Skills to Use when Your Spouse Won’t Work on Your Relationship with You
A simpler and more effective way to build your relationship than talking with your spouse about it
On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.
In today’s podcast, Coach Jack teaches you what to do if your spouse is not motivated to work on relationship improvement with you. He gives some ideas for no conflict methods of building your marriage, without marriage counseling.
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Skills to Use when Your Spouse Won’t Work on Your Relationship with You
[Introduction to the podcast]
Announcer: On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.
[Coach Jack’s Presentation]
Jack Ito PhD: If you are like many people with marriage problems, you have recurring frustration because either your spouse won’t talk about relationship problems with you, or when you do talk about relationship problems, it does not result in improvement. People in this situation typically give up on working on their marriage for a while, but soon reach a point where they can’t tolerate the way their marriage is. Then, they will try again to talk with their spouse about relationship problems. If this pattern goes on too long, it leads to feelings of hopelessness which eventually lead to people give up on improving their marital relationship. When they do, affairs and divorce are the usual result.
(1:12) If you are somewhere in this progression—either trying to talk to your spouse about problems, feeling hopeless that your marriage can be improved, or are starting to give up, then this podcast is for you. To make progress, you need discover that your feelings of hopelessness are a result of the method you are trying to use to improve your marriage. Your lack of success with that method is not a reflection of actual potential to rebuild your relationship. Trying to talk about problems with your spouse is not the best way to work on relationship problems if your spouse is not interested in marriage improvement. In that case, talking about problems will cause more emotional distance in your relationship and your problems will become worse. It’s time for you to learn some more effective and simpler ways to improve your marriage. That is what I will cover in the remainder of this podcast.
(2:12) The three top reasons for marriage failure are mismatched people getting married, failure to maintain emotional connection after marriage, and using the wrong methods to handle marriage problems. Because of this, marriages can be saved by improving marital match, restoring emotional connection, and using effective methods for resolving problems. If you focus on these three conditions for a successful marriage, you will have a successful marriage, too.
(2:45) The skills necessary to have a good relationship are the same whether someone has been married a long time or has just met someone for the first time. There are not two separate sets of skills for single relationships and married relationships. Even so, most people believe that when you are single, you use one set of behaviors to build your relationship, and when you are married, you use a different set of behaviors to build your relationship. In actuality, that is no more true than for any other thing. Single people fix a broken arm the same way that married people do. Married people make an omelet the same way that single people do. Single people learn to play the piano the same way that married people do, and so on.
(3:33) The fact is, whether single or married, people still like the same things and dislike the same things. The things that cause problems when you are single also cause problems when you are married. The things that build connection when you are single also build connection when you are married. The way to resolve problems when you are single is the same ways to resolve problems when you are married.
(3:57) Let’s look at an example of this. Many of my clients believe that the way to solve marriage problems is by talking about them. They have bought into this popular myth perpetuated by the psychotherapists who can only make money by getting people to talk about problems week after week, for as long as they can, without improving the relationship of the client. When clients improve, they stop going to therapy. It is in the best interest of psychotherapists to promote talking about problems as THE way to solve relationship conflict. They are trained to believe this and are not trained in alternate methods. This is the same kind of industry promotion that results in medical doctors only learning how to treat people with medication and prevents them from learning other methods which may be even more effective. It is up to us, as consumers, to educate ourselves about other methods and treatment options.
(4:58) Using your own experience as a guide, has talking about problems with your spouse been helpful for improving your marriage? If it has, it probably only has been when your spouse was also motivated to improve your marriage. Every other time likely resulted in conflict or avoidance.
(5:18) I am a marriage coach. I will use an example which applies equally to husbands and wives, but here, I will talk about a wife. Suppose I am working with a woman whose husband has lost interest in her. He does his own thing and seems tuned out whenever she tries to talk or interact with him. Her typical strategy is to tell her husband how she feels about that and what she would like him to do. When that doesn’t work, she continues to tell him again and again–each time turning her husband off from her even more. Her attempted “solution” is making the problem she is trying to solve an even bigger problem.
(6:00)For this situation, I will ask her, “If you were single and you were interested and attracted to a man who was not interested in or attracted to you, how would you get him to be interested in and attracted to you?” “Would you go up to him and say, ‘I just want to let you know that I feel sad and frustrated because you don’t seem to be interested in me. I want you to look at me like you love me, spend time talking with me, and take me out on dates?” What do you think a single man would do if a woman he was not interested in approached him that way? With this mental frame, my client can tell me that he would ignore her or tell her to go away. And, if she persisted in her approach, he would avoid her or get downright rejecting and cold with her to get her to back off. If she uses the same approach with her husband, she will get the same results. There is only one difference—it will take longer before she is downright rejected by her husband. However, the result is still the same.
(7:15) Depending on how much dating experience my client had with other men before getting married, she will be able to tell me what she would do instead to attract and connect with men if she were single. I will carefully listen and whatever she lacks in knowledge or experience, I will help her to have the skills for. So, a woman with dating experience will tell me that if she were single and interested in a man, she would make herself appealing to him. She would become good bait. That would mean not only her physical appearance, but also the way she behaved around him and the signals that she gave to him. Then, she would make sure that she continued to signal her interest when talking with him, in addition to showing interest in him. She would avoid differences and work to make him feel that she was similar to him. This combination of characteristics is what helps single women to be successful with men, whether the man is married or not. That’s right. That’s how another woman would behave with someone else’s husband to get him interested in her. It is no different from how a woman needs to behave to interest her own husband in her. Single or married, the skills don’t change and single and married people will emotionally respond to them just the same. Married men and women like the same kind of attention and interaction that they did when they were single. If that is missing from the marriage, they will eventually desire to be single again because of their desire for that kind of attention and interaction.
(9:00) People who do a good job of maintaining their relationship in marriage do not fundamentally change the way they relate to their spouse when they get married. Those who have severe problems have stopped doing what made their relationship previously enjoyable. Getting back to the same fundamental skills you use when you were single, for attracting and connecting with your spouse, is what is needed to fix your relationship. If you have forgotten those skills, or your relationship never was very good, you can still learn them. The main difference between using these skill now, and when you used them before, is it will take longer for your relationship to grow. That is because you will need to apply these skills more gradually. You are not going to recreate a romantic relationship from a damaged one overnight the more damaged your relationship is, the longer it will take to restore it. This is just like saying the more overweight someone is, the longer it will take them to get to a healthy weight. It is not a matter of using a different method, it is a matter of consistency and time.
(10:10) When you are single, relationships develop faster because there is no initial resistance to overcome. The bulk of my work as a relationship coach is not in teaching clients how to talk about problems, but rather how to attract and reconnect with their spouse. After that, most of the problems no longer exist, or are much easier to solve. A lot of people try to hold their spouse emotionally hostage until problems are fixed. That does not work. Behaving in an unattractive and disconnected way may get your spouse to reluctantly comply with your demands, but never actually rebuilds your relationship.
(10:51) If you are having problems with your spouse, do you think they would be easier to fix if your spouse was again attracted to you and felt close to you? Or, do you think your relationship is more likely to rebuilt if you behaving in a cold and unattractive way toward your spouse. If you think your spouse would be more motivated to have a good relationship with you if you were behaving in an attractive way and using good connection skills, then you a goal and direction. Now, you just have to put it into action. You can get to work on these two relationship essentials and let the other specific problems go for the moment. It may just be the quickest route you have to a better relationship.
(11:39) I also want to let you know that the same principles apply to other relationships as well. If, for example, you have a very contentious relationship with a son or daughter, the best approach is not continue conflict. The best approach would be to first work on strengthening your relationship with your son or daughter. Then, if there are problems still remaining it is going to be easier to work them out. Your son or daughter will also care more about your boundaries if you are perceived as caring more about him or her.
(12:13) There is an exception to working on attraction and connection first. And that is when your spouse, or whoever you are trying to improve your relationship with, is doing things which constitute abuse, or if left unchecked, would cause serious damage to the relationship. If you are being physically, psychologically, sexually, or financially abuse, the place to start is with boundaries rather than connection and attraction. Allowing yourself to be victimized while also working on connection will not work. However, if your spouse is doing things which you don’t like and which make your relationship unenjoyable, but are not clearly abuse, then I recommend you not start with boundaries.
(13:06) Jesus told us that we first must remove the log from our own eye before dealing with the splinter in the other person’s eye. He also told us to love our enemies. That is because God is interested in the same thing you are—relationship restoration. Let me give you one more piece of advice that has helped very many of my clients. Stop buying books on marriage restoration and instead read books written for single people on how to attract and connect with people for dating. These same skills, applied to your spouse will build your relationship more than any structured approach that will create more distance with your spouse. And, if you would like me to help you with these skills for reconnecting with your spouse, I would be happy to do that.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack. Visit coachjackito.com to learn more skills for reconnecting with your spouse and restoring your marriage.