Unhappily Married?
This Approach Works

The StepHero Community Newsletter

Dear Emily,
I am beginning to resent that I entered into this marriage with a man where all of his energy is focused on raising his daughter, fighting his custody legal battle and work. I feel like all I have for affection and friendship is my dog, and he thinks I am crazy for giving the dog attention like that. I am miserable.

Dear "Janice",
Your frustration, resentment, and disappointment are understandable, and you are not alone. Sounds like your relationship with your husband has changed significantly since you two decided to get married, and that your dissatisfaction is growing intolerable.

I'd like to offer you some antidotes to your misery that you can begin to apply right away, and see if the results you get are different than what you are experiencing now.
  1. Are you familiar with the idea that "what you resist will persist"? If you are spending the majority of your time and energy focused on what's wrong in your relationship and what you are unhappy about, chances are you're going to:
    (a) see a whole lot more of what you DON'T want; and
    (b) continue to get the results you are hoping to avoid.
    The antidote here is to simply start focusing on what is RIGHT about your relationship. This may be difficult to do at first, since you are so discouraged. Something as simple as "He comes home every night and sleeps in our bed." Or "He always makes sure the car is filled with gas." . . . See if you can start to notice all the ways he shows his commitment, his love, and his dedication to you and to his whole family.

  2. Develop an "attitude of gratitude". Complaining and Criticizing are habits that we learn as children and they tend to NOT get us what we want. When we complain and criticize, we are pointing out to the person all that they are doing wrong and how they are failing as a partner, a provider, a husband. This does not typically inspire him to be who you want him to be. In fact, he will begin to feel so discouraged and believe that no matter what he does it won't be good enough, that he'll just stop trying. Why bother when all that happens is that he gets told "too little, not enough, could have been better..." You get the picture. The antidote to complaining and criticizing is to start being appreciative and openly acknowledge all the ways he is showing up and is good enough. You'll be amazed at the results. It's taking the noticing a step further and acknowledging with gratitude all that you notice - from the heart.

    The more you do this, the more you'll find things to be grateful for - it can be quite magical! And, you can get very creative in how you express your gratitude. One wife started placing little post-it notes of gratitude around the house, so he'd find them as he shaved, as he got his keys, as he opened his brief case. Another wife left a voice mail message expressing her gratitude to him at his work. You know the ways he most easily takes in recognition - is it through what he hears, sees, or what's done with him?

  3. See how you might be contributing to the problems. In what ways are you behaving that might be keeping him at a distance from you? Are you pouting? Are you withdrawn? Are you ungrateful or unreceptive to his advances? Are you jealous? Take stock and notice what patterns you may have that get in the way of you receiving his love and attention. The best antidote to not getting what you want is to start giving what you want to the person you want it from AND to yourself! Stop waiting for him to show up and see how you can start showing up in a different way. And START giving to yourself what you are wanting. Sounds like you are using the dog to get some of your affection needs met - but at the exclusion of your husband. Is there a way to include him as well? Is there a way to offer him that level of affection too?

    One pattern that might be in play between the two of you is something called "Passing the Experience". Just as you see him giving all of his attention and affection to his daughter, that's what you may be doing with the dog. Each of you is getting your needs met with someone/something else, instead of reaching out to each other. And chances are there's so much hurt, disappointment, and frustration between the two of you that reaching out may be a bit too scary or challenging to do on your own!

    I'm also curious about the age of his daughter, and what life was like for you when you were her age. If you take some time to go back there in your mind, you may get some insights into why you are particularly triggered by his devotion to her.

Wishing you and your blended family all the best!

Emily Bouchard, founder,