“I can’t seem to win at anything,” says this husband. “Is there such a thing as a fulfilling marriage?”
By Joyce Oglesby

Q: “What is happening to women? I know I don’t do everything right, but I do try to be involved with the kids and their schedules, helping out around the house, and rarely do I ask to do something for myself. The more I do for my wife, the more she demands. I can’t seem to win at anything. That keeps us at odds much of the time and, of course, leaving us both lacking in the intimacy department. I feel disrespected and used for my financial provision. Is there really any such thing as a fulfilling marriage?”

Joyce: My, how the tables have turned in our society. Some men are beginning to realize what women have felt for a very long time—suppression. I say that because I routinely mentor many disgruntled husbands who complain about feeling “emotionally abused,” sharing they are underappreciated and disrespected within the family. Is the what-goes-around-comes-around mentality one that we must adopt?

Absolutely not! I grew up in a female-suppressed environment. It’s not an encouraging, let alone, rewarding, way to maintain a relationship. I know firsthand there is such a thing as a fulfilling marriage. It does, however, begin and end with both of you being willing to make adjustments and concessions. Here are some stepping stones for getting there.

1. Spill the spiel. You have likely rehearsed in your head words you’d like to say to your wife. I pray they aren’t harsh, since bitterness only adds to the lack of fulfillment you both will experience. Your words should be tender, meaningful, and heartfelt. Likewise, they should be spoken at strategic moments — perhaps during a nice, relaxing, extended dinner date. Approach it from the angle: “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very fulfilling, where would you rate our marriage?” Given the answer is not a 10, the next question would be, “What can I do to make it even better?” Hopefully, she’ll ask the same question. If not, you must broach the subject. Should the answer be a 10 (or even close), tell her where you would rate the marriage. The discussion begins there.

2. Get a plan. This is not a time for an argument. That point should be explained during the spiel. This is a time to air your grievances by telling her how the tenor at home makes you feel as a man, a husband, and a dad. It would thrill me to know she would be surprised to discover you feel the way you do and that she would be more than willing to make some concessions in order to boost your “healthy” male ego, which is such an important aspect in men. (We all know too much of one can cause the pendulum to swing the other way.) Devise a plan for how things can work better. Talk out scenarios and be prepared to cite instances in which you have felt under-appreciated and overly disrespected. Wavering in recalling those times won’t lend much credence for your case. Map out how home life can look when the two of you feel equally adored, respected, and valued as equals in your marriage.

3. Give time time. The change won’t happen overnight, although you should expect more alteration on the fresher side of the conversation. We humans tend to slide back into our ruts at the first sign of a bump. A noticeable difference should be occurring within a month. If it doesn’t happen, seek professional help shortly thereafter. I find that folks too often wait until so much debris has piled atop a great marriage, it’s hardly recognizable by the time they get to a counselor such as me.
I do love your heart. It’s refreshing to see a man stepping forward desiring to make his marriage work. What is troubling in our society is the increasing number of women (and men) who are more into “me” than they are into family. Not that there shouldn’t be balance and equality, but marriage and family are all about sacrifice on both parts. The danger comes when “you’re committed to her, but so is she.” Don’t let it get that far without further intervention. Marriage can be fulfilling and, when it is, life comes to life.

Struggling with a relationship issue? Send questions to Joyce Oglesby, Family Life FIX-IT Pro. Listen to The Just Ask Joyce Show M-F from 3-5pm on WFIA 94.7fm/900am.

Have you experienced this problem in your marriage? What was your solution? Also, find out how to gain your spouse’s respect.