Many people will leave a difficult or disappointment marriage because they don’t want to subject themselves to a lifetime of misery. But, some people are determined to remain committed to the relationship for “bigger” reasons, such as the belief that marriage vows should never be broken, and/or the belief that the children fare better when the structure of the family remains in tact, regardless of the feelings between the parents.

There are other reasons as well and they are as individual as the people involved. If you are a person in an unhappy marriage looking for advice on how to live well in spite of your disappointment, then this article is for you. I would like to encourage you to follow your heart and conscience and make your own decisions for your life, based on your own personal convictions regardless of what anyone else may think or say.

One important factor to keep in mind – whether in a relationship or not – is that your happiness and quality of life is not dependent on others. It is your responsibility to live well no matter what the other people in your life are doing. This is not to say that we don’t live in community and that how we treat each other doesn’t matter. It is to say that in spite of how good or bad any other person may be in our lives, the power for our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being resides within our own selves.

To start, I would like to suggest the most important thing to keep in mind is how to keep your own heart and soul alive and good when facing deep disappointment. This is possible. It may be difficult, but it is not impossible.

Here is a list of affirmations you can use to help yourself on your journey in your difficult marriage:

  1. I am determined to never allow the pain of the marriage to take me to a place of darkness.
  2. I will utilize wisdom to learn to have a thriving life, full of happiness and completeness, regardless of my circumstances.
  3. I will spend each day by remembering those things in my life that I am grateful for and by counting my blessings.
  4. I will take my focus off of my spouse and place it purely on myself, reminding myself that, while I am not responsible for the choices my spouse makes, I am responsible for my own choices and my own reactions to the things that disappoint me.
  5. In order to live well in a difficult marriage I must remember to live according to my own core convictions:
    1. I will always take the high road.
    2. I will accept my spouse the way he/she is.
    3. I will accept that my spouse’s limitations are rooted in – his/her own limited capacities; his/her own lack of relationship skills; his/her destructive ways of relating that have nothing to do with me personally (even though it seems that way.)
  6. I will “own” my own issues and the ways in which I contribute to the problems in my relationship.
  7. I will accept my own personal limitations and will treat myself and others with compassion, not judgment.
  8. I will live my life based on principles, not emotions.
  9. I will remind myself that marriage is bigger than I am. Marriage transcends what I get out of it.
  10. I will live with dignity and will not allow myself to be disrespected or abused.
  11. I will set healthy boundaries for myself, ones that are life-affirming.
  12. I will remain stable and steadfast.

It is important to remember that in a difficult marriage you are not required to yield to the wants of your spouse; rather, you need to develop the strengths needed to face all the difficulties an unfulfilling relationship asks of you. Don’t bury your head in the sand and deny your reality, rather, take it on as it is without wearing rose colored glasses or sugar coating the truth.

One important aspect of living well in the midst of a disappointing relationship is to grieve the losses that come with it. You need to grieve fully your broken dreams and broken heart and allow yourself the gift of healing. Pretending is not going to get you there. Facing your pain, sadness, hurts, and unmet expectations fully will help you embrace your life as it is and use the truth as the center point for the journey.

Remind yourself of the concept of “both-and.” That is to say, you can be both happy and sad at the same time. You can be sad that your relationship with your spouse is not the one you hoped for, and you can be happy that you have good friendships, a great job, healthy kids, etc.

Living in “the gap” is also a good way to approach a difficult marriage. The gap represents the space between your expectations and your reality. Your job for happiness involves learning what to do with that gap. The struggle of having that gap will be challenging, but it need not ruin your life. The ability to live well in spite of the gaps we have in many different aspects of our lives is part of maturity. The harsh truth about life is that we don’t always get what we want. And maturity requires us to learn how to manage that reality well.

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