Be Content in Your Marriage

Reviewed Feb 21, 2017

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Summary

If you learn to be truly content, your relationship will improve.

Marriage can be so wonderful—a relationship of love and mutual respect, growing older and wiser together, even weathering life’s storms together. But sometimes marriage can be difficult—the national divorce rate attests to this.

Assuming you are not in an abusive relationship—in which case you should seek professional help—Richard Carlson, PhD, author of You Can Be Happy No Matter What, maintains that if you learn to be truly content, your relationship will improve. He describes being content as “feeling gratitude, inner peace, satisfaction, and affection for yourself and others.”

Understanding how your mind works

Dr. Carlson describes five principles of psychological functioning. He credits Dr. Rick Suarez and Dr. Roger C. Mills with the formulation of the first four principles, and then adds one more. These five mental functions have profound influence over your state of contentment and are at work right now in your spouse as well.

1.       Thinking

Your thoughts are a mental function based on years of experience and habit, but they are still just thoughts, not reality. Although your thoughts attempt to interpret reality accurately, they can be full of error and don’t always have to be taken seriously. In your marriage you might want to try the following:

  • Accept that your thoughts and feelings about your spouse are influenced by your mood at the moment and could be based on error.
  • Remember that your spouse has a unique thought system which also is influenced by mood and is potentially full of error.

2.       Moods

Your emotions fluctuate: It’s part of being human. When your mood drops, you may interpret reality negatively, but when your mood is high, that same reality looks very different. Knowing this, consider the following actions:

  • Low moods generate a sense of seriousness or urgency that may lead you to think you have to fix or change your circumstances. Let the mood lift. If circumstances still appear in need of changing, focus on them when your mood is high.
  • Rather than take your low moods too seriously, nurture yourself by staying in the present moment and allowing the mood to pass. Allow your spouse to have low moods too. You don’t have to fix anything, just let it pass.

3.       Separate psychological realities

Your thoughts are shaped by many factors such as your experiences, perceptions, history, habits, moods, and more. Bear this in mind as you reflect on the following:

  • Be completely honest with yourself about the nature and validity of your beliefs. Look for thought habits that make you feel discontented. Here are a few to watch out for: “I must always get my way.” “I must be perfect—so must my spouse.” “I can never be wrong.” “My needs must come first.” “We must always agree on every topic.” “If I feel it, it must be true.”
  • Since no one else’s thoughts and perception, namely those of your spouse, are exactly the same as yours, you should expect to have differences.

4.       Feelings

Your present feelings reflect both your mood level and the nature of your thoughts at the moment, thoughts that may not be an accurate interpretation of reality. Low moods produce negative thoughts that produce feelings such as anger, anxiety, frustration, etc. Consider how this applies to your marriage:

  • Do you feel discontented with your spouse sometimes? That’s normal, of course, but Dr. Carlson gently explains that since your feelings evolve from your thoughts, and your thoughts, in turn, are influenced by your mood, perhaps you should see if a lifted mood eases your discontentment.
  • According to Chris Martin, a counselor at Transformation Counseling in Charlottesville, Va., you must be willing to take ownership of your feelings; your spouse did not create them.

5.       The present moment

Thoughts tend to wander to the past and future. In a low mood, your mind tends to look back to old hurts or worry about future problems, causing negative emotions. Learning to focus on the present moment lets you look more clearly at your present mood level and reality.

  • Practice staying in the present moment when you perceive problems in your marriage.
  • During a low mood, it is easy yet destructive to take seriously the thoughts that travel back in time, digging up old hurts and complaints.
  • Also, do not honor the catastrophic thoughts that rush forward and predict only gloom and hardship in your marriage. If, when your mood lifts, the problems in your relationship still overwhelm you, then you can take steps to solve them from a calmer outlook.

Become more content now

With a basic understanding of the theories described above, you can apply this information right away. As you begin to feel more contented, you might want to share your new outlook with your spouse. Just be careful: His or her thought system might be less open to these ideas. It is not your job to change your spouse’s moods or feelings, nor even his beliefs. Once you grow more contented, you will see the truth in this. 

Resources

Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Zondervan, 2009.

You Can Be Happy No Matter What (15th anniversary ed.) by Richard Carlson, PhD. New World Library, 2006.

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: You Can Be Happy No Matter What by Richard Carlson, PhD. New World Library, 1997; Chris Martin, counselor, Transformation Counseling, Charlottesville, Va.

Summary

If you learn to be truly content, your relationship will improve.

Marriage can be so wonderful—a relationship of love and mutual respect, growing older and wiser together, even weathering life’s storms together. But sometimes marriage can be difficult—the national divorce rate attests to this.

Assuming you are not in an abusive relationship—in which case you should seek professional help—Richard Carlson, PhD, author of You Can Be Happy No Matter What, maintains that if you learn to be truly content, your relationship will improve. He describes being content as “feeling gratitude, inner peace, satisfaction, and affection for yourself and others.”

Understanding how your mind works

Dr. Carlson describes five principles of psychological functioning. He credits Dr. Rick Suarez and Dr. Roger C. Mills with the formulation of the first four principles, and then adds one more. These five mental functions have profound influence over your state of contentment and are at work right now in your spouse as well.

1.       Thinking

Your thoughts are a mental function based on years of experience and habit, but they are still just thoughts, not reality. Although your thoughts attempt to interpret reality accurately, they can be full of error and don’t always have to be taken seriously. In your marriage you might want to try the following:

  • Accept that your thoughts and feelings about your spouse are influenced by your mood at the moment and could be based on error.
  • Remember that your spouse has a unique thought system which also is influenced by mood and is potentially full of error.

2.       Moods

Your emotions fluctuate: It’s part of being human. When your mood drops, you may interpret reality negatively, but when your mood is high, that same reality looks very different. Knowing this, consider the following actions:

  • Low moods generate a sense of seriousness or urgency that may lead you to think you have to fix or change your circumstances. Let the mood lift. If circumstances still appear in need of changing, focus on them when your mood is high.
  • Rather than take your low moods too seriously, nurture yourself by staying in the present moment and allowing the mood to pass. Allow your spouse to have low moods too. You don’t have to fix anything, just let it pass.

3.       Separate psychological realities

Your thoughts are shaped by many factors such as your experiences, perceptions, history, habits, moods, and more. Bear this in mind as you reflect on the following:

  • Be completely honest with yourself about the nature and validity of your beliefs. Look for thought habits that make you feel discontented. Here are a few to watch out for: “I must always get my way.” “I must be perfect—so must my spouse.” “I can never be wrong.” “My needs must come first.” “We must always agree on every topic.” “If I feel it, it must be true.”
  • Since no one else’s thoughts and perception, namely those of your spouse, are exactly the same as yours, you should expect to have differences.

4.       Feelings

Your present feelings reflect both your mood level and the nature of your thoughts at the moment, thoughts that may not be an accurate interpretation of reality. Low moods produce negative thoughts that produce feelings such as anger, anxiety, frustration, etc. Consider how this applies to your marriage:

  • Do you feel discontented with your spouse sometimes? That’s normal, of course, but Dr. Carlson gently explains that since your feelings evolve from your thoughts, and your thoughts, in turn, are influenced by your mood, perhaps you should see if a lifted mood eases your discontentment.
  • According to Chris Martin, a counselor at Transformation Counseling in Charlottesville, Va., you must be willing to take ownership of your feelings; your spouse did not create them.

5.       The present moment

Thoughts tend to wander to the past and future. In a low mood, your mind tends to look back to old hurts or worry about future problems, causing negative emotions. Learning to focus on the present moment lets you look more clearly at your present mood level and reality.

  • Practice staying in the present moment when you perceive problems in your marriage.
  • During a low mood, it is easy yet destructive to take seriously the thoughts that travel back in time, digging up old hurts and complaints.
  • Also, do not honor the catastrophic thoughts that rush forward and predict only gloom and hardship in your marriage. If, when your mood lifts, the problems in your relationship still overwhelm you, then you can take steps to solve them from a calmer outlook.

Become more content now

With a basic understanding of the theories described above, you can apply this information right away. As you begin to feel more contented, you might want to share your new outlook with your spouse. Just be careful: His or her thought system might be less open to these ideas. It is not your job to change your spouse’s moods or feelings, nor even his beliefs. Once you grow more contented, you will see the truth in this. 

Resources

Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Zondervan, 2009.

You Can Be Happy No Matter What (15th anniversary ed.) by Richard Carlson, PhD. New World Library, 2006.

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: You Can Be Happy No Matter What by Richard Carlson, PhD. New World Library, 1997; Chris Martin, counselor, Transformation Counseling, Charlottesville, Va.

Summary

If you learn to be truly content, your relationship will improve.

Marriage can be so wonderful—a relationship of love and mutual respect, growing older and wiser together, even weathering life’s storms together. But sometimes marriage can be difficult—the national divorce rate attests to this.

Assuming you are not in an abusive relationship—in which case you should seek professional help—Richard Carlson, PhD, author of You Can Be Happy No Matter What, maintains that if you learn to be truly content, your relationship will improve. He describes being content as “feeling gratitude, inner peace, satisfaction, and affection for yourself and others.”

Understanding how your mind works

Dr. Carlson describes five principles of psychological functioning. He credits Dr. Rick Suarez and Dr. Roger C. Mills with the formulation of the first four principles, and then adds one more. These five mental functions have profound influence over your state of contentment and are at work right now in your spouse as well.

1.       Thinking

Your thoughts are a mental function based on years of experience and habit, but they are still just thoughts, not reality. Although your thoughts attempt to interpret reality accurately, they can be full of error and don’t always have to be taken seriously. In your marriage you might want to try the following:

  • Accept that your thoughts and feelings about your spouse are influenced by your mood at the moment and could be based on error.
  • Remember that your spouse has a unique thought system which also is influenced by mood and is potentially full of error.

2.       Moods

Your emotions fluctuate: It’s part of being human. When your mood drops, you may interpret reality negatively, but when your mood is high, that same reality looks very different. Knowing this, consider the following actions:

  • Low moods generate a sense of seriousness or urgency that may lead you to think you have to fix or change your circumstances. Let the mood lift. If circumstances still appear in need of changing, focus on them when your mood is high.
  • Rather than take your low moods too seriously, nurture yourself by staying in the present moment and allowing the mood to pass. Allow your spouse to have low moods too. You don’t have to fix anything, just let it pass.

3.       Separate psychological realities

Your thoughts are shaped by many factors such as your experiences, perceptions, history, habits, moods, and more. Bear this in mind as you reflect on the following:

  • Be completely honest with yourself about the nature and validity of your beliefs. Look for thought habits that make you feel discontented. Here are a few to watch out for: “I must always get my way.” “I must be perfect—so must my spouse.” “I can never be wrong.” “My needs must come first.” “We must always agree on every topic.” “If I feel it, it must be true.”
  • Since no one else’s thoughts and perception, namely those of your spouse, are exactly the same as yours, you should expect to have differences.

4.       Feelings

Your present feelings reflect both your mood level and the nature of your thoughts at the moment, thoughts that may not be an accurate interpretation of reality. Low moods produce negative thoughts that produce feelings such as anger, anxiety, frustration, etc. Consider how this applies to your marriage:

  • Do you feel discontented with your spouse sometimes? That’s normal, of course, but Dr. Carlson gently explains that since your feelings evolve from your thoughts, and your thoughts, in turn, are influenced by your mood, perhaps you should see if a lifted mood eases your discontentment.
  • According to Chris Martin, a counselor at Transformation Counseling in Charlottesville, Va., you must be willing to take ownership of your feelings; your spouse did not create them.

5.       The present moment

Thoughts tend to wander to the past and future. In a low mood, your mind tends to look back to old hurts or worry about future problems, causing negative emotions. Learning to focus on the present moment lets you look more clearly at your present mood level and reality.

  • Practice staying in the present moment when you perceive problems in your marriage.
  • During a low mood, it is easy yet destructive to take seriously the thoughts that travel back in time, digging up old hurts and complaints.
  • Also, do not honor the catastrophic thoughts that rush forward and predict only gloom and hardship in your marriage. If, when your mood lifts, the problems in your relationship still overwhelm you, then you can take steps to solve them from a calmer outlook.

Become more content now

With a basic understanding of the theories described above, you can apply this information right away. As you begin to feel more contented, you might want to share your new outlook with your spouse. Just be careful: His or her thought system might be less open to these ideas. It is not your job to change your spouse’s moods or feelings, nor even his beliefs. Once you grow more contented, you will see the truth in this. 

Resources

Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Zondervan, 2009.

You Can Be Happy No Matter What (15th anniversary ed.) by Richard Carlson, PhD. New World Library, 2006.

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: You Can Be Happy No Matter What by Richard Carlson, PhD. New World Library, 1997; Chris Martin, counselor, Transformation Counseling, Charlottesville, Va.

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