5 Questions to Ask Yourself if You’re Dissatisfied in Marriage

Are you dissatisfied in marriage? I remember when I was young and into the contemporary Christian music scene, and a very high-profile musical couple got a divorce. The comment made to the press when asked why was simply this: “Marriage shouldn’t be this hard.”

I was a kid at the time and knew nothing about marriage, but that statement struck me as curious even then. In the years since, I’ve heard similar sentiments from married couples struggling with a marriage that doesn’t meet their expectations. In fact, according to Dana Adam Shapiro’s research for his book You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married), around 60% of all married couples are “unhappily wed.” Why are so many of us struggling in marriage, and is there anything we can do about it? Here are 5 questions to ask yourself if you’re dissatisfied in marriage.

1. What are my expectations?

Most of us come into marriage expecting it will make us happier. But that’s not how marriage works. The idea of committing to another person assumes good times and bad. It’s somewhat of a nonsensical societal myth that this should automatically result in our happiness. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t expect happiness in marriage. I’m just saying we shouldn’t expect ONLY happiness. If you are dissatisfied in marriage, you likely have unrealistic expectations. Marriage is not about how you feel—it’s about your commitment to another person and working toward her good.

2. How attentive am I?

One of the reasons we become dissatisfied in marriage is because we aren’t paying attention. We get distracted by work, money (or the lack thereof), kids, entertainment, and we stop listening to what our wives are saying. This can often result in treating our wives how we think they want to be treated instead of in ways that actually show we know and value them. If you’re dissatisfied in marriage, perhaps you need to start paying attention to the woman you married.

3. How is my effort?

For far too many men, we work hard to win our wives’ affections prior to their saying “I do.” But once we do that, we turn our attention to other things. We focus on career, parenting, or hobbies, but our relationships with our wives receive lackluster effort. The result, of course, is that your wife doesn’t feel valued and may become distant. The old saying that “you get out of something what you put into it” rings true here. It’s hard to expect your marriage to be fulfilling when you spend more time thinking about your fantasy draft than about your relationship with your wife.

4. How is my attitude?

John Maxwell once said, “People hear your words, but they feel your attitude.” Nowhere is that more true than in marriage. You can say and even do all the “right” things in your relationship with your wife, but if you are carrying a grudge, nursing resentment, or simply engaging half-heartedly, it will be apparent. It will affect her, and it’ll also create a cycle. If you nurse a grudge, your resentment will grow. If you harbor unforgiveness, your heart hardens against the other. The only person who can change your attitude and put a stop to the cycle is you. If you’re dissatisfied in marriage, consider whether you need an attitude adjustment.

Marriage is not about how you feel—it’s about your commitment.

5. What or who is influencing me?

There’s an ancient proverb that says, “Those who walk with the wise become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” We are all influenced by the company we keep. Do you have people in your life who have put the work in for having a healthy marriage? Is there an older couple you can go to for advice? Are your friends the kind of people who root for your marriage to succeed or who encourage you to bail on commitments you’ve made and complain about their own wives around you? Who you spend time with will influence your expectations. If you’re dissatisfied in marriage, consider who is influencing you.

Sound off: What other questions might be helpful if you’re dissatisfied in marriage?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What does it mean to hold a grudge? Why should we avoid doing that?”