Many people are pretty clear about what they need from their spouses in order to be happy in their marriage. And sometimes, the more unhappy you are in your marriage, the more you spell this out for your spouse. That's why it can be very frustrating when your spouse assures you that you are going to see some changes and then nothing happens. You might be hopeful at first and then trying to be patient. But after a while, you can feel placated and can wonder for how much longer you can hold out for a change that might not ever come.

To demonstrate, I might hear from a wife who says: "quite honestly, my husband acts like a child sometimes. When we first met, I loved his playful personality. My family is very serious and never really focuses on having fun and enjoying life. So, my husband was almost like a breath of fresh air. But I assumed that once we married and started a family, he would grow up, at least a little bit. That never happened even though I have told him time after time that I need for him to be more responsible. I am the one who pays the bills. I am the one who plans for retirement. I am the one who makes sure our kids have what they need and are doing well in school. I am the one who sends cards to our relatives and cares for the sick. I am the one who makes the money in our household. I am the one who makes sure the gutters get cleaned out once per year and that the taxes get paid. All of my husband cares about is having fun and planning his next adventure. He still goes out with his high school buddies on Friday nights. And though he has held down a regular job, he will only do enough just to get by. He doesn't care about advancing himself. Especially since I make good money. My husband thinks that all stress is bad and that he was put on this earth simply to enjoy himself. That's fine if you're seventeen years old. But he is a middle-aged father. I need more from him and have told him as much. And he will tell me that he's going to stay home more and take on more responsibilities. He tells me what I want to hear. But nothing changes. I am seriously considering pursuing a separation. Because ultimately, I want a partner. Not another child."

Frankly, I get a lot of comments that are quite similar to the one above. Usually, one of the spouses wants to change something about the other and wants to make some changes in their marriage but these changes never come even though they have been promised. This leaves the unsatisfied spouse feeling as if they are never going to get what they truly want. And they often take that one step further and feel like in order to truly be happy, they may have to end their relationship with their spouse. This makes many of them feel sad because many have invested so much time into this relationship and their marriage. It feels like you have wasted your time. And if you have a family, this isn't a decision that affects only yourself.

Ask Yourself If You've Helped Your Spouse Explore Every Option: One major problem in this scenario is that the unsatisfied spouse begins to believe that change is never going to happen. They do this without trying other things like counseling, breaking the problems down into smaller ones and tackling them one at a time, or taking a hard look at their own expectations and seeing if any adjustments can be made. Ending your marriage or separating is a huge, life-altering decision. From my own experience, I can tell you that my own separation was by far the lowest period of my life. If I could turn back time, I would most certainly have taken our issues much more seriously and I wouldn't have just hoped that my husband would stop pressuring me and would have been satisfied with the status quo. I would have aggressively identified the issues in terms of how problematic they were and I would have tackled them one by one with feedback from my husband.

Regular Accountability And Reevaluating Are Vital: Many spouses start out being very proactive but then things fizzle out. And that's often because the spouses don't regularly check-in and give feedback in order to discuss what is working and what isn't. Counseling makes this easier but you can do this on your own if you're very vigilant. Also, it can be tricky to identify what behaviors can realistically stay and what absolutely must go. For example, it was probably unrealistic to think that a man with this husband's personality was ever going to become a straight-laced businessman who never craved fun. That wasn't who he was. And that wasn't who the wife fell in love with in the first place.

I think that all she wanted was for him to take a more active role in the responsibilities of everyday life. And this can be negotiated. But, for real change to take place, you need to continue to check in, reevaluate, give positive feedback when it's warranted, and keep at the whole process until it becomes a lifetime of new habits and behaviors.

I know first hand what a challenge it is.  But I also know how important it is that you take this seriously and that you don't get discouraged.  I am proof that real change can happen with determination and hard work. If it helps, you can read more of my story on my blog at

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