Why do things I used to love about my spouse, now rub me the wrong way?
We met on the job as IT recruiters for firms in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area. I was a mere 21 years old, and Jimmy was 24. Everything went fast for us. Our love story was a whirlwind of sparks flying and many divine confirmations that we were supposed to be together. We went on our first date two weeks after we met; we were engaged two months later; we married six months after that. We were infatuated and couldn’t get enough of each other, falling asleep on the phone together almost every night just dreaming about the future.
Two Equals One – Season 1 Trailer
I loved everything that was different about Jimmy–and vice versa–but less than 6 months into our relationship, warning signs of dysfunction and our immaturity began to surface. While our differences were what attracted us to each other (we are complete opposites), those differences ultimately began to divide us. The very things that brought us together and made us fall in love in the first place began to cause serious arguments and resentment. Can you identify with our experience? Are you wondering, “What happened to us? Why do things I used to love about my spouse, now rub me the wrong way?” Well, take heart, you are not alone.
Over the years, we have met so many couples just like us, finding themselves in “Resentment City”, losing love and connection in their relationship, because they can’t see eye to eye. It’s so easy to focus on the things that annoy us about our spouse–and, honestly, so difficult to look away. When resentment builds up, we unintentionally begin to believe the worst about our spouse, rarely giving them the benefit of the doubt or a chance to win with us. It creates a wall between us and makes it virtually impossible for our spouse to meet our needs.
When we don’t actively stop that negative thought cycle about our spouse, the resentment monster grows, and slowly, our best friend becomes our enemy. And that division is exactly what the enemy of our souls wants. Unity in marriage provides a fertile soil for beauty and purpose and power to grow, so the devil will do everything in his power to divide us. God intended for marriage to be a beautiful model to the world of the truth of the Gospel, communicating the unconditional love of Jesus that reconciles, redeems, restores, and forgives. Marriage is an expression of unity, as it says in Genesis 2:22-24, that two will become one. If the enemy can find a way to diminish this display of God’s love, he will.
We have found that sharing our marriage story brings us back to why we fell in love in the first place. It can be just what we need to snap us out of a negative mindset and bring us back to a positive space. We need to regularly recall the reasons we fell in love!
How Did We Get Here?
A positive thought or affirmation may seem small but really can make a big difference in our mindset and perspective on our spouse! Affirmations are a great tool to shift our focus from the negative and flood our minds with positivity and the things we love about our spouse. Here is my challenge for you today: Write down five things you love about your spouse. Read it every day this week–especially when you encounter a moment that triggers negativity, and your mind begins to attack your spouse’s reputation. Examples of what you might include on your list:
- My spouse hears and validates my feelings.
- I get to live with my best friend and life partner.
- My spouse makes me laugh.
- My spouse is an incredible parent.
- My spouse affirms me.
- I love the ways my spouse is different from me.
- I’m glad my spouse thinks differently than I do.
- My spouse is strong where I am weak.
Speak these truths out loud to your spouse as well! Affirming your spouse verbally will reinforce their confidence in how you feel about them, and it will be an extra reminder to you of what is true about them. In addition to your written list, if they do something well or do something that makes you feel loved, be sure to verbalize it. When you intentionally notice the good things, the negative things will fade out of view. This intentionality fosters a new level of intimacy that comes from accepting and embracing our differences.
You owe it to yourself to foster a marriage of positivity and contentment.
As a couple, make a new commit today to make “zero negativity” a core value in your relationship! Work to remove the shame and guilt you might be carrying for all the negative feelings you have had about one another. Ask each other for forgiveness and start with a clean slate. Don’t be discouraged when you fail or have a moment when you revert back to old ways of thinking and behaving. This process takes time and repetition to become permanent. Our brains have strong neural pathways that need to be rerouted if they have been stuck in a cycle of negativity for a long time. If you fall into an old thought pattern and start to become critical again, be gentle with yourself. You are human. But acknowledge the negativity, throw it out, ask for forgiveness, and start with the good again. Progress over perfection is the key!
You owe it to yourself to foster a marriage of positivity and contentment. Focusing on the positive and using the tool of affirmation to speak life into your spouse will reframe the way you see them (and perhaps the way they see themselves). As you continually pour this positivity into your marriage, your love and desire for one another will grow like never before! Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking a moment to remember where it all began.