I don't think that anyone enjoys being unsatisfied with their marriage. I don't think that anyone strives to be unhappy. In fact, many of us don't admit, even to ourselves, that we are not content with our marriage until things have gotten pretty bad.

And sometimes, once we admit this unhappiness to ourselves, we hesitate to say anything to our spouse. We don't want to sound as if we are complaining and we don't want to be unreasonable. So by the time that things get bad enough that we share our concerns with our spouse, we've typically been dealing with the issue for quite a while.

The Risk You Take When You Share Your Unhappiness With Your Spouse: It can take a lot of courage and resolve to tell your spouse that you aren't happy. And, in order for many of us to do this, we try to convince ourselves that by taking this chance, things are going to be better in the long run. We tell ourselves that it will all be worth it in the end because if we are successful, then both ourselves and our spouses are going to be happier.

And, this does happen for some. It's wonderful when your spouse hears your request in the respectful manner in which it was intended. Unfortunately, though, not everyone is this lucky. Honestly, it is human nature for even the fairest and calmest person to get defensive when you tell them that you are just not happy in the relationship that you share.

In fact, some get so defensive that they give you an unfortunate challenge - they tell you that if you are that unhappy, then end the relationship. And leave it.

This can leave the person making the request with a very difficult decision to make. Do they continue to press or rock the boat? Or do they stand their ground and face the risk?

Here's an example. A wife might have this type of situation: "When I met my husband, he was so sweet. He was always doing thoughtful things for me - leaving love letters, bringing me small and inexpensive trinkets just to let me know that he was thinking of me, and singing my praises to all of his friends and family. People used to tell me that my husband just beamed whenever he talked about or was with me. People used to envy us. Well, that has all changed. Today, my husband barely acknowledges me. Well, maybe that is taking it too far. But there's never any sweet gestures anymore. Only when he wants to have sex is he even remotely sweet. He takes me for granted and sometimes he is just downright rude. Now, I will admit that I have noticed this more since my best friend divorced and began dating the love of her life. Her new boyfriend acts the way that my husband used to. And just seeing this makes me realize that my husband puts no effort into our marriage. So I finally told him about this and said that I feel like he's not even a little bit sweet to me anymore. His response to me? 'You're just saying this because you have an unrealistic view of an adult relationship because of your friend. Wait until they've been together for ten years and then look at how they act. Plus, if you don't like it, then leave me and find someone else who will treat you like that.' I am stunned and sad. I never intended to leave my husband. And I do not want to now. I just wanted him to be sweet to me again. Now I feel like my marriage might be over because I was trying to make it better."

See Your Husband's Point Of View In Any Evaluation You Are Making About Your Marriage: I know it feels like your marriage might be over. But more likely, your husband is feeling defensive and his words reflect this. Try to see this from his point of view. He is likely watching you feel jealous every time you talk to your friend. And he likely feels that the comparison you are making between a long time marriage and a new relationship is unfair. (And he is correct that it's probably fair to assume that if your friend is still together with the new guy in ten years (which is a big if) then their relationship would likely look much different than it does today.)

Know That You're Not Wrong To Want To Be Happy, But Maybe You Can Find Happiness Again In Your Marriage: It is true that people tend to treat each other in a more familiar way when they've been together for a long time. However, you are not out of line for wanting to feel loved and appreciated. Everyone craves more touch and more affection.

Many people would think that you have two choices: To either just live with things as they are or take your husband's directive and leave if the situation is truly unbearable.

But I think that there is another option. You can come at this in a different way. Clearly, your husband is defensive and sensitive about this. So talking about it in any way that he will see as criticism is probably not going to work very well. Instead, I have found that the better strategy is to inspire him to want to do better.

Strategies To Return Marital Happiness For Both Spouses: And you often have to do this in a way that he has no idea what you are doing -  so that he isn't defensive or angry. I have come to believe (through my own trial and error and from dialoguing with other wives) that the most effective way to get a husband to willingly act in a new and better way is to demonstrate the behavior that you want and then praise it when it spontaneously happens.

One thing to try is to begin to show him the affection that you want. Spontaneously touch him. Show him sweet, loving gestures that do not lead to sex. Whenever he does the same, praise him. Show him that there is a pay off when he makes these small gestures.

If you are uncomfortable with the tactic above, you could try to bring his attention to positive memories. When he is most loving and receptive, you might try to bring back a positive memory and tell him that you miss the times when you were so focused on one another. This does sometimes work, but you have to be very careful because many husbands will realize what you are trying to do and will feel defensive.

I think that the strategy of demonstrating the behavior that you want is easier because he is less likely to feel manipulated that way. And he is getting a pay off at the same time, which makes the positive reinforcement seem more genuine.

But before you leave a marriage that may only need a little makeover, I'd suggest that you have nothing to lose by trying some variation on the above. The key is to find a way to get around his defensiveness so that he sees that you are not criticizing him. Once he feels that way, you are much less likely to see the behavior that you are looking for.

Before I learned the above lesson, I approached my husband in a way that made him defensive.  I backed off, but he clearly still felt some resentment, which I did not realize at the time. Things got so bad we separated.  We eventually reconciled, but this could have been avoided if I had handled things another way.  You can read more on my blog here.

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