I’m Doing Everything I Can but My Marriage Still Isn’t Working, What Do I Do Now?

Many people in relationships feel this way, exasperated because they are doing everything they know how to do to make their partner feel loved. Couples come into my office usually at the end of their rope because they have tried, and tried, and tried to make the marriage work and nothing they have tried seems to be making it better. This is so frustrating for couples. It drains the life out of many marriages and relationships. It pushes people so hard sometimes they end up convincing themselves they just can’t make this marriage work anymore and they end up leaving. This can be frustrating and maddening for people who want to love each other but can’t find a way to do that.

Everyone starts off with the best intentions. Good people work their hardest to make a marriage or relationship work. Usually people have lots of successes in their lives.  They look at their histories and they say to themselves, “Heck, I know how to achieve things. I am a success at school and work. I am good at getting things done. I can accomplish things. I can make this work.”  The best intentions drive people to do things for the other person. That’s our nature. If we choose to be in a relationship, we have decided to do what we can to make it work.

Unfortunately, the best intentions, the most driven of spouses, and the willingness to do anything for the other are often not enough to fix what’s wrong. So what’s wrong? Something very simple, but it can seem very complicated. What’s missing is what is needed or wanted by the partner. What’s missing is information. What’s missing is knowing what will make your mate happy and providing it. Maybe you are already doing that. Maybe what you are waiting for is recognition and appreciation.  Maybe you shower your mate with good will and gestures but she takes you for granted. If this is the case your partner may not know that she is ignoring something important to you, that you would like to experience her appreciation. This would fall in the category of missing information.

The most basic skill I help couples with is to give them the tools to understand themselves and their partners. Although this may sound simplistic, I can assure you it is the basis for all things good in a relationship. You may say to yourself, “I know my mate.  I know what he wants. I know what makes him happy.” I believe you. Now ask yourself, are you happy? Is he happy? If the answer is yes, then you do understand your mate where it counts. But if your answer is no, there might be some awareness about you and your partner that could help both of you feel better in your relationship.

So what does awareness look like? It goes something like this. Partner A wants to feel loved and supported by Partner B. Partner B wants to feel appreciated for working hard. Both are going out of their way doing nice things for each other yet both feel empty and neglected by the other. The awareness is first figuring out what’s bugging you. Do you feel invisible to your mate? Do you wonder if he even thinks of you?

Maybe you live with the following scenario. Does your husband come home after work, kick off his shoes, show up at the dinner table, eats without talking and then relaxes in front of the TV? If you go through this pattern night after night it’s likely you as the one who makes a dinner and cleans the house will feel unappreciated. You might even feel like it doesn’t even matter if you are there he really wouldn’t notice if you weren’t. If you feel this way you are feeling neglected. This is very important to notice because what you would like to feel is valued by your mate. This is something very important. If we don’t feel valued we may start to see our self esteem slip. Then we might begin to feel upset and angry at our mate and that can turn into resentment. We might even get annoyed at him because we are so empty for validation. You might have thought about this but you say to yourself, “Oh, stop whining. Of course he appreciates me.”  He might indeed, but unless he communicates this to you in a way that feels good to you, you are left feeling alone and unappreciated in the relationship.

Now for the husband, it’s likely you are working very hard at your job. It’s also very likely that you are doing this for your wife and the family. It’s probably safe to say that you work extra hard to be able to afford the comforts of life. You do this because you feel this is your part. You also may feel taken for granted and unappreciated. You rely on the nurturing at home and you love how your wife takes care of you, but you are drained because you work so hard and you don’t feel the gratitude from her you would like to feel. You feel alone in the home too. You come home and just get through the evening only to do it all over again the next day.

This is not uncommon with couples. Two people living and existing together in this marriage and yet both are not getting their needs met. This is where couples counseling can help. Giving people the awareness to figure out their own needs and the needs of their mate provides couples the keys to their happiness. And isn’t that what every relationship is after?

© Copyright 2011 by Linda Nusbaum, MA, MFT. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Tha jo-jo

    April 4th, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    Although you may do things with the intent of making your partner feel good,he or she may not really like it and would not want to hurt you by saying that…so it is important that you watch out for clues…

    Another thing that I have seen happen often is that one of the partners plans big and does something for the other because the other partner has always like the thing that is being arranged now…but what the first partner may not know is that the very thing is not something that is admired by the other partner anymore…This can be called a disconnect but it is a problem that affects even the strongest and oldest of relationships.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    April 4th, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    I agree with you. I guess that means we have to be open with our partner and let them know what we like and dislike. Thanks for your comments.

  • rae g

    April 5th, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    There are honestly some cases where the marriages are going to be beyond help and the best thing for everyone involved is just going to be to cut the ties and let it go. I know that this may sound like giving up, but I have been around plenty of people that I know would be happier if they would stop trying to make something that is already so broken and beyond repair work again. Get on with your life while there is still time and before you become so bitter that you cannot enjoy life anymore.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    April 5th, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    Hello Rae G
    You are right, unless there is willingness between two people to work toward something better the marriage will not work. Thanks for your comments.

  • CODY

    April 5th, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    The title of this post was the exact same thing a friend asked me a few months ago.I told him that he should sit down and have a chat with his wife first.Yes,he may be putting in a lot of effort to make it work but it could well be that all this is just invisible to his wife.It happens in a relationship.

    So what he did was just that-spoke to his wife about it and it turned out that his working late hours and constantly going to other cities on work was the reason she was stressed and things were not quite working well.A little reassurance and a little bit of effort-in the right direction this time-helped avoid what could have been a bad situation for an otherwise-perfect marriage.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    April 6th, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    Thank you Cody!
    Wow, that’s good communication. We assume we know our partners so well even when we don’t.
    Thank you for your post.

  • Evelynn

    April 7th, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    It’s because the days become mundane too I feel. If I wind up going through the same routine every day, I’ll just want to get it over with. Mixing things up a bit in the day can keep a relationship fresh too. There’s no excitement left if you can predict what’s going to be happening every day- same old dinner table conversations, same old “how was work,” same old meals, same old evenings etc etc. Thank you Linda for your wise words.

  • Linda Nusbaum

    April 7th, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Hello Evelynn,

    Thank you for commenting. I couldn’t have said it better. We all fall into routines and yes they can suck the wonder out of us. Takes being awake and risking. You hit the nail on the head.

  • Irene

    April 9th, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    All I can say is that the wife in that picture can try taking an interest in what the husband is finding so amazing on the TV that he needs to hold the remote in two hands. Instead, she’s sitting there being bored out of her skull. Thanks for the article, Linda!

  • Suzy

    April 10th, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    @Irene, I was thinking the same! Everyone has their interests, and if you don’t try and involve yourself in your partner’s interests, your relationship will grow completely stale.

  • Shannon

    April 10th, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    @Irene and Suzy. Are you two serious? Why should you if it’s an interest you hate? I’m not going to sit through a football match. I’d rather be sticking needles in my eyes. That’s a waste of my time. Use that time to do an activity that you enjoy yourself while they are wrapped up in whatever instead of playing the self-sacrificing wife. Grow a spine, ladies!

  • Linda Nusbaum

    April 13th, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    Irene, Suzy, Shannon,
    We are all saying the same things. Listen to the other, do what we can to make them feel important, take care of ourselves. All good thoughts, and necessary.
    Thank you ladies for writing!

  • Peggy Berry

    May 31st, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I am not a mind reader nor is my husband. He can’t even follow my conversations unless I am context. I am truly a busy woman and I need only two quality evenings a month, not watching tv with my husband. So, that is what I told him. Dinner, not sports bar, talking, gazing into each others yes, and real conversation.

    That what I told him and that is what I get but I do have to schedule it because I am busy and he is complacent, happy to watch t.v. with me.

  • Rebecca P

    July 28th, 2015 at 7:11 AM

    This article makes me angry. I work the same hours as he does, I work hard at my job. I certainly don’t do it for myself, I do it for my family. Why does he get the credit for working all day and needing appreciation, what about the wife who works a full time job then comes home to her part time job? I do everything for the kids, from doctor appointment to school meetings, school supplies to shoes that fit, I take care of it all. I also clean the house, take care of the kids and pay all the bills. If I try to give him a responsibility, like pay a bill, I come home and the water is disconnected. These are valid reasons to feel angry. These are valid reasons to feel unappreciated. He feels unappreciated because his only responsibility is going to work? If there was no me and there were no kids, a decent human being works to contribute positively to society. That is not a favor done for the the family. Come on!

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