Ten years ago Friday, I married my husband. Three years ago Mother’s Day, I gave him an ultimatum: if things don’t get better around here soon, I’m outta here. Three days ago, I sat across from my husband at one of the most expensive restaurants in the Lehigh Valley in celebration of our 10th anniversary.
I can say with conviction that I’m glad I stayed and worked things out. I’m not here to tell you that every marriage can be saved. Some marriages just can’t. Some marriages suffer from irreparable problems, with the biggest being this: only one spouse out of two wants to make things better.
It only takes one person to have a bad marriage, but it definitely takes two to have a good one.
If you are currently mired in a bad place and both of you are willing to work on things, I’d like to give you some hope.
Here are 13 key differences between a bad marriage and a good one:
1. When your marriage is bad, your spouse will continually break promises, and you will stop trusting him as a result. For instance, my husband promised to wake up early and make me breakfast I don’t know how many times when we had a bad marriage. He never actually did it. So, when, Thursday night, he said, “I’m going to get up early and make you breakfast tomorrow,” I said, “uh huh.” I didn’t believe him. The next morning? He got up early and made French toast and bacon. I almost cried.
2. When your marriage is bad, you will henpeck your spouse into doing any number of things, ranging from folding the laundry correctly to buying the right brand of milk at the grocery store. Your spouse will make a sport out of not doing the things you ask, because he doesn’t see the point. He’s not going to get laid anyway. Why bother? When your marriage is good, your spouse will surprise you by folding the laundry the way you like it folded. He won’t expect to be rewarded with sex, but you will give him that reward, because you know it just might get him to replace the toilet paper roll every once in a while… And because you like having sex with him. Bet you never thought that would happen!
3. When you are in a bad marriage, you will take your spouse’s silences personally. After you’ve worked on your marriage, you will know him better, so you will understand that him being silent just means, “I had a bad day. I don’t want to talk about it, but thank God you are in my life.”
4. When your marriage is bad, you will do all sorts of things to get your spouse to appreciate you and stop taking you for granted. You will refuse to buy his favorite foods at the grocery store and you will stop folding his underwear. Once you’ve worked on your marriage, you will just say, “I feel taken advantage of,” you’ll talk about it, and you’ll grow even closer.
5. When your marriage is bad, you will try to communicate your needs through telepathy, and you will constantly feel unloved because your spouse doesn’t take the time to listen to your silent thoughts. Once you’ve worked on your marriage, you will no longer feel unloved. When he doesn’t listen to your thoughts, you will remember to talk out loud.
6. When your marriage is bad, you will do everything possible to avoid sex. When your marriage is good, you will schedule it, because you know it’s important.
7. When your marriage is bad, you will see and comment on all of your spouse’s faults. When your marriage is good, you will learn to appreciate everything your spouse does right.
8. When your marriage is bad, you will let yourself go. When your marriage is good, you will take pride in your health and your appearance, just as you did when you were dating.
9. When your marriage is bad, you will see your spouse as the cause of your unhappiness. When your marriage is good, you will see your self as the cause of your unhappiness.
10. When your marriage is bad, you will blame your spouse for your bad marriage. When your marriage is good, you will blame the chemistry between you and your spouse for your problems.
11. When your marriage is bad, you will believe your spouse is there to take care of you. When your marriage is good, you will realize that you need to take care of yourself, and your spouse is there to support you in your quest to do so.
12. When your marriage is bad, you will complain to your friends about your spouse. When your marriage is good, you will complain to your spouse about your friends.
13. When your marriage is bad, you will see your spouse as wrong and yourself as right. When your marriage is good, you will agree to disagree.
To help you go from a bad marriage to a good one, I wrote Project: Happily Ever After’s Relationship Rules, which details some of the techniques I used to save my marriage. It’s yours for free when when you subscribe to this blog by email. Just type your email address into the “subscribe by email” box in the upper right column. I will never sell your email, and I will never spam you.
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.