You and your husband have been together 38 years and the spark has gone out of your marriage. I’m assuming you and he might be in your late 50s or early 60s. When we age, we are essentially “growing” just as we did in our youth. We grew up as kids and we are still growing as adults. David Schnarch is the author of the classic book “Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships” On his website he writes “Marriage is a natural people-growing process ... Emotionally committed relationships become contentious because these growth processes surface ...” I would rephrase slightly and say that the atmosphere in our marriages and partnerships can become strained because each partner is growing and changing, but the growth rates may not coincide between partners. Your husband may be changing faster or slower than you are.
You indicate that you have become “snarky” with each other. When you tell him that his remarks hurt you, he says he’s trying to be funny and wonders why you can’t take a joke any more. On your side, you admit you are easily annoyed, more irritable, and often in a nagging mood.
Overtime, in long term relationships, the tendency to develop careless conversation is huge. We may let remarks slip out that seem testy. There are ways to cut the criticism and ignite the spark in your marriage once again. Let’s begin with you. Here are three check points you can try with yourself:
Check Point 1: Speak with respect. Chose your words carefully before you speak.
Check Point 2: Compliment your husband at least once a day. Tell him what pleases you about him.
Check Point 3: In your husband’s presence, make five positive comments about anything at all, or let him see you taking five positive actions each day.
In Check Point 3, the number “five” is important. Author John Gottman wrote the book “Why Marriages Fail” and in his research he found that the more often partners are critical or negative, the higher the possibility their marriage will fail. Gottman was very specific in recommending that for every negative remark or action, there should be five positive remarks or actions.
So Gracie, try the Check Points and let me know what happens. You may be very happy to find out your husband is pleasantly caught up in your new behaviors and he reduces or erases his “snarky” remarks as a result. The spark in your marriage may light up the sky!
Dr. Joan’s Harmony Key: Positive words and actions are like sparks that start the fire of love.