When a couple decides to marry, it is based on love for each other and generally a sense of delight in the other person’s personality traits. However, sometimes after the honeymoon phase is over, those personality traits don’t seem so delightful anymore. Charm, spontaneity and a sense of adventure can transform into irresponsibility and immaturity when you need a partner who will contribute to the responsibilities and obligations that make up your life together. It can be discouraging and frustrating to be faced with a spouse who doesn’t pull his or her weight in a marriage or who views life as one big party. The following suggestions will help you work together with your spouse to create a more equal and loving partnership.
1. Make a commitment
Both you and your spouse must decide that you will try to work things out in your marriage and see it through. Change can be difficult, but if you are both willing to put in the time and effort and support each other through the process, you can be successful.
2. Be clear and specific
Define exactly what behavior needs to be changed. Sit down with your spouse and talk about which behaviors are problematic or offensive. Don’t make generalizations like, “You are not dependable enough” or “I need you to work harder.” Instead, you might say, “I need you to let me know if you are going to be late,” or “I would like you to spend a certain amount of time each day looking for a job.” Be very specific and clear in your expectations. Make sure you pick things that actually can be changed and write down your ideas.
3. Be patient
Work on one thing at a time; your partner cannot change everything at once. Pick one behavior – preferably the behavior that is causing the most problems – to start with and work on it until it is changed before moving on to the next thing. This will keep your spouse from becoming overwhelmed and help you to set realistic expectations. Also, the changes will be more permanent if they are more gradual.
4. Develop outside interests
Do not depend on your partner for all of your needs. It is important to have some interests outside of your relationship. This will help you to balance your life and will encourage your spouse to do the same.
5. Rely on a support system
Surround yourself with friends, family members or an organized support group that you can turn to for encouragement and help. Make sure you have support when things get tough. Don’t try to deal with this alone.
This may be a problem that is beyond you and your spouse’s capabilities to solve on your own. If you aren’t making any progress, seek outside help from a marriage counselor. They can do wonders to help you understand the problem and provide you with the necessary tools to help you fix it.
7. Take time to enjoy each other
Remember why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. Try to enjoy those qualities as much as possible. Spend time with each other without any distractions or responsibilities pressing on you. Go out and do something you both enjoy and make sure that you have fun together.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.