5. Gina Watson, LMFT February 21, 2016 at 9:39 am #

    Yes, yes, yes! Could not agree more. Now when I start obsessing on my husband’s flaws, I ask myself, what is wrong with me? What’s missing? So often I find that I’ve embraced the victim/martyr role because it feels good in a sick way. I immediately stop cleaning, cooking, whatever and make plans to do something that energizes me. I remind myself that I am modeling Good Mental Health to my daughters and the impotance of keeping your identity alive & strong. Thanks for validating all of this. I am a Marriage Therapist and this article is going to become required reading for the women I work with.

    • Tanja February 21, 2016 at 10:35 am #

      Wow! And thanks for validating my experience! Your comment made my day. Thank you.

  6. Gina Watson, LMFT February 24, 2016 at 3:55 pm #

    I just posted your post to my professional FB page:

    We should totally be friends. Except geography 😉

    • Tanja February 24, 2016 at 8:32 pm #

      Ha, friends–yes! And who cares about the geography…

      Thanks for the posting that link, too. I love what you’re doing on your site, and ‘liked’ your FB page last week. After I read your previous comment, I couldn’t stop thinking about how, when you find yourself getting irritated with your spouse, you immediately stop what you’re doing and go do something for yourself. Seems to me that philosophy would probably apply to kids, too (not to mention other close relationships).

      But isn’t the clue always knowing yourself? I can be super-social, but am an introvert at heart, and over the years have learned that when I start snapping, I usually need some down time.

      Now on to the rest of the rest of the world’s problems! 🙂

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