If you have thought — or yelled — “I hate my husband” or “I hate my wife,” you might worry that divorce is an inevitable part of your future.
Or you might say that you “hate your spouse” more like a child who is angry at their parent and says, “I hate you, Mommy/Daddy.” That child probably doesn’t literally hate their parent, but feels that way at the moment — just like you might feel about your husband or wife at times.
However, if you have arrived at the place where you actually hate your spouse, this is a sign that your relationship is in deep trouble and it is time to take action.
Love and marriage are innately complex, but you can learn how to fix a broken marriage with your spouse before it’s too late.
As a disclaimer — if your spouse is abusive toward you and/or your children or is narcissistic, this article does not speak to you. You must take more drastic action immediately.
You may have said, “I hate my husband,” because you were disappointed by something he did. Or maybe you tend to think, “I hate my wife,” whenever you feel distanced.
Perhaps you and your spouse have grown apart due to your needs not being met or your expectations not being realized. Do you feel like you don’t spend time together like you used to? Or that you no longer know each other?
It’s OK for this to happen in a relationship. There is still hope to fix a broken marriage.
Here are 6 steps you can take to fix a broken marriage when you hate (or even just resent) your husband or wife.
1. Ask yourself why you’re saying you hate your spouse.
It is important to be extremely honest with yourself about why you’re saying it. Really consider why you say it and what you believe is missing in your relationship. What is it that you believe is making you so unhappy and when did it start?
Answer these questions to the best of your ability.
2. Examine your expectations.
Consider what your expectations were when you got married and what your spouse’s expectations were then.
Your expectations might have included sex, finances, parenting, extended family involvement, career decisions, and more. Maybe you even talked about these before marriage, but have found that something changed after you got married and started doing life together.
Do your expectations and your reality not match up?
As you examine your expectations think about these things:
- Consider which expectations are being met. Generally, there are some that, if you are honest, are being met. Often, people get so caught up in the negative stuff they forget there really are some positive things that are happening. It is wise to consider the positive first so that you don’t get lost in the negative.
- Together, ask yourselves, “Where does each of us feel let down?” Remember that your spouse may also feel that his/her needs are not being met. Make a list of your expectations and needs and how you believe that those are being met or not being met. Also, write down what you think your spouse might say about those expectations from their point of view.
- Are your marriage expectations realistic? It could be helpful to think about what others might say about your expectations. Is it reasonable to believe someone else is capable of doing for you what you want and need 100 percent of the time?
- Are the expectations clearly understood by both of you or is there an assumption that somehow your spouse should just know? Assumptions can and will get you into trouble. You assume that because you may have talked about each of your expectations in the past that each of you will always remember them and always meet them 100% of the time. You may assume that you are meeting your spouse’s expectations 100 percent of the time and that your spouse is ignoring yours. That is not realistic to believe or assume! There needs to be continual talk about expectations and continual adjusting of those expectations throughout your married life.
- You must let your spouse know what your needs are in your marriage. How do you do this? Are you somewhat passive or aggressive in letting your spouse know? For instance, do you slam the doors or drawers or throw things around somehow believing that your spouse will figure out what is wrong with you and do something about it? In this case, you assume that your spouse can read your mind. It is better to take some time to talk about your feelings and what you thought your spouse was going to do for you. This gives your spouse an opportunity to listen and to talk from the heart. This is not a forum for blaming someone else for how you think or feel. It is also not a time to go into defense mode.
Allow your spouse time to respond, and then negotiate what each of you will do when it comes to expectations.
3. Make a positive “inventory” of your relationship.
Have your disappointments in the relationship overshadowed the things your spouse is actually doing for you? Think back over the past few days or weeks. List each thing your spouse has done that was positive and that you can express appreciation for. It could be, from your point of view, as small as taking out the garbage.
After your list has been made, begin to express your thanks for the things your spouse is doing that make your married life better, even in small ways.
4. Examine your manners.
If you have children, my guess is that you’ve probably taught them to say please and thank you; basically to have good manners. You have probably also taught them to be kind, to share, and to be helpful. Why do you not do the same for your spouse?
Do you assume that your spouse should just know you’re thankful? You like it when someone expresses appreciation to you, even for little things, right? Remember, it’s important to express your thanks and gratitude for things your spouse does for you.
Don’t assume that your spouse will just know that you are grateful. Express it out loud.
“Thanks for making the coffee.”
“Thanks for doing the laundry.”
“Thanks for taking care of the kids.”
“Thanks for going to work every day.”
Think about whether any of your behaviors could be interpreted as poor manners. What could you do to overcome that in your marriage?
Again, it is not OK to believe that someone else is responsible for your happiness and should just know what you need. Step up and do for your spouse what you want your spouse to do for you.
Do it without grumbling or without an attitude. Do it because it is mannerly and is the right thing to do.
5. Are you striking out in pain?
Maybe you believe that your spouse has not been meeting your needs and expectations so you determine that you will respond in kind. You feel hurt so you figure you will hurt your spouse back. This just becomes a vicious cycle of pain for both of you — you hurt me so I hurt you!
Again, someone cannot read your mind. You need to express to your spouse what’s going on and give them a chance to figure out if there is something he/she can do to help you.
6. Commit to change the things each of you needs to change.
Change is not one-sided. Both of you need to figure out what you can do to help each other feel better about the relationship. It may mean that it starts with you. You can only change you and not the other person. Maybe, you need to change your attitude toward your spouse and see the positive over the negative.
Make a list of your issues and changes that you’re both willing to make. This may take some time, but it is where the change begins. It’s how you actively start to fix your broken marriage.
7. Plan a regular time to communicate.
This is crucial to the ongoing health of your relationship. It will also help to heal past hurts and make midcourse corrections which will avoid unnecessary future hurts.
Schedule your communication time. The two of you must come to an agreement on frequency, location, and time. Talk about possible distractions and how you’ll handle those distractions, which could be just being at home or the kids or the cell phone, etc.
Before your scheduled time to communicate, each of you make a list of things you want to talk about. Make your list short because both of you will have a list. Your communication time doesn’t need to be a marathon session to be of value.
Determine how to call a time out if needed. Allow each other to take time and walk away for few minutes to think or calm down. Also, if either of you is overwhelmed, decide how to end it.
Above all, remember that this is not a blame session. It is a truthful expression of where you are and what you need in your marriage.
Really listen to one another.
(These conversations are not meant to take place when you have a date night. Date nights are reserved for fun.)
If you want to start on your own, you have nothing to lose by working through your feelings by yourself. It will still be necessary to figure out how to talk to your spouse, which will be hard work since emotions have been building over time.
Be prepared that fixing your broken marriage may take some time. Your husband or wife may not readily see the need to change anything, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start to make some changes yourself.
If you get stuck or either of you just gives up, then agree to find someone else to help you through it. You can learn how to fix a broken marriage and get back to loving — rather than hating — your spouse.
Doctors David and Debbie McFadden are a husband-and-wife team of marriage counselors who help struggling couples have a smoother, more fulfilling relationship. For more information on how they can help you in a tense or argumentative relationship, contact them through their website for a 15- to 20-minute phone or Skype conversation.