Some of the comments on my Monday Stop settling! post said some have no choice because their spouse gives them no choice. Others suggested there are times when settling is the best of the bad alternatives. While I see these as sometimes valid, I am absolutely convinced strongly suspect a lot of settling takes place before reaching a point of inevitability.
If you feel you are being forced to the point of choosing settling or leaving, here are things I’d suggest trying first:
- Check yourself: Is it possible you ignored her attempts to change things in the past, and what you are dealing with now is in part the result of her settling? If you contributed to the current situation, admitting your part is the best and possibly only way to see a change.
- Decide what you want: Simply knowing you don’t like the status quo is not enough. Write out what you don’t like, and how you want things to change. Mull it over awhile, modifying until you have it all down. Next, prioritise the list, what you must have, what’s important, what would be nice, and what’s not a big deal. With this done, look at the things in the top two priority categories and see what you might do to start change. Then and only then, move on to …
- Tell her what you need: Let her know what’s really a problem for you, and how, exactly, you want things to change. (Having this on paper for her would be a very good idea.) Then ask her for her list of thing she feels must change (giving her time to do what you did above) as well as her feedback on your list (again, giving her time to think). Ask her what you are doing that makes it hard for her to make the changes you want. Also ask what you can do to make it easier for her to change. Then work your butt off to make any reasonable changes she wants and do things she says will make it easier for her to change. Give it a few months. Then if you see no real lasting change, move on to the next step.
- Decide the make or break issues: This is a subset of the previous list – the things you just can’t continue to live with (or without). Along with this is what will happen if the things on the list do not change. This is not about threats; it’s about giving her a last chance to choose between two possible futures. If things are really bad, like she is having her boyfriend stay over, then separation is a valid option. More often, what you are doing is spelling out what life will be like when you settle because she has left you no alternative. This is the “I’m done, I don’t have the energy to keep fighting for our marriage” point. This is letting her know you are going to throw in the towel, and letting her know what your marriage will become. Be very clear here what things will be like, and explain changes she makes after you throw in the towel may not have any affect. Give her a deadline, and then drop it.
What I am doing here is making settling a process you think about, and force her to think about. You may not be able to get her to change, but you can make it clear she is making a choice. At best, you will cause her to see why change is in her best interest, at worse you will have a defence when she complains about the results of you settling.