Does this story sound familiar?
You met the man or woman of your dreams. You went out for coffee or a meal and couldn’t believe how easy they were to talk to. The two of you began dating, and you felt so alive when you were with them. As time went on, you began to imagine what it would be like to share life together.
Then came the day you had been waiting for—you got engaged! And some time after that, you stood in front of family and friends and vowed to love and cherish one another forever. You couldn’t stop smiling that day, because you knew this was just the beginning of a wonderful life with the person you loved.
Then, it happened. Later that week, or year, or decade, you were hit with a big dose of reality. Mr. or Mrs. Perfect was not as perfect as you thought—and you began to wonder if you’d made a big mistake. You started to regret getting married.
Has this happened to you? If so, you are not alone.
Many people experience this sense of disillusionment at one time or another during their marriage, and it can be very painful.
Feelings of regret can occur for a number of reasons. Here are a few:
– Maybe you had expectations for what marriage would be like based on what your parents’ marriage was like, and your spouse has different expectations.
– Perhaps you’ve realized you and your spouse don’t share many common interests.
– The quirks you adored in your spouse when you first met are now just plain annoying.
– You thought you had discussed everything before getting married, but you’ve discovered that the two of you are very different in one or more significant areas. Some common areas for potential conflict are sex drive, money management, parenting techniques, relationships with in-laws, and religion.
These are only a few of the many things that can cause feelings of disappointment and regret.
So, what can you do? Here are 10 suggestions:
Start by Remembering
Why did you and your spouse marry? Think about what drew you together and bring up those memories in conversation. Then talk about ways you can revisit or recreate what caused you to fall in love in the first place.
And While You’re Talking…
Maybe it’s time for an honest conversation about your expectations of marriage. Ask your spouse what their idea of an ideal marriage is, and share your thoughts on the subject. Are there ideas you have in common? Build on those.
A Little Humility Goes a Long Way
Try to approach the situation with humility. Remember that you are not perfect either—no one is. It’s likely that your spouse has noticed a few flaws in you too.
Make it a priority for you and your spouse to connect on a regular basis. If your schedules are busy, at least sit down for 5-10 minutes before bedtime and check in with each other. If you can, go out by yourselves once a week, even if it’s only for an hour at a park or coffee shop. Take turns asking how the other is doing, and really listen to what they say. Don’t offer solutions or advice unless they ask—just listen.
Pray for Your Marriage
If you haven’t already (and even if you have), take your concerns to God in prayer. Ask Him to reveal to you any ways that you may be contributing to the problems in your marriage. Ask Him to increase the love you have for your spouse. Then, pray for your spouse.
Pray with Your Spouse
Try praying together, maybe during the daily check-in at bedtime. And if you and your spouse are not yet comfortable praying out loud with each other, try holding hands as you pray silently. The person who finishes first can squeeze the other one’s hand to let them know, then wait until they finish.
Hit the Books
It is helpful to search the Scriptures and read what God says about love and marriage. A good selection of passages to start with can be found here.
Then, try reading some books that offer guidance and encouragement, such as The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley Jr., The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, or The Love Dare by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick.
Stay Accountable for Your Actions
Consider finding an accountability partner to pray for your marriage and help to keep you on the right track toward the goal of strengthening your marriage. Click here for tips on choosing a good person for this. Whatever you do, don’t bad-mouth your spouse to your friends. That only makes it more difficult to work things out in your marriage.
Accentuate the Positive
Make a list of 10 things you appreciate about your spouse. Keep the list in your wallet or on your phone and add to it when other things come to mind. Review this list periodically, especially when you are away from your spouse (as on a business trip) or you have had a disagreement.
A New Beginning
If your feelings of regret about getting married persist, more intensive outside help may be necessary.* Consider attending the A New Beginning workshop, which has a 20-year track record of helping thousands of struggling married couples rebuild their relationships and find happiness and satisfaction in a resilient marriage that can stand the test of time.
The truth is, marriage is not always easy, even for the most compatible of couples.
In The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller describes it this way: “Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.”
On the days when you may not feel love toward your spouse, you can endeavor to rise above that and show love for your spouse. And working through the list above may help you to overcome any feelings of regret and discover a love that is deeper than you ever thought possible.
*If abuse, addiction, serious mental illness, or another such situation is happening in your marriage, seek outside help immediately. Those issues must be dealt with before you can move toward a healthy marriage relationship.
Thousands of couples have been helped through our marriage courses and workshops. Take our free marriage quiz to see which one would be the most effective for you and your spouse!