Making Marriage Work

Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist Dr. Liz Hale shares ways to deal with the depth of this disillusionment and clarify how it really is supposed to be.


We enter marriage with high expectations because that’s our hope for the marriage. After all, if we didn’t expect it to be good, why would we even do it? However, there is a difference between expecting good and doing good, and expecting our spouse is going to heal whatever ails us from childhood hurts, previous relationship disappointments, and from all of our underlying flaws, foibles, and inadequacies. (Oh, and did I mention, read our minds?) Expect to be successful in marriage but only if you expect to be well-prepared and educated. Society is too often our teacher and we misinterpret the lessons being taught. We obtain our expectations of marriages through movies, television, romance novels, cultural and religious affiliations, and our own parents and other family members’ marriage, for better or worse. But, remember it’s only our perspective and we misread so much!

It’s the little things that made the biggest difference. That gives every marriage renewed hope! Please don’t get me wrong; not every expectation is unreasonable. Don’t write them off!

Elaborate Expectations

Our hopes and dreams are signs of deep needs. While marriage cannot meet them all, agreeing to some doable expectations can create a win-win situation where you both believe you’ve married the man/woman of your dreams. So while your partner may not always bring you fresh-squeezed orange juice in bed every morning, they may agree to share the household chores, like cooking and cleaning up. New expectations can arise at crucial turning points throughout marriage, such as, when you look for a new home, plant your first garden, become parents, or, deal with major illness or career loss. Building good exploration skills now will help you uncover what’s on your mind at any stage in your relationship.

Stay Outwardly Focused

The reality is, we just need to get over ourselves. We are imperfect people married to other imperfect people. As women, we often make the mistake that we must hash-out every nuance that doesn’t feel right, go right, or look right. Agree to just let some things go…stop trying to analyze. Instead of being your partner’s therapist, be their friend. Being outwardly focused allows us to be compassionate; being inwardly focused encourages us to be critical. Then the motto, “What about me, what about me, what about me” becomes engrained into the seat of the marriage. Selfishness is the number one downfall of marriage. Be the kind of person you would want to come home to, love, hug, and sacrifice for. Think everyday, “what can I do today to make my spouse’s life worth living?” And then, do it!

Comparing Cankers

It’s easy to compare your marriage to other marriages around you. But that’s a deadly move. The problem is that it’s an unfair comparison because every marriage is as unique as the people in them and it’s impossible to compare highs and lows. Focus on the love, hiccups, hurdles, and drama in your own marriage. There’s no perfect spouse and no perfect marriage….however, there can be a situation that’s perfect for you! You may THINK you know what another’s marriage experience is like, but no one ever fully knows what that union is like while outside the dyad. Save the energy you place analyzing “out there” for fine-tuning your own marriage.

Compassion, Not Communication, Connects

Connecting with your mate isn’t through more talking. The five dreaded words that a man hates to hear are “Honey, we need to talk!” He interprets that as, “Oh no, I’ve failed her, again. We have to talk, again, about my personal inadequacies.” We would be better off to see each others vulnerabilities more than their inadequacies. Women often don’t realize how much meaning they bring to their partner’s life by just being there providing men a safe place to relax more than a dynamic interaction. Below is a fun test women can take to gives insight into our critical nature of men that we don’t even recognize we do…and it can interfere with our connection.

Communication Doesn’t Work: Connection Does!
Keep it light and fun, but use this list to help bring awareness to what a home improvement committee we can be!

1) I exclude him from important decisions.

2) I don’t always give him a chance to help.

3) I correct things he says.

4) I question his judgment.

5) I give him unsolicited advice.

6) I suggest how he should feel.

7) I ignore his advice.

8) I imply that he’s inadequate in certain areas.

9) I’m often in a bad mood.

10) I think he should at least match my use of time and energy.

11) When he says I overreact, I think he just doesn’t get it.

12) I ignore his needs that I think aren’t important.

13) I focus on what I don’t have instead of what I have.

14) I withhold praise I think he doesn’t really deserve.

15) I use a harsh tone to get through to him.

16) I pay more attention to other people’s needs than to his.

17) I undermine his wishes.

18) I am condescending to him.

19) I lack respect for his work.

20) I show little interest in his interests.

21) I criticize his family.

22) I interpret the “real meaning” of what he says and does.

23) I compare him to other men, or worse, to my girlfriends.

24) I believe he just can’t see my unhappiness.

25) I don’t take his point of view seriously.

26) I think he fails to make me happy.

27) If I’m unhappy, I tell him that he must be unhappy, too.

28) I roll my eyes when I think of some things he says and does.

29) He says I give him “the look.”

30) I am sometimes sarcastic to make a point or ridicule his behavior.

31) I use ridicule to get through to him.

32) I usually have a “better way” of doing things.

33) Sometimes I think he’s a jerk.

34) I have to tell him what he is doing wrong.

35) I tell him that he never helps me enough.

36) He can’t handle my feelings.

37) I blame our problems on his childhood or previous relationships.

38) I think that I understand relationships better than he does.

39) I think I do more than he does.

40) My friends treat me better than he does.

By Steve Stosny, Ph.D. & Pat Love, Ed. D.


Dr. Liz is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular contributor on Studio 5.
Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.

Add comment